The regular season is over and we don’t have to worry about another Bills loss until September because the NFL Playoffs start and it starts with Wildcard Weekend! There are some intriguing matchups and these games should not disappoint. Here are my Wildcard Weekend thoughts and picks:
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
This has been the Raiders best season in the last decade and best since their Superbowl appearance in 2002. The most serious blow came when Derek Carr broke his leg and is out indefinitely. The rookie Connor Cook gets the start for Oakland while the Texans will roll with their $72 million man Brock Osweiler. Both teams seem to not get much production on the ground with their stud running backs which is peculiar, but this game now shifts to who can establish the run better. If Oakland abandons their running back by committee approach and lets Latavius Murray run wild they can pass sparingly and use Crabtree and Cooper. The Texans want to avoid having the game in Osweiler’s hands with his shaky play this season. I think Houston’s defense is better than Oakland’s but I like and trust the Oakland offense with a rookie QB more than I do Brock Osweiler and Houston. Oakland hasn’t won a road playoff game since 1980 and the Texans -49 point differential is the 4th lowest by a playoff team since the 2002 (when the current division format was created). Something has to give!
My Pick: Oakland Raiders
Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Lions had quite the season this year really finding out what life is like without Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford has been spectacular. The Lions have seemingly come from behind from every game this season and that defense has played well the last 6 weeks. Only concern for Detroit is that they have lost 8 straight playoff games. Seattle has been Seattle, and they have won 9 straight home playoff games. The defense is still fierce and gets after people, even without Earl Thomas the secondary is still tough to pass against. Russell Wilson has been impressing with his arm more and more than his legs. Tyler Lockett being out takes a little punch away from the Seattle passing game but both teams seem to have a tough time establishing the run with great consistency. I think Seattle has the advantage in this one because they are home but I like Thomas Rawls being able to get loose at any moment. We haven’t seen that from Zack Zenner or any Lion running back this season.
My Pick: Seattle Seahawks
Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Miami Dolphins have had quite the season and Adam Gase has lived up to all that hype surrounding him going into the head coaching search last season. Jay Ajayi has had 3 monster games this season, going over 200 yards rushing three times one of those times against these Steelers. Ajayi has also had games where he has been nonexistent. The Dolphin passing attack was clicking with Ryan Tannehill and it was a nightmare to defend against. Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, and DeVante Parker were a threat to go off every week. Pittsburgh has been what we come to expect, a division winner and playoff power. Big Ben and Antonio Brown are arguably the best QB-WR duo in the league, with all respect to Atlanta, but Le’Veon Bell sees his FIRST playoff game in his career while Ryan Tannehill will not see his first with an injured knee. The Dolphins had a nice season and came together and came on strong but I can’t bet against the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell’s potential breakout game.
My Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have been the hottest team in the league, and considering they were left for dead 6 weeks ago shows a lot about that team, and how good is Aaron Rodgers!? Rodgers has 15 TD’s and ZERO INT’s during the 6 game win streak, and the versatile Ty Montgomery is running the ball well. The Giants get back to the playoffs on an improved defense and a passing attack that has rookie Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. torching defenses. The Giants inability to run the ball really bothers me because with an offense with that talent at receiver they should be able to be average at running the ball. The Packers defense is still a question for me with those corners against Shepard and Beckham but you have to ride the hot hand and no one is hotter than Rodgers and the Packers. Eli Manning is 4-0 in the playoffs versus Superbowl winning QB’s (Brady twice, Rodgers, and Brett Favre). I think one of these teams could make it to the Superbowl and these teams have just enough to get there.
My Pick: Green Bay Packers