NFL Wilcard Weekend Playoff Preview - 2019

After an exciting finish to the regular season, the NFL's second season has arrived. The NFL postseason begins with four games this Wild Card Weekend.

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The NFL playoffs begin on Saturday and Sunday, January 5-6, with Wild Card Weekend. On Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts play at the Houston Texans and the Seattle Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys. Wild Card Weekend continues Sunday with the Los Angeles Chargers at the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles traveling to face the Chicago Bears.

Week 17 of the NFL regular season came right down to the wire. Sunday's excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season's final day, a tradition instituted in 2010. Three playoff spots and three divisions titles -- the AFC West, AFC North and AFC South -- were decided on the final day of the season.

A look at the four games on Wild Card Weekend:

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5) (Saturday, ESPN/ABC, 4:35 PM ET)

This is the first postseason meeting between the AFC South division rivals.

In the regular season, the Colts hold a 26-8 advantage in 34 games played. The Texans and Colts split the season series in 2018, with Houston winning 37-34 in overtime in Week 4 and Indianapolis taking the finale 24-21 in Week 14.

The Colts have qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2014. Indianapolis had two players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: tight end ERIC EBRON and rookie guard QUENTON NELSON.

The Texans won the AFC South for the third time in the past four seasons (2015 and 2016). Houston had four players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: linebacker JADEVEON CLOWNEY, wide receiver DE ANDRE HOPKINS, linebacker BENARDRICK MCKINNEY and defensive end J.J. WATT.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Dallas Cowboys (10-6) (Saturday, FOX, 8:15 PM ET)

This is only the second playoff game between the Seahawks and Cowboys.

The Seahawks defeated Dallas 21-20 in their 2006 NFC Wild Card meeting (January 6, 2007). The Cowboys lead the all-time series 10-9, including the postseason. This season, Seattle won 24-13 in their Week 3 meeting at CenturyLink Field.

The Seahawks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and have advanced to the postseason in seven of head coach PETE CARROLL's nine seasons with the team. Seattle had two players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: rookie punter MICHAEL DICKSON and linebacker BOBBY WAGNER.

The Cowboys are back in the postseason after capturing the NFC East title for the first time since 2016. Dallas had five players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl, tied with Chicago and New Orleans for the most in the NFC: running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, cornerback BYRON JONES, defensive end DEMARCUS LAWRENCE, guard ZACK MARTIN and tackle TYRON SMITH.

The Cowboys (34) are tied with the Green Bay Packers (34) and New England Patriots (34) for the second-most playoff wins all-time. Only Pittsburgh (36) has more postseason wins in NFL history. This weekend's game marks the 62nd playoff game in the history of the Dallas Cowboys and surpasses Pittsburgh (61) for the most postseason games ever played by an NFL franchise

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (Sunday, CBS, 1:05 PM ET)

This is the first postseason meeting between the Chargers and Ravens.

Baltimore leads the all-time series 7-5, including a 22-10 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 16 this season.

Baltimore has qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2014 and won the AFC North for the first time since 2012, when they were victorious in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens had three players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: linebacker C.J. MOSLEY, safety ERIC WEDDLE and guard MARSHAL YANDA.

The Chargers have made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Los Angeles had a league-best seven players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: wide receiver KEENAN ALLEN, running back MELVIN GORDON, defensive end MELVIN INGRAM, rookie safety DERWIN JAMES, special teamer ADRIAN PHILLIPS, center MIKE POUNCEY and quarterback PHILIP RIVERS.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS will make his 10th career playoff start on Wild Card Weekend. Rivers, who has recorded a passer rating of 115 or higher in each of his past two postseason starts

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (12-4) (Sunday, NBC, 4:40 PM ET)

The Eagles and Bears square in the postseason for the fourth time, with Philadelphia holding a 2-1 edge.

In their most recent postseason matchup, the Eagles won 33-19 in Chicago in the 2001 NFC Divisional Playoffs (January 19, 2002). The Bears lead the all-time series 30-13-1, including the postseason.

The Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions, are in the postseason for consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons and are seeking to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since the 2003-04 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. Philadelphia had three players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: guard BRANDON BROOKS, defensive tackle FLETCHER COX and tight end ZACH ERTZ.

The Bears have qualified for the postseason and claimed the NFC North division title for the first time since 2010. Chicago had five players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl, tied with Dallas and New Orleans for the most in the NFC: return specialist TARIK COHEN, cornerback KYLE FULLER, defensive tackle AKIEM HICKS, safety EDDIE JACKSON and linebacker KHALIL MACK. ​

The Chicago Bears defense led the NFL with the fewest points allowed per game (17.7) this season. In three of the past four seasons, the teams with the top regular-season scoring defense have advanced to the Super Bowl (Seattle Defeated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8; 2014 Seattle Lost to New England in Super Bowl XLIX, 28-24; 2016 New England Defeated Atlanta in Super Bowl LI, 34-28).

