Win and survive. The goal is clear. The mission is clear. Whether it’s by Luck or Rivers or Foles Magic or a double-doink missed field goal, the opening round of the playoffs did not disappoint fans. The postseason ended prematurely for the Seahawks, Bears, Texans, and Ravens. Whereas the LA Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and defending champion Philadelphia Eagles all moved on to the next round of the divisional playoffs.
Andrew Luck did his homework and exploited a predictable Texans defense. The Seahawks backdoored a cover, but Russell Wilson and company could not steal a win in Dallas. The Chargers used a wacky defensive scheme to stop Lamar Jackson, and Philip Rivers relied on five field goals from a rookie kicker to secure a victory. And the Eagles keep winning games with backup QB Nick Foles in the lineup, but this time, it was an unfortunate bounce off the upright (twice) that made Cody Parkey a pariah in perpetuity in the eyes of Bears fans.
#6 Indianapolis Colts 21, #3 Houston Texans 7… The Colts picked off the AFC South champ for a second time in the last five weeks. The Colts continued their hot funky groove of a winning streak with five in a row, plus ten wins in their last 11 games. Andrew Luck threw two touchdowns and tossed 222 yards in an easy win. RB Marlon Mack torched the brittle Texans D for 148 yards and a touchdown. Even though T.Y. Hilton did not find the end zone, he set up a couple of scores for his teammates. This game was 21-0 at one point. It really felt like the final score should have been 40-0, but the Colts downshifted into chill mode the rest of the game. The Colts defense pitched a shutout for three quarters and held RB Lamar Miller to only 18 rushing yards. The Colts sacked DeShaun Watson three times and picked him off once. Watson completed only 29 of 49 passes for 235 yards and a meaningless garbage-time score.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 5, 2019
#4 Dallas Cowboys 24, #5 Seattle Seahawks 22… The Seahawks ran the ball down their opponents’ throats during the regular season and it worked, but the Wild Card is a different beast. The Seahawks were stuck trying to stubbornly run, even though the Cowboys knew it was coming. Russell Wilson (233 yards, 1 TD) was super accurate, particularly on play-action passes. Every fan in Seattle wished they passed more in this game because you cannot rely on Wilson to bail them out at the last second. Then again, that’s what happens when you rely on an ex-LOLJets offensive coordinator to call predictable plays in the postseason. The Cowboys prevailed thanks to fourth-quarter heroics from QB Dak Prescott. Zeke Elliott rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown and contributed 169 total yards of offense from scrimmage. Amari Cooper caught seven passes for 109 yards but didn’t get into the end zone. Without kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll was forced to go for it on fourth down instead of FG attempts, and run 2-point conversions instead of XPs. With Janikowski nursing a pulled hamstring, the Seahawks went for a 2-point conversion with the score 24-20. The Seahawks got into the end zone and trimmed the deficit to 24-22. Janikowski’s injury had huge gambling implications. If you were lucky enough to be holding a Seattle +2.5 ticket, then you backdoored a nasty win. If you had the Cowboys -2, then you pushed when you should’ve won outright. And if you were backing the Cowboys at -2.5, then you suffered the first sports betting bad beat of the new year.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) January 6, 2019
#5 LA Chargers 23, #4 Baltimore Ravens 17… The Chargers went on the road to avenge a loss from two weeks earlier. Philip Rivers did not throw any touchdowns and Melvin Gordon only rushed for 40 yards. Yet somehow, the Chargers won this game by six points. Credit the kicker, Mike Badgley, who connected on five out of six FGs to give the Bolts 15 much-needed points. Defense was the key to this game. The Ravens played out of their minds and did what they could to keep Rivers out of the end zone. The Chargers used 7 DBs in an unorthodox move to contain Jackson. The extra speed on the field worked. The Chargers sacked Lamar Jackson seven times. RB Gus Edwards and Jackson were held to only 67 combined rushing yards and the Chargers shut down the second-best rushing attack in the NFL. The score was 23-3 in favor of the Chargers at the start of the 4Q before the Ravens finally woke up. When the Ravens opened up the offense and let Jackson throw, he finished with 194 passing yards and tossed two touchdowns to veteran WR Michael Crabtree. LB Uchenna Nwosu sealed the win late in the 4Q after he hit Jackson, who coughed up the pigskin with an untimely fumble.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 6, 2019
#6 Philadelphia Eagles 16, #3 Chicago Bears 15… So much for being 7-1 at home. The Eagles scored 13 points against Da Bears in the second half. Is there anyone hotter than Nick Foles right now? He should be flying to Las Vegas on his day off. Foles threw two touchdowns and two picks, but it was the final touchdown that people will be talking about decades from now. On a clutch fourth-down play, Foles found Golden Tate for the go-ahead score. Bears QB Mitch Trubisky threw for 303 yards and a touchdown, but most importantly, he did not create any turnovers in his first playoff game. WR Allen Robinson destroyed the Eagles secondary with ten receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown. Despite a good game from Trubisky and Robinson, the Bears lacked a consistent running game. They scored just one touchdown all game. Fifth-year kicker Cody Parkey was 3-for-3 on FG attempts going into crunch time. He contributed 9 out of 15 points for the Bears, but missed a 43-yard kick that would have sealed the win. Chicago loves a good villain. Just ask Cubs fan Steve Bartman. Parkey will go down in history as the guy who liked hitting the post a little too much. Earlier this season, four of his kicks hit the post, which should have been an omen for the playoffs. Parkey connected on only 23 of 30 FG attempts in the regular season and he also missed three extra points. After further review, Parkey’s kick was slightly tipped (by Eagles tackle Treyvon Hester) before the football clanked off the upright and then doinked off the crossbar for a failed attempt. The Bears’ grandiose hopes and Super Bowl dreams came crashing down hard and fast in the wake of one kick and ricochet. Parkey will be go down as one of the most hated players in the history of the Bears, with disgruntled fans generating “DOINK!” memes for the rest of eternity.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 7, 2019
Pauly McGuire is a writer specializing in sports betting. He’s covered the NFL, NBA, college basketball, MLB, and the Olympics for numerous outlets. He’s the former co-host of the Everything Is Bettable podcast with Jesse May. You also might remember Pauly as the creator of the Tao of Poker blog. He was a partner in one of the first daily fantasy sports sites, Fantasy Sports Live.