Happy New Year Blitzers!! Welcome to Wild Card weekend. The guys were off for the holidays and haven’t released this week’s episode so I don’t have a show to review for you! I do know they drank the 12th Man Cocktail last night so here’s to hoping 2019 didn’t start with a wicked hangover courtesy of yours truly. There was a lot of NFL action over the past two weeks so I’m sure the show will be a great one as it always is!
This weekend begins the drive to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. This past weekend provided some drama that saw some team’s hopes dashed (Pittsburgh) while others shed tears of joy (Indianapolis and Baltimore). Beginning this week, I’ll devote my Blitzed Barkeep’s column to the playoffs moving forward. I’ll still give the guys their drink of the week at the end of the columns but unlike previous blogs, I won’t have a game of the week. Rather I’ll make my predictions for each of the games after my previews. After all- it’s the playoffs baby. They’re all “Games of the Week.”
WILD CARD WEEKEND PREVIEW
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Houston Texans (11-5)
These inter-division rivals have faced off twice this year already with the Series being split 1-1. Ironically, the visiting team won both matchups. One commonality in both games though, was Captain Neckbeard has lit up the Houston Texan’s secondary. In the Colts’ OT loss in Week 4, Luck threw for 464 yards and 4 TDs, while in the Week 14 road victory he threw for 399 yards and 2 TDs. I’ll do the simple math for you- that’s 863 yards and 6 TDs in 2 games. I’d say Luck has their number. Statistically, these teams are very similar across the board. On defense, Indianapolis is ranked 11th while Houston is 12th in total defense. They are separated by just 3.7 yards per game given up (339.4 to 343.1), 13 passing yards per game, 19 rushing yards per game and less than 2 points per game (Indianapolis actually gives up 21.5 per game while Houston gives up 19.8). That’s incredible to think about how close they are after 16 games played.
Offensively, Indianapolis separates itself a bit from Houston. The Colts are ranked 7th in total offense while the Texans are ranked 15th. Indianapolis was a much heavier pass-oriented offense (386.2 yds/gm) while Houston was much more efficient rushing the ball (126.3 yds/gm). Interestingly, the teams were only separated by exactly 2 points per game in scoring offense with the Colts putting up 27.1 per game while Houston averaged 25.1 per game.
The Colts are the hottest team (arguably) and has an offensive line that just doesn’t let anyone get to their quarterback. Their defense is also very quietly playing lights out. An underrated fact that they have on their side is they have a coach and kicker (30 games) with plenty of playoff experience. Believe me, it helps. Houston, on the other hand, has the home field advantage and an attacking defense. But that attacking defense won’t matter if they can’t get to Luck. I like the Colts to stay hot in this one and move on to New England.
Blitzed Prediction: Colts 31 Texans 28
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
This is also a matchup of teams who have already faced off. Back in Week 3, Seattle knocked off Dallas 24-13 up in Seattle but if you were watching the NFL this season like I was, neither of these teams really didn’t impress me until much later in the season. Dallas didn’t really impress me until after the Amari Cooper trade and Seattle really didn’t have an actual turning point in their season. They have just steadily improved as the season has progressed. The story in this game will be the defenses- Dallas is the 7th ranked total defense in the NFL while Seattle comes in ranked 16th. However, don’t let that fool you about Seattle’s defense. Both teams give up just about 20 points per game (Dallas: 20.3 and Seattle: 21.7) One of the most important factors in this game is that Seattle is one of only 5 teams in the NFL to give up less than 10 rushing touchdowns the entire season. They will be facing off against the leading rusher in the league in Ezekiel Elliott (1,434 yds, 6 TDs). Dallas, on the other hand, is only surrendering 96.4 yards per game on the ground and is facing a balanced RPO offense led by mobile quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle drafted Rashad Penny in the 1st round of the draft to be their workhorse running back but Chris Carson has been their stud to the tune of 1,151 yds and 9 TDs.
Seattle would seem to be the more balanced team on paper statistically, but Dallas has the home field advantage. This is a tough one to predict as Dallas has been as explosive as any team since acquiring Amari Cooper at the trade deadline. Couple that with the home field advantage where they are really good, I see Dallas moving on to the next round in a rematch with the Saints in New Orleans.
Blitzed Prediction: Cowboys 24 Seattle 17
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
The first Sunday game is the third rematch of Wild Card Weekend. In Week 16, Baltimore traveled to Los Angeles and had their way with the Chargers 22-10. Rookie Lamar Jackson had a coming out party with his first 200 yard passing game and the Ravens defense held a potent Chargers offense under 200 total yards for the first time since 2014.
