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VOL. 43 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 4, 2019

NFL Playoff matchups

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The first round of the NFL playoffs begin Saturday, beginning with a matchup of two Titans' division opponents, the Colts and Texans. Here's how the first round looks:

Saturday

Colts (10-6) at Texans (11-5)

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Colts got into the playoffs by virtue of beating the Titans on Sunday night. Andrew Luck has been red hot in the second half of the season as the Colts finally figured out a way to protect him.

The task gets tougher having to go to Houston, where the Texans defense – with the likes of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney – hope to pressure Luck into mistakes. Houston has its own playmakers in QB Deshaun Watson and receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Given their familiarity as division foes, and the fact that they played two close games already this year, the rubber match should be a good one.

Score prediction:

Colts 27, Texans 23

Seahawks (10-6) at Cowboys (10-6)

7:15 p.m. (Fox)

The Cowboys have played well since a Monday night thumping from the Titans in Dallas left them for dead at 3-5. Dallas defense has led the charge, and the offense has been rejuvenated since the acquisition of receiver Amari Cooper to complement the running of Ezekiel Elliott and to give Dak Prescott a big-time target. Seattle did a quick rebuild in the off-season, dismantling the Legend of Boom defense and centering the team on quarterback Russell Wilson’s considerable talents. The Cowboys might have the edge of being at home, but it’s hard to go against the experienced Seahawks in postseason games.

Score: Seahawks 31, Cowboys 23

Sunday

Chargers (12-4) at Ravens (10-6)

Noon (CBS)

Philip Rivers and the Chargers were supposed to be the dark horse in the playoffs with a chance to make a deep run.

But first, they must somehow get past a Ravens team that has been dynamic since inserting rookie running quarterback Lamar Jackson into the lineup.

The Ravens went to Los Angeles in a must-win situation for them two weeks ago and knocked off the Chargers.

Now they get to see if they can do it again, using their opportunistic defense and the spark Jackson has given the offense.

The big benefit for the Chargers, despite traveling across the country, is they get a second chance to figure out how to defend Jackson, something that just might tip the scales in their favor during this postseason rematch.

Score: Chargers 21, Ravens 20

Eagles (9-7) at Bears (12-4)

3:30 p.m. (NBC)

The Eagles have turned their fortunes back to Nick Foles, hoping to recreate last year’s magical Super Bowl run.

But the Bears defense has been a buzz saw this year, making them one of the teams that no one wants to see in the postseason.

As long as Mitch Trubisky and the offense make a few plays and don’t turn the ball over to put Khalil Mack and the defense in bad situations, Chicago should have the edge.

Score: Bears 26, Eagles 20

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