NFL 2018 Season - PS4
 

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Wild Card Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

It was a visitors sweep weekend for Wild Card teams against the point spread with three of the away teams winning straight up. The upstart Chicago Bears had their season end when a final play of the game field goal attempt hit the upright and crossbar before falling to the ground at Soldier Field and ending the Chicago Bears season.

The home loss extends the playoff magic of Nick Foles as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, who in relief of Carson Wentz last season turned three underdog playoff roles into a Super Bowl title and opened this year’s playoffs with another upset victory. The Eagles had taken the lead in the final minutes of last Sunday’s game against Chicago with a touchdown pass on a fourth down play.

This week, the Eagles travel to New Orleans to meet a Saints team that beat them eight weeks ago in the Superdome, 48-7. Since that loss, which all but eliminated the Eagles from playoff consideration, Philadelphia has won six of seven games and entered the playoffs when Chicago beat the Minnesota Vikings on the final day of the regular season while the Eagles were downing the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles were one of only two teams to crack the playoff field with a negative turnover ratio this year, the other being the Baltimore Ravens. Both the Eagles and Ravens had minus two turnover ratios in their postseason openers, and while the Ravens lost to the Los Angeles Chargers the Eagles were able to overcome that deficit with their narrow win over Chicago.

On Sunday, the Doug Pederson led Eagles will play their fifth straight postseason game as an underdog.

The Los Angeles Chargers extended their season with a road win over the Baltimore Ravens, a team that won the AFC North Division and had beaten the Chargers just a couple weeks earlier in Los Angeles. The road win for Los Angeles earns them a playoff date with the New England Patriots in Foxboro.

This AFC Divisional matchup will pit a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks against each other, the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Los Angeles’ Philip Rivers. It is also a chance for Rivers to extend his hopes of winning his first ever Super Bowl. The closest Rivers ever came to leading the Chargers to a Super Bowl was in 2007, a year in which Brady and his Patriots downed San Diego in the AFC Championship Game, 21-12.

The Dallas Cowboys were the only home team to win in the Wild Card weekend, downing the Seattle Seahawks, 24-22. The victory squares Dallas Head Coach Jason Garrett’s postseason record to 2-2, but he has not yet won both a playoff game and point spread on the same day. His other postseason victory, over the Detroit Lions, was a win but point spread loss, in 2014.

This week, the Cowboys travel to Los Angeles to meet the Rams, the highest scoring team in the NFC. Last year, Los Angeles also hosted a Wild Card Playoff contest and lost to the Atlanta Falcons. That year of playoff experience should serve Los Angeles well this season and the Cowboys appear overmatched in this game.

The most intriguing contest of the Divisional contests is the first of the four games played this weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs against the Indianapolis Colts.

Behind second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs led the NFL in scoring this season with 565 points, a figure that ranks third on the NFL’s all-time list. The two teams that scored more points in a season, the 2013 Denver Broncos (606) and 2007 New England Patriots (589), both advanced to the Super Bowl but lost that game to the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants respectively.

While the Chiefs are the top seed in the AFC, they have won only two point spread decisions since opening the season with seven straight wins against the line. The Colts, who opened their 2018 season with one win in six games behind first-year head coach Frank Reich, became only the third team in NFL history to advance to the postseason after such a disappointing season start.

The Colts come to Arrowhead Stadium after downing the Houston Texans to open the postseason and with wins in 10 of their last 11 games. Behind a healthy Andrew Luck and an overachieving defense, the Colts are a real threat to the Chiefs.

Kansas City opened Arrowhead Stadium in 1972, and the Chiefs have hosted eight postseason games on their home field. In those eight games, the Chiefs have never covered a point spread and lost their last six playoff contests at Arrowhead straight-up.