It can be argued that the Chargers are the most balanced team in the AFC and perhaps the NFL. They have play makers on both sides of the ball with Philip Rivers in the conversation for MVP (4,308 yds, 32 TDs and 12 INTs), three-down RB Melvin Gordon (885 yds rushing, 10 TDs; 50 rec, 490 yds, 4 TDs) and Keenan Allen (97 rec, 1,196 yds 6 TDs) on offense. On defense, they have potential defensive rookie of the year in CB Derwin James while wrecking balls Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa cause havoc on opposing quarterbacks. When you look at their overall statistics, they are the 11th ranked team in total offense and the 9th ranked team in total defense. Truly a balanced team. However, now look at Baltimore. While they don’t have that one true statistical monster that flashes like Los Angeles does above, their team ranks show they are even more balanced as a team than Los Angeles. Baltimore sports the 1st ranked defense in the NFL and quietly put together the 9th ranked total offense. Rookie Lamar Jackson has the ability to be electric and a huge problem for opposing defenses. Additionally, Baltimore’s defense can shut down any offense in the NFL. They really did fly under the radar this year and played together as a team, with no true superstar standing out above the rest.
Baltimore has the home field advantage, but they have a rookie quarterback starting in the playoffs for the first time. They have that defense, but even the best defenses in the NFL get tired if they have to be on the field for the entire game. Los Angeles went 7-1 on the road this year (8-1 if you count their ‘home’ game in London) and they have an experienced team that will figure out Jackson. I like the Chargers to move on to the Divisional Round next week to take on their rivals in Kansas City.
Blitzed Prediction: Los Angeles 23 Baltimore 15
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ Chicago Bears (12-4)
Last but not least, its the defending champs that snuck in versus the upstart team that no one outside of Chicago saw coming (this year). I have beaten the Khalil-Mack-to-Chicago thing to death this year but seriously, it’s made that big of an impact for Chicago. So has he. Chicago has the 3rd ranked defense in the NFL and the top ranked rushing defense allowing a miniscule 80 yards per game on the ground. They also are the owners of the top ranked scoring defense giving up just 17.7 points per game. On the other side of the ball, they rank only 21st in total offense but their opportunistic defense has allowed them to score 26.3 pts/gm which ranks 9th in the league. They rank 21st in pass yards/gm but 11th in rushing yards per game. In other words, their balanced offense is such that they do not need Trubisky to win their games for them. That’s a good thing as they are not built to come from behind. That has been the key to their success this year- jumping out early and riding their run game late. They’re facing off against a 14th ranked Philadelphia offense that has struggled to run the ball consistently due to injuries and a 23rd ranked Philadelphia defense that had to win out just to make the playoffs (and get some help from other teams not doing their jobs).
Philadelphia is beat up, but they’re winning right now. They still have a talented team on both sides of the ball and could cause problems for Chicago if they jump out early. Remember, they are the defending champs. As I said above, Chicago is not built to come from behind. I just think Chicago is too much on the defensive side for Foles to pull off any of his magic this time. Mack and company will be a problem all day long. I like Chicago to move on to play in Los Angeles against the Rams in a rematch from earlier this season when Chicago took out the Rams in an entertaining game on Monday Night Football.
Blitzed Prediction: Chicago 23 Philadelphia 10
And now for your Wild Card drink of the week. This week, the guys will be drinking to honor the Colts and their magic run to the playoffs after their 1-5 start. Say hello to the Colts Stampede Cocktail.
Colts Stampede Cocktail
1.5 oz. Jameson Whiskey
2 oz. Blue Curaçao
2 oz. Hypnotiq Liquor
Blitzed Barkeep Build: Add ingredients except blueberries to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over rocks. Garnish with blueberries and sprinkle with superfine sugar.
This week’s drink of the week comes to you direct from Indianapolis. Right now, I think they’re playing the best football and are certainly one of, if not THE the hottest teams playing right now. That is important when it comes down to success in the playoffs. Something tells me that the Colts are going to be enjoying a fair amount of success this year and they have the coach to do it. Enjoy this tasty, but sweet drink of the week.
Well Blitzers, that’s all from your Blitzed Barkeep for now. Remember to drink responsibly, take Brady’s name in vain and always give your keys to a friend if you’ve had too much. Tune in to the Blitzed NFL podcast this Tuesday to hear the guys review this week’s drink of the week and recap all of the action during Wild Card Weekend.
The Blitzed Barkeep is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro from Bills Mafia. You can follow Blitzed Barkeep on Twitter here.