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FOOTBALL FREAK: The Freak’s favourite weekend in NFL

['John Turner']
['John Turner']

All four wild-card games expected to be close

You say you want to be an NFL head coach?
Well, you better not buy a house for the long term as job security is laughable in the NFL. For example, eight coaches were fired by the end of Black Monday.  
Steve Wilks only lasted less than one season in Arizona, and the majority of the coaches were fired after less than four years on the job. The NFL is about winning now as owners don’t have patience for a five-year rebuild, or you will be shown the front door!
This is The Freak’s favourite weekend of football – “Wild-Card Weekend.”
There are four great games that really can go either way, with no game having more than a five-point favourite. It would not be one bit surprising if any one of these eight teams end up playing in the Super Bowl in Atlanta. There is so much parity in the NFL, it’s very exciting for the fans watching this year’s tournament. Enjoy this weekend!

Colts (10-6, road 4-4 )
vs. Texans (11-5, home 6-2)
Head-to-head
Week 4: Texans, 37-34 OT
Week 14: Colts, 24-21.

Don’t look now, but over the last three months Indy is the hottest team in football, and the big reason is the revamped offensive line anchored by rookie guard Quenton Nelson. This unit has only given up seven sacks all season, and this has kept Andrew Luck upright, healthy and very dangerous.
Indy has a solid running game with Marlon Mack and Luck’s favorite targets in receiver TY Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron.
Houston, after a 1-4 start, had a very solid season as well. They have the luxury of a dynamic duo on both sides of the ball with DeShawn Watson and DeAndre Hopkins on offence, and JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive side.
The Freak likes the Colts on the road. Indy’s O-line will neutralize the Houston pass rushers, and the Colts’ quick D will put lots of pressure on Watson to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Indy wins 27-23.

Seahawks (10-6, road 4-4)
vs. Cowboys (10-6, home 7-1)
Head-to-head
Week 3: Seattle, 24-13

Some teams are just a different team at home, and Dallas is just one of those teams that loves home cooking.
Seattle had a surprising season considering the days of the “Legion of Boom” and power running of Marshawn Lynch are long gone.
However, this team still loves the power running game with Chris Carson, who was surprisingly fifth in the league in rushing, along with a D led by Bobby Wagner, who unbelievably did not miss a tackle all season.  
Both teams play old-school football – run the ball and play great D. In the end, Dallas has the better pass rush with Demarcus Lawrence and a great running back in Ezekiel Elliott, and they will be difference-makers in this game. Turnovers will be critical, Dallas edges Seattle 21-20.

Chargers (11-5, road 5-3)
vs. Ravens (10-6, home 6-2)
Head-to-head
Week 16: Ravens, 22-10

Lamar Jackson will become the youngest quarterback to ever start a National Football League playoff game at the age of 21. The playoffs are a different monster than the regular season as the speed and intensity of the game is ramped up. Can a young quarterback like Jackson handle the pressure?
Some believe every game for the Ravens down the stretch was a playoff game to get in this season’s tournament. The Freak usually doesn’t like West Coast teams coming to the cold East Coast for an early game time on Sunday, but the Chargers are really a good road team with big wins in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Seattle this season.
Also, they just played the Ravens two weeks ago, so they will have some idea what adjustments are needed to shut down this successful run-pass option offence Baltimore has been operating with Jackson, which no one has been able to stop.
Finally, Los Angeles has a healthier Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and the return of tight end Hunter Henry, who will all be impact players against this great Ravens’ defence. The Bolts beat the Ravens 20-17.

Eagles (9-7, road 4-4)
vs. Bears (12-4, home 7-1)

A cold-weather playoff game between two physical teams at Soldier Field in Chicago. It doesn’t get any better than this!  
The Eagles, with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm, will try another miracle run in the playoffs for a chance at back-to-back Super Bowl titles. One obstacle in the Eagles’ path to Atlanta is the dominating Bears’ defence led by Khali Mack, who just makes this defence better around him.
If the Eagles have any chance in this game, they need to have an answer for Mack, which is easily said than done.
Chicago has second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who needs to manage the game and have no turnovers. Trubisky is very dangerous on the run, so the Bears might want to move the pocket with a one-read pass option, and if it is not there let his legs move the chains.
Also, running back Tarik Cohen needs at least 10 to 12 touches on offence. Philly doesn’t have the same talent it had last season in its special run, and it will be exploited on Sunday as the Bears show no sign of hibernation in a 24-14 win.

John Turner is a Summerside school teacher and coaches youth football. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

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