Superbowl 2019: NFL wild-card round preview and predictions

Nick Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Superbowl in 2018.
Nick Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Superbowl in 2018. Photo credit: Reuters

In the US, it's known simply as football… it's not soccer, not rugby, it's football.

And this weekend, the National Football League hits high gear, with the playoffs beginning and the Superbowl looming on the horizon.

First up, the wildcard games between those teams that hope to earn a spot in the divisional round.

Here's how they line up and what you should expect…

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Photo credit: Reuters

Houston Texans: (11-5) vs Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Sunday, 10:35am (NZT)

The first wildcard match features the two comeback stories of the season.

The Texans started the year 0-3, but turned the season around beautifully and were in a position to top the AFC heading into the last regular-season round.

Their comeback can be put down to their tight defence, mixed with star quarterback Deshaun Watson and number one wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

The Colts had a horror start to the season as well, beginning 1-5. Quarterback Andrew Luck has led his team to become one of the hottest teams in the country entering the playoffs, winning nine of their last 10.

The season series was split 1-1, with both teams winning on the road.

The Colts will benefit from a fully healthy Luck, who has battled a shoulder injury for three years.

Marlon Mack has emerged as a star at running back and they boast a touchdown machine in tight end Eric Ebron.

Expect Luck to go on a tear against the Texans defence to win in a high-scoring affair.

Indianapolis Colts 34 Houston Texans 27

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Photo credit: Reuters

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) vs Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Sunday, 2:15pm (NZT)

Ezekiel Elliot has won his second rushing title in three years and has been influential in the Cowboys 10-6 season, while the addition of receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders has seemingly taken them to the next level.

Elliot, Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott carry the load on offence, and see most teams focus on that side of the ball, but the Cowboys defence has earned their spot in the post-season.

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner is still among the game's best defensive players, and quarterback Russell Wilson has been able to adapt and allow the offence become run-focused, while still managing 35 touchdown passes.

Given this game is in Dallas and the Seahawks are 4-4 on the road, I'm going with America's team.

Dallas Cowboys 28 Seattle Seahawks 24

Phillip Rivers with Mike Williams.
Phillip Rivers with Mike Williams. Photo credit: AAP

LA Chargers (12-4) vs Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Monday, 7:05 am (NZT)

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has been a revelation for the Ravens, his run-first mentality helping them to a 6-1 record, with the 21-year-old leading the line.

The Ravens are a fantastic team at defending the rush, but there is room to throw against them - Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes both exploited them for more than 300 yards.

The Chargers have had a great season, led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, but if their humiliating loss to the Ravens two weeks ago is anything to go by, his season may be cut short once again.

I'm still going to back Rivers and the Chargers in a close one.

LA Chargers 24 Baltimore Ravens 21

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passes to tight end Trey Burton
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passes to tight end Trey Burton Photo credit: AAP

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs Chicago Bears (12-4)
Monday at 10:40am (NZT)

Last year's Superbowl champions have scrapped their way to the post-season.

Quarterback Carson Wentz went down to a serious back injury and, once again, in stepped Superbowl MVP Nick Foles to finish with three straight wins and an unlikely wildcard spot.

Foles has revitalised an Eagles offence that looked at times clueless under Wentz.

The Bears defence will be heavily in Foles' mind, when he has defenders Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Kyle Fuller ready to give the 29-year-old nightmares.

The offence isn't nearly as feared as the defence, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and company still pose a threat to the champs.

Their running game has been fierce and relentless, through Jordan Howard, who leads the way with 935 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Philadelphia are big underdogs, but they were all of last year's playoffs too. I think the Bears will be too good, and their defence will choke Foles and the Eagles offence.

Chicago Bears 27 Philadelphia Eagles 13

Luke Robinson is a Newshub online sports producer. Join us on February 4 for live updates of Superbowl 2019.

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