The 2019 Wild Card playoff round certainly lived up to its name. New Orleans crashed out at home to Minnesota in typical Saints fashion, becoming just the second team after the 13′-15′ Packers to be eliminated from the playoffs on the final play of the game three seasons in a row. Yet the drama didn’t stop there — the Titans marched into Foxborough to knock off the defending champions and the Texans came back from the dead to beat a beleaguered Buffalo team to set up a rematch with the Chiefs. One can only hope said drama continues into the next round when the #1 and #2 seeds from each respective conference enter the playoff frame. Surely the past weekend can’t be topped? With this in mind here are our Divisional round predictions for the 2019 NFL season.
#6 Minnesota Vikings @ #1 San Francisco 49ers- Sat 11/01 4:35pm ET on NBC, 9:35pm GMT on Sky Sports
What a statement made by the Minnesota Vikings in the Bayou. Kirk Cousins recorded his first playoff victory in an overtime stunner against the Saints, eliminating, for now, any talk of him not being able to perform well in the big games. However, prior to Sunday’s game, Cousins’ record against teams with a .500 record or better stood at a dismal 6-30, effectively just one win in six games. It is statistics like these that made the win in New Orleans all the more incredible, yet also make a win in San Francisco seemingly just as improbable.
The 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium will host its first playoff game on Saturday, with the team coming off a massive high after their win in the division decider against Seattle on Sunday Night Football. Whilst that game did ultimately come down to a matter of inches, the 49ers were in control for the vast majority of the game with the defense being able to smother and contain Russell Wilson and company. Perhaps a worry for Niner fans though is how close their games have been in recent weeks since the blowout of the Packers as all of their games have been decided by a score or less
Pick: Vikings 17, 49ers 27
#6 Tennessee Titans @ #1 Baltimore Ravens- Sat 11/01 8:15pm ET on CBS, Sun 12/01 1:15am GMT on Sky Sports
This game should be played at an electric pace as it features two of the top three teams in terms of rushing yards per game (BAL #1 and TEN #3). The Titans certainly ran the ball against the Patriots behind Derrick Henry who looks borderline unstoppable heading into the second week of the playoffs, single-handedly winning the game for Tennessee as Tannehill threw for just 72 yards. Expect more from against Baltimore though and potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate AJ Brown. If the Titans get out in front early, this game might be a lot closer than people think.
Perhaps the only concern for Baltimore fans is that come Saturday it would have been 20 straight days since the offense saw any proper action and thus there could be fears of a slump, not unusual to teams having clinched homefield advantage in Week 16 (see beginning of the Eagles-Saints playoff game last year). Any slump would have to be catastrophic to slow down the Ravens and MVP elect Lamar Jackson who stroll into the playoffs having reeled off 12 straight games and not tasting defeat since September. It will take a special effort from Tennessee to reach the AFC Title game.
Pick: Titans 24, Ravens 34
#4 Houston Texans @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs- Sun 12/01 3:05pm ET on CBS, 8:05pm GMT on Sky Sports
Special comeback by Watson and the Texans on Saturday in that truly wild game against the Bills. Houston looked like it was heading for another early playoff exit before Watson put the team on his back, scoring 19 straight points and taking the game to overtime where he starred. Even better news for Texans fans is that WR WIll Fuller, inactive against the Bills, is expected to return on Sunday against Kansas City. Although KC was injury crippled during their week 6 affair, the Texans go into Arrowhead Stadium in confidence knowing that they can beat Mahomes and Co. , having done so 31-24. Are the pieces coming together for a first AFC Championship appearance in franchise history for the Texans?
On Sunday, Kansas City looks to return to the AFC Championship game it so agonizingly lost last January. Just like the Texans though, the Chiefs come into this game with momentum, having won six straight and seven of their last eight. Most importantly for KC though, the defense this time around in the playoffs is substantially better than the ‘defense’ the Chiefs fielded 12 months ago, ultimately costing them against the Patriots. An interesting note on the KC offense; they rank 20th in the NFL in the Redzone, a huge decline from a season ago. Field goals will not win this game against the Texans.
Pick: Texans 24, Chiefs 27
#5 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 Green Bay Packers- Sun 12/01 6:40pm ET on FOX, 11:40pm GMT on Sky Sports
Strange game in Philadelphia for the Seattle Seahawks, who seemingly should have blown out the Eagles but allowed them to stick around right till the end, until that brilliant catch by star rookie DK Metcalf on 3rd down. Whilst the defense for SEA did look good against the Eagles, the challenge presented by Aaron Rodgers will be far greater than that of Josh McCown, despite his best efforts, therefore making it difficult to judge how good they were. This is by far the toughest game of the weekend to pick, as both come in stumbling. A key stat; the Seahawks are 8-1 on the road this season.
The Green Bay Packers host their first divisional round playoff game since 2015. This is quite remarkable given their desperate performance against the Lions in Week 17 with a bye and homefield advantage on the line which they clawed back to win. It sounds criminal to not trust Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense but there have been instances where the GB offense has not performed to the level you would expect (see games against Chicago and Washington). A similar style performance on Sunday would undoubtedly see the Packers one and done. B
Pick: Seahawks 23, Packers 17