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Sunday NFL Playbook

NFC wild-card games could be fun to watch

It's almost universal. Every coach in quick on-field interviews after a win praises the team for overcoming the adversity it faced all season.

Well, few can match the tale of woe of the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks this season. Coach Doug Pederson's Eagles and Pete Carroll's Seahawks meet Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in the last of the four NFL wild-card games.

The Minnesota Vikings play the Saints in New Orleans in the earlier game Sunday afternoon.

Five players who started the Eagles' season opener against the Washington Redskins are now on injured reserve. Another, offensive tackle Lane Johnson is coming off an ankle injury and, if unavailable, may cause a reshuffling of the Eagles' line. In their Week 17 victory over the New York Giants, the Eagles started three wide receivers who were on the practice squad just a month ago.

After Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny went on the injured reserve last month, Seattle went out and signed retired running backs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to fill the breach. Lynch ran 12 times for 34 yards in a one-point loss to the San Francisco 49ers that decided the NFC West championship in Week 17. Rookie Travis Homer, a sixth-round pick from Miami (Fla.), started the game at running back for Seattle.

Many consider the Saints, the NFL's best-balanced team. Coach Sean Payton's Saints rank ninth in the NFL in total offense and 10th in total defense. They have Michael Thomas, the NFL leader with a record 149 pass receptions, and quarterback Drew Brees, who looks like a certain Hall of Fame selection as soon as he becomes eligible.

So how did the Saints end up in the wild-card round? They lost in a tiebreaker with the No. 2 seed Green Bay because the Packers (10-2) had a better record than the Saints (9-3) in conference games.

Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, a Pro Bowl selection, was inactive the last two games with an injury and Adam Thielen, one half of the Vikings' receiving duo with Stefon Diggs, missed five games with injury and was held out of the season finale.

A capsule look at Sunday's NFC wild-card games:

Vikings (10-6) at Saints (13-3)

TV: Fox, 1:05 p.m.

The line: Saints (-8).

Record ATS: Vikings 8-7-1; Saints 11-5.

Over/under: 49.

Times over/under: Vikings 8/8; Saints 10/6.

The scoop: Last time the teams met, in 2018, the Saints won 30-20 in Minneapolis. The Vikings won their last postseason clash, 29-24, at home in 2017. ... QB Kirk Cousins had a career year with Minnesota, passing for 26 TDs with six interceptions and a 107.4. He has passed for 25 or more touchdowns in each of the last five seasons. A late-season injury deprived Cook of a shot at the NFL rushing leadership. He ended  with 1,135 rushing yards and had 519 receiving yards. Diggs had a career-high 1,130 receiving yards. ... New Orleans won the NFC South for the sixth time under Payton. The Saints had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl, including Brees, Thomas and defenders Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore. Brees was second in the NFL with a 116.3 passer rating, his career high. He now is the all-time NFL leader in passing yards (77,416) and passing TDs (547). Jordan had a career-high 15.5 sacks.

Outlook: Brees over Cousins and Saints with Superdome crowd behind them, look like the pick here, but only 28-24.

Seahawks (11-5) at Eagles (9-7)

TV: NBC, 4:40 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-1 1/2).

Record ATS: Seahawks 8-7-1; Eagles 8-8.

Over/under: 46.

Times over/under: Seahawks 10/6; Eagles 8/8.

The scoop: Seattle won regular-season game at the Linc, 17-9, keeping Eagles out of the end zone until the last 20 seconds. Seahawks went 5-0 in games in the Eastern Time Zone in 2019. ... That Super Bowl gaffe on the goal line against the Patriots three seasons ago tarnished Pete Carroll's reputation, but the man has led Seattle to the postseason in eight of 10 seasons as head coach and 10 or more wins in seven of the last eight seasons. ... QB Russell Wilson has 94 career wins since 2012. Wilson passed for 4,110 yards in 2019 regular season. He's passed for 12 TDs in seven career road playoffs starts. WR Tyler Lockett, a true deep threat, had 82 receptions for eight touchdowns and a 12.9 yards per catch. Seattle LB Bobby Wagner led the league with 159 tackles. ... Despite injuries, Eagles won last four games following huge upset at Miami to win NFC East. QB Carson Wentz finished regular season with 27 TDs and 7 INTS. He was 12 TDs-2 INTs at home. With WR shortage, Eagles turned to TE's Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert as receiving targets and with RB Jordan Howard missing time with injury got great production from rookie Miles Sanders, who had 1,327 scrimmage yards. ... The Eagles defense, coached by former Bills DC Jim Schwartz, ranked 10th in total defense.

Outlook: Resourceful Eagles are best 8-8 team the NFL has seen in a while. Wentz proving he was worthy of No. 1 overall pick in 2017. Duel between him and Wilson should make for a fun game. Like Philly's defense at home. Eagles, 27-21.

Last week: Favorites went 11-3 (two games were pick'em), 9-5 against the spread. Home favorites were 4-1, 3-2 ATS. Thirteen games were over, three were under.

Last week's results: 9-7 straight up; 7-9 against the spread.

Season's record: 149-89-1 straight up; 115-120-4 ATS.

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