Five teams from last year’s postseason return this year to make another run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but only one will compete in the wild-card round.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles highlight the weekend slate that begins Saturday afternoon and closes with their late Sunday afternoon showdown in Chicago.
The wide-open AFC race will kick off off the weekend lineup Saturday in Houston before heading to Baltimore the next day, while Dallas will get things started in the narrow NFC on Saturday night.
Colts (10-6) at Texans (11-5)
4:35 p.m. ET, Saturday (ESPN)
Indianapolis enters the postseason on a hot streak after winning nine of its last 10 regular-season games. Similarly, Houston started 0-3 before igniting on the heels of nine straight wins.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has wowed during his comeback campaign from a shoulder injury that had hampered his previous two seasons, completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Meanwhile, second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson started all 16 games for the Texans after a season-ending ACL injury cut short his dynamic rookie year.
On the other side of the ball, Indianapolis and Houston’s defenses rank 11th and 12th, respectively, in the league.
Get ready for a well-balanced matchup that will prove who the real winner of the AFC South is.
Prediction: Texans 24, Colts 17
Seahawks (10-6) at Cowboys (10-6)
8:15 p.m., Saturday (Fox)
The Seahawks won’t be facing the same Cowboys squad they defeated in September, as the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper came in October and has since bolstered Dallas’ already stacked offense.
Despite the Cowboys’ late surge behind quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Seahawks still boast the league’s top rushing game, thanks in large part to Chris Carson running for 1,151 yards and nine scores this season. The experience Russell Wilson brings to the table also can’t be discounted, as the quarterback has played in six of Seattle’s past seven playoff appearances.
The Cowboys have a strong presence at home and rested starters make them even tougher, but those advantages might not be enough to stop the Seahawks.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Cowboys 16
Chargers (12-4) at Ravens (10-6)
1:05 p.m., Sunday (CBS)
The Ravens have every reason to be optimistic after clinching their first AFC North title since 2012, especially since their win at Los Angeles in Week 16 was key in taking the division.
Rookie Lamar Jackson, who will become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game at age 21, has been sensational. The dual-threat playmaker has rushed for 695 yards and five touchdowns while passing for 1,201 yards and six scores. Furthermore, Baltimore’s top-ranked defense will make it difficult for even the most seasoned veteran, like quarterback Philip Rivers, to move the ball down the field.
Still, the Chargers have been known to cool even the hottest streaks — and against all odds on the road.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Ravens 21
Eagles (9-7) at Bears (12-4)
4:40 p.m., Sunday (NBC)
Could this postseason be deja vu all over again for Philly and Nick Foles? Carson Wentz’s backup has gone 4-1 this season, so don’t rule out the possibility.
The Eagles have had their struggles but turned to a familiar savior to salvage their chances of defending their crown. However, Foles suffered a setback of his own when he sustained bruised ribs in the regular-season finale. While he will suit up to play through the pain, don’t expect the task to come easy.
Khalil Mack and Chicago’s top-ranked defense will give the Eagles enough trouble, but first-year Bears head coach Matt Nagy also has shaped second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into a top-3 QBR signal-caller.
Prediction: Bears 21, Eagles 10