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This is my first blog post since Christmas, and my first of 2019, so I hope you had a great festive period. It’s back to reality now though, and the work really begins for the 8 teams left in the running for the Vince Lombardi trophy.

I don’t want to dwell on it too much as I want to spend the majority of this post looking at the ‘Wildcard 8′ but I feel I must mention – the Dolphins were woeful in the last 2 games of the season, and it’s ended up costing Adam Gase his job. To me, it’s not really a surprise if I’m being perfectly honest. He was even more Average than Average Andy in Cincinnati – going into Week 16, his record was 23-23 as Dolphins head coach, and with owner Stephen Ross’ ambitious expectations for his team, that doesn’t really cut it unfortunately. That being said, I can’t see him being out of a job for long as he’s known as being fairly highly regarded amongst a number of teams, especially the Browns, who are also on the look out for a new coach. I wonder how popular that would be with Jarvis Landry…?! The problem the Dolphins have now is who might come in to replace him – news I’ve heard has Rex Ryan going around telling everyone who will listen that he’s getting the job, which is a bit worrying to me (although I’m not 100% sure how reliable the source of the story was!).

Another final point of note on the ‘Fins before I move on is the annual ‘End of Year Ejections’ from this weeks game. This year, it was Kiko Alonso and Robert Quinn who were ejected in the third quarter for Unsportsmanlike Conduct and Unnecessary Roughness. It’s difficult to defend Kiko on this one; it’s not the first hit like this that he’s made this year, and he’s started to get comparisons to Vontaze Burfict for similar hits. It decimated our defence for the game, but even before that point, we’d established a terrible stat of the most yards allowed in a season in franchise history… not a great record to be breaking.

So, on to the Wildcard 8! There’s four games this weekend for the right to go onto play the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints in the Divisional round. I’ll go through each of the games and make my predictions…

Saturday kicks off with the Colts visiting the Texans. The Colts snuck through on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Houston rushing game develops. This year, the Colts haven’t allowed a single rusher a 100 yard game – especially impressive considering they’ve faced the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Derrick Henry (twice!). As divisional rivals, they’ve met twice already this year, sharing wins. My pick for this one is the Houston Texans.

Next, we have the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Seattle Seahawks. For me, this is going to be the game of the weekend, and is definitely one I’m looking forward to catching. Both teams finished 10-6, and both are largely here due to a really strong finish, with Dallas winning 7 of their last 8 games, and Seattle winning 6 of their last 7. Dallas are a good team but I just think this might be the end of their road, so I’m picking the Seattle Seahawks.

Moving on to Sunday, the early game is back to the AFC, where the Chargers and Ravens meet. This one’s quite straightforward to me having watched quite a few Chargers games this season and being really impressed – I genuinely think that Philip Rivers is finally going to get another Postseason run, so I’m going to go with the LA Chargers. That being said, I strongly suggest you go back and check out the Ravens/Browns game from Week 17, where the Ravens clinched their post-season visit – really good game with an exciting ending.

Finally we have the Eagles and the Bears who meet late on Sunday. These two teams are, in their own ways, a bit of a surprise. Not many people would have picked the Bears to win the NFC North, especially so convincingly. They’ve done incredibly well this year though, and have gelled brilliantly as a team. On the other hand, while it shouldn’t be surprising that the Eagles are there (given that they’re the defending champions), they really struggled with consistency this year, and if it wasn’t for a strong end to the season, they might have missed out. A lot of this is going to depend on how Nick Foles recovers this week – he’s got sore Ribs following Sunday’s game with the Redskins. With Carson Wentz out, they may struggle if he isn’t at his best. This is the most difficult to call of the weekend I think, but I’ll go for the Chicago Bears.

Only one final thing remains before I wrap up for the week – a quick look at how my bet is looking for the Rams:

And that’ll be that. This time next week, we’ll be down to just 8 teams, and there’ll be only 7 games (plus a pro-bowl, which listeners of the pod will know we don’t count!) left this season. Buckle up – there’s still a lot of football to be played!

Until next time…