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Predicting studs and duds for Wild Card Weekend

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Eight teams duking it out

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In what seems like nearly a blink of the eye from kickoff in September, NFL Wild Card Weekend has arrived. Eight teams will duke it out with the hopes of advancing to the next round where the top teams await them.

All along the way, we will see quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck meet for the third time this year.

Speaking of meeting up, a couple of guys who combined on last year’s Super Bowl “Philly Special” will face each other, this time as opponents.

This leads us to predict which players will be studs or duds during Wild Card Weekend.

 

Stud: Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Luck proved all his doubters completely wrong. Instead of struggling with his throwing shoulder, the Colts have their playoff version of Luck back when they head to Houston to face the Texans. Luck should thrive facing a Texans defense that has yielded the fifth-most passing yards on the season. Plus, he has been on quite the roll lately, having thrown for a combined 642 yards and five touchdowns over his past two contests.

 

Dud: Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The guy who blazed for 217 yards and three touchdowns back in Week 14 against the Eagles seems to be a distant memory. Since then, Cooper has gone practically invisible and has delivered 83 total yards and zero touchdowns over his last three games. This is quite disturbing. Cooper next faces the Seahawks, whose defense has given up only two wideout touchdowns over the last four games. Plus, trusting Dak Prescott to not choke in a playoff situation and successfully connect with Cooper is a tough sell.

 

Stud: Darius Leonard, linebacker, Indianapolis Colts

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Leonard has had a tremendous rookie season and he is not done yet creating havoc for opposing offenses. He will face Deshaun Watson, who accounts for two of Leonard’s seven sacks in 2018, for the third time this year. The chances Leonard gets another sack under his belt on Saturday are great considering Watson has been sacked an absurd 62 times this season. Expect Leonard to also make some awesome tackles — a stat in which he led with 163 combined — for 2018.

 

Dud: Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

We are sorry to cast gloom and doom upon Foles, who is becoming an Eagles postseason legend. But his road matchup in Chicago is downright scary. Quarterbacks facing the Bears this season have achieved a league-low 72.9 quarterback rating. This has come along with the Bears having stolen 27 interceptions compared to giving up just 22 passing touchdowns. Foles is going to have his work cut out for him against the new-era Monsters of the Midway.

 

Stud: Demarcus Lawrence, defensive end, Dallas Cowboys

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Lawrence is going to be a constant pain in the rear end for Russell Wilson, who has been sacked 51 times in 16 games. Lawrence has been playing extremely well this season, managing 10.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and a career-high 64 combined tackles. How efficiently Lawrence and his defense take care of business against Wilson and Co. will have a lot to do with the outcome of this game.

 

Dud: Lamar Miller, running back, Houston Texans

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If the game between the Texans and Colts evolves into high-scoring affair, Miller may have a quiet performance. Indianapolis has been stingy against the run all year and has given up just 3.9 yards per carry on the season. And over their last four games, the Colts have allowed opposing running backs to rush for only 75.7 yards on average per tilt. It is also worth noting that Miller last managed a paltry 33 rushing yards on 14 carries when he played the Colts in Week 14.

 

Stud: Gus Edwards, running back, Baltimore Ravens

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Gus the Bus and the Ravens will host the Los Angeles Chargers as they attempt to advance in the playoffs. Fortunately for the Ravens, Edwards has been turbo charged his past two games, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. The rookie running back also will face a Chargers defense that last gave up 105 combined yards to him in Week 16. Edwards managing a touchdown would of course be the cherry on top.

 

Dud: Trey Burton, tight end, Chicago Bears

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday NFC battle will pit Burton against the team which he helped pull off the “Philly Special” with Nick Foles. But, Burton finding the end zone himself might be a stretch against his former teammats. Philly’s defense has yielded only two tight end touchdowns all year. It has also given up only four catches on average per game to Burton’s position. Plus, Burton has not scored in his last two games, making his Wild Card projection a murky one.

 

Stud: Chris Carson, running back, Seattle Seahawks

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the more underrated players at his position, Carson has performed lights out in his last four games. No matter the opponent in this stretch, Carson has averaged over five yards per carry, 111.8 yards per game and has scored five times. He has proved enough that he should be no match for the Cowboys, despite their defense ranking fifth-best against the run. A well-balanced run game led by Carson has had a lot to do with the Seahawks winning six out of their last seven games.

 

Dud: Philip Rivers, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers 

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Whether the Chargers win or lose in Baltimore on Sunday, Rivers should be prepared for a bumpy ride. The Ravens defense has not done any favors for opposing quarterbacks this year. That would include Baltimore holding Rivers to 181 passing yards and zero touchdowns in Week 16. Rivers also threw two picks that game and took four sacks. If Rivers somehow manages to shine bright and comes out on the winning end, then kudos to him.

 

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