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2019 NFL Wild Card Games Odds and Game Previews, Sunday January 6

The playoffs are finally here, and the rules are simple: win and advance, lose and go home. For eight of the 12 teams that remain, Wild Card weekend is the first test. Sunday’s slate features the Los Angeles Chargers taking on the Baltimore Ravens followed by an NFC showdown of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears as all the squads hope to see their path to Atlanta for the Super Bowl continue past this weekend.

First up on Sunday are the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) and the Baltimore Ravens (10-6). Both teams are back in the playoffs after being absent to the dance for several years, and both are hoping to make the most of this opportunity.

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The Los Angeles Chargers have won five of their last six games to close out the regular season and were in the hunt for the top overall seed in the AFC playoffs up until the final day of the season. Led by Phillip Rivers, who is having another great season at quarterback with 4,308 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, the Chargers offense has been one of the best in the league with their 26.8 points per game good for sixth in the NFL. With a healthy Melvin Gordon anchoring the backfield going into the playoffs, the Chargers will force Baltimore’s offense to try and keep up. Rookie safety and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Derwin James is also making opposing quarterbacks think twice about trying to air it up in his direction.

The Ravens come into the playoffs winning their final three games and winning six of their last seven, enough to steal the AFC North crown from their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, even after a three-game losing streak put them at 4-5 and likely on the outside looking in. Much of that success during their winning streak has been credited to rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who took over for an injured Joe Flacco and has kept the former Super Bowl MVP quarterback on the bench as a spectator. The former Louisville quarterback and Heisman winner has passed for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions, but his legs have frustrated opponents, rushing for 695 yards and five touchdowns, though his ten fumbles are a cause for concern. But it’s the Baltimore defense, having allowed just 17.9 points per game against, that may be the difference maker as it looks to stop the high-flying Chargers offense.

The Ravens won the regular season matchup, a 22-10 victory in Los Angeles in Week 16. The Ravens have the with Baltimore favored over the Chargers at -2 1/2 - 120.

The second game of the day features the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) and the Chicago Bears (12-4), with one team secure in its postseason future for the majority of the late season and the other team just sneaking into the dance.

The Eagles managed to steal a spot in the postseason thanks in part to a late-season collapse by the Minnesota Vikings and a strong finish to the season with a three-game winning streak, including a 24-0 shutout of their division rival Washington Redskins. The Eagles come in as the big underdogs in their title defense and will likely be led by backup quarterback and last year’s Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Zach Ertz has put together a phenomenal season with 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. The Eagles are coming into this Wild Card matchup banged up with several key players listed as questionable on the injury report, including offensive tackle Jason Peters, cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox and backup running back Wendell Smallwood.

The Bears are one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season and had won four in a row to close the season, including the 24-10 victory over the Vikings that helped the Eagles sneak into the postseason. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has had a solid sophomore season with 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, and Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen make up one of the most dangerous backfield combos in the league. The defense may not be the Monsters of the Midway, but it has excelled, holding opponents to 17.7 points per game. The defense is hoping to have safety Eddie Jackson back in time for their first-round matchup.

The Bears are the favorites going into this game at Soldier Field with the line set at - 6 1/2. Despite being favored, it’s hard for bettors to forget that the Eagles went through last year’s playoffs as the underdogs in almost every game and still managed to win the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, so don’t be surprised if this game is closer than expected.

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