Unlike the AFC, the NFC’s playoff teams were locked into the playoffs after Week 16. Seeding however wasn’t determined until San Francisco escaped with a win in Seattle in the final seconds of Week 17. Both San Francisco and Green Bay will have the first round off as they get to recover some depth and have much needed rest. Without further delay, here are the predictions for these upcoming NFC wildcard weekend games.
#6 Minnesota Vikings v. #3 New Orleans Saints
There is truly no more lopsided matchup than this one. Kirk Cousins, who has struggled most of his career against teams with winning records will have to be close to perfect if the Vikings are to beat New Orleans in the Superdome. Minnesota’s defense has been suspect for a good part of the season, especially in the secondary with Xavier Rhodes having poor performances in must-win games.
If this wasn’t enough, Drew Brees and New Orleans’ offense has stepped up the second half of the season and has looked like their old selves. There are valid concerns with the receiver talent and depth, however it appears as if Drew Brees has figured part of that out by developing better chemistry with tight end Josh Hill and receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Coach Sean Payton has also found better ways to use Taysom Hill when it matters most.
On the flip side, New Orleans’ defense has stayed stout, showing why they’re in the top five against the run and are in the upper half of teams that have given up the least amount of yards per game. The linebackers and the secondary will be key to keeping Cousins and company in check.
JD’s Pick: New Orleans wins 31-17
#5 Seattle Seahawks v. #4 Philadelphia Eagles
There aren’t too many disappointing teams in the playoffs, but these two are the big ones. Seattle gave up not just first place in the division, but the first overall seed twice in the second half of the season. Injuries have piled up on the offense, with three running backs and some of their best offensive linemen done for the year. The return of veterans Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin provide desperately needed running back presence, and flexible big man George Fant’s move to left tackle will also help, but the pass rush remains a concern.
The Philadelphia Eagles meanwhile, have the most major injuries heading into Sunday. The receiving corps has been battered throughout the season, meaning the tight-ends have stepped up. While Zach Ertz didn’t have physical contact in practice this week, he could possibly be a game-time decision since he’s cleared to play. Their offensive line has been banged up too, with starting tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters both injured for a good part of the season. Defensively their secondary has been hit-or-miss, while ranking third in the league against the rush. The Eagles need a strong start, propelled by the defense holding Seattle in order to get a win.
Both teams are battered, but one has been consistent. Seattle is 7-1 on the road, with a slugfest win against the Eagles after their bye week. The Seahawks saw more from the defense that they can exploit, especially since their receivers are getting better. The same can be said about Philadelphia, however with Ertz and Johnson’s injuries being a factor, this might have the same result.
JD’s Pick: Seattle wins 23-13
JD’s 2019 regular season picks record: 56-50