Three out of the four teams that qualified for the NFL playoffs with a wildcard spot advanced to this Divisional Round with wins over the weekend. The Dallas Cowboys, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks 24-22 in Arlington, were the only home team to survive the weekend.
The Texans, meanwhile, looked about as bad as you can look offensively throughout the majority of their contest against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. The Colts, who have now won 10 of their last 11 games after a 1-5 start, get the last laugh in the AFC South with a 21-7 victory over Houston in the third game the two teams played this season.
Make no mistake about it: the Colts are a tough draw as a six seed. Not only are they the hottest team in football, but they have basically already been in the playoffs for months. As just the third team in the league’s history to qualify for the playoffs after a 1-5 start, there was never any room for error for Andrew Luck and company. Even with their miraculous finish, they needed a win in Tennessee week 17 to get to 10-6 and earn their spot in Houston.
The Texans also had a nice turnaround story in 2018. After an 0-3 start, they were able to win 11 games and play host in the playoffs. Still, Indianapolis was more than ready for their familiar foe. Their elite offensive line slowed down Houston’s deadly pass rush. On the other side, DeAndre Hopkins was not enough to beat a defense that has been surprisingly stingy this season. The loss of Demaryus Thomas proved to hurt the Texans when it mattered most.
Houston will also recall a week 16 game in Philly as they settle in for the long offseason. Had they been able to close out the Eagles like they probably should have, they would have enjoyed the number two overall seed in the playoffs and taken Wildcard Sunday off.
Instead, the surging Colts will travel to Kansas City to take on the top-ranked Chiefs. The two-seeded New England Patriots will host the Los Angeles Chargers, who got revenge over the Ravens in Baltimore with a win on Sunday.
In the NFC, the Cowboys held strong throughout a close matchup with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Their defense kept Wilson quiet throughout the majority of the game and allowed Dak Prescott to finally breakthrough. Running back Ezekiel Elliot stole the show offensively, though. In just his second postseason game, Elliot ran for 137 yards and a score.
It appears Dallas will go as far as their defense and Zeke can take them. They will now have their work cut out for them with e tough matchup in Los Angeles against the 13-3 Rams in the Divisional Round. The Rams are electric and lethal, but began to trend down in the final month of the season and are not as dangerous as the team we saw in October. It will be a tough task, but the Cowboys do appear to have the formula to shock the Rams if they show up and play the perfect game.
The final game of the weekend was the most thrilling, or nauseating, depending on who you favor. After what seemed to be an embarrassing followup campaign to last year’s Super Bowl run, the Eagles have rallied around Nick Foles once more. Last year’s Super Bowl MVP has taken Philly from 6-7 to the Divisional Playoffs with four straight wins, including a 16-15 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field that left the sporting world speechless.
Despite a subpar performance by the offense until the final quarter, it appeared that the Bears just might escape with a close victory as Foles lined up for his final shot at the end zone on fourth and goal from the two with a minute remaining. Despite the dominance of Chicago’s defense, Foles was able to get the ball out quick and keep his jersey clean for the majority of the game. When it mattered most, he found Golden Tate for the two-yard score to give his team the lead.
But hope was still alive for the Bears. With a minute remaining, Mitchell Trubisky found Allen Robinson deep along the sidelines to put them in range of a long field goal attempt to win the game after a tremendous kick return by Tarik Cohen. Trubisky was aggressive and found 10 more yards to set the stage for Cody Parkey to attempt a game-winning, 43-yard kick.
Parkey, who has been a model of inconsistency for Chicago all season, came in with 10 missed kicks and an unexplainable knack for getting as close as you possibly can without actually making it. But Parkey hit all three of his attempts earlier in the game against Philly as well as his gimme “practice kick” when Eagles Coach Doug Pederson called a timeout to ice him was perfect.
But you really cannot make this up. Parkey’s kick bounced off the big yellow posts not once, but twice. It clanked the left upright, bounced on the lower bar and into the end zone. Had it bounced back instead of forward, the Bears would have won the game 18-16.
Instead, the Eagles keep their hopes alive and will advance to New Orleans to meet the top-seeded Saints in the Superdome.
Eight teams still have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.