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns in the last year's NFC Championship Game and had 373 passing yards with three touchdowns in Super Bowl LII to help lead the Eagles to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

The following week (January 12-13), the Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, NBC, 4:35 PM ET) and New England Patriots (Sunday, CBS, 1:05 PM ET) in the AFC and the Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, FOX, 8:15 PM ET) and New Orleans Saints (Sunday, FOX, 4:40 PM ET) in the NFC host the Divisional Playoffs. The Chiefs and Saints own home-field advantage for the Conference Championship Games (January 20) if they win their Divisional contests.

The (ESPN, with simulcast on ABC, 3:00 PM ET) will be played on Sunday, January 27 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida and Super Bowl LIII will take place on Sunday, February 3 (CBS, 6:30 PM ET), at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Turnaround Teams & Consistent Winners Highlight Playoff Field

There are seven new playoff teams this season: Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle.

Since 1990 -- a streak of 29 consecutive seasons -- at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Four teams won division titles -- Baltimore (AFC North), Chicago (NFC North), Dallas (NFC East) and Houston (AFC South) -- after missing the playoffs last season.

In the 17 seasons since realignment, 29 of the 32 NFL teams have won a division title at least once.

Both the Chicago Bears (NFC North) and Houston Texans (AFC South) completed "worst-to-first" turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 15 of the past 16 seasons. With Chicago and Houston earning division titles, 2018 marked the second consecutive season that two teams went from worst to first (Jacksonville and Philadelphia in 2017) -- something that has never happened in any other major US sport.

This season's playoff field also showcases teams that have enjoyed recent postseason success. Since realignment in 2002, the New England Patriots have been to the playoffs 15 times, which is the most in the NFL.

Seven of this season's 12 playoff teams have won at least one Super Bowl since 1999, capturing 12 of the past 19 Vince Lombardi Trophies. Those teams are the Patriots (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI), Ravens (XXXV, XLVII), Colts (XLI), Eagles (LII), Rams (XXXIV), Saints (XLIV) and Seahawks (XLVIII).

The Baltimore Ravens (.652) and New England Patriots (.630) rank first and second all-time in postseason winning percentage.

The Playoff Quarterbacks

The postseason is filled with young stars on the rise and veterans at the top of their game at the quarterback position.

Three quarterbacks -- Baltimore's LAMAR JACKSON, Chicago's MITCHELL TRUBISKY and Houston's DESHAUN WATSON -- are expected to make their first career postseason starts on Wild Card Weekend while Kansas City's PATRICK MAHOMES, who led the league with 50 touchdown passes, will make his postseason debut in the AFC Divisional round.

New England quarterback TOM BRADY, who has led the Patriots to 10 consecutive division titles and five Super Bowl championships, is the postseason's all-time leader in games played (37), passing yards (10,226) and touchdown passes (71). Brady and Philadelphia quarterback NICK FOLES, who will make his fifth career postseason start, combined for an NFL-record 874 pass yards in Super Bowl LII last season. Foles had a 115.7 passer rating during the 2017 playoffs to help lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES, a veteran of 18 NFL seasons, will make his 14th postseason start in the NFC Divisional round after leading the league with an NFL-record 74.4 completion percentage and 115.7 passer rating in 2018. Los Angeles Chargers PHILIP RIVERS, in his 15th season, registered his 10th career 4,000-passing yard season and will make his 10th career postseason appearance.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback JARED GOFF and Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT, both selected by their teams in the 2016 NFL Draft, have led their franchises to division titles in two of their first three NFL seasons and each will be making their second career postseason start.

Both members of the 2012 NFL Draft class, Indianapolis Colts quarterback ANDREW LUCK will be making his seventh career postseason start while Seattle Seahawks quarterback RUSSELL WILSON, who has led Seattle to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons, will be making his 13th career postseason start on Wild Card Weekend. Wilson led Seattle to a Super Bowl XLVIII championship in 2013 and a Super Bowl XLIX appearance in 2014.

AFC Playoff Seedings

1. Kansas City (12-4), AFC West champion

2. New England (11-5), AFC East champion

3. Houston (11-5), AFC South champion

4. Baltimore (10-6), AFC North champion

5. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)

6. Indianapolis (10-6)

NFC Playoff Seedings

1. New Orleans (13-3), NFC South champion

2. Los Angeles Rams (13-3), NFC West champion

3. Chicago (12-4), NFC North champion

4. Dallas (10-6), NFC East champion

5. Seattle (10-6)

6. Philadelphia (9-7)

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