The playoffs are finally upon us and for Eagles fans that means two things. One, stress free viewings and two, watching two divisional rivals crash and burn. I’m hoping and predicting next year at this time there will be an Eagles game to talk about(they did go 7-9 with a rookie quarterback and brutal schedule), but for now we have four really interesting wildcard games to break down.
This weekend we have three Super Bowl winning head coaches, two first year head coaches and three teams that will be forced to start a backup quarterback(whoever Houston starts is basically a backup). We have a team like Green Bay who had to win their final 6 games to get here and a team like Detroit who made it despite losing their final 3 games. We’ve also got two games with a line over a touchdown and two other games that are basically a coin flip.
Wildcard Round Picks
Saturday 4;35 PM ABC/ESPN
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans(-3.5)- I was going to take Oakland. Usually in a game with two bad quarterbacks you take the team with the better roster, but even that’s tough to say here. The Raiders have better receivers, but no one to throw them the ball. They have a really good pass rush, mainly Khalil Mack, but Houston has no passing game so it may not matter.
I went back and forth a lot but wound up sticking with Houston and the point because of three things. One, I really like Lamar Miller and think he can have a big game today. Two, I’ll take the quarterback with experience over the rookie I was really down on making his first ever pro start. Three, the Raiders have a really bad secondary so if either quarterback is going to have a good game it’s going to be the one facing that back end.
Saturday 8:15 PM NBC
Detroit Lions(+8) at Seattle Seahawks- This game pits two teams who don’t have a 400 yard rusher this year. Which in a 16 game season means their best rushers are averaging less than 25 yards a game. Some team in the postseason is going to have a running back rush for more yards in the playoffs than Zach Zenner or Thomas Rawls had in the regular season. This is really unheard of.
I like Seattle to win this game, but I’m taking Detroit to cover a pretty big spread. Neither of these teams have been great on offense as of late. I think this will be a lower scoring game with more field goals than touchdowns and at least two turnovers for each side. Red zone offense and special teams will decide this game, which is why I like Seattle, just not by more than 8 points.
Sunday 1:05 PM CBS
Miami Dolphins(+10.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers- Pittsburgh is a weird team this season. They started out 4-1, lost four in a row and then finished the season winning their last 7. They had a two week stretch where they lost to Philly by 31 and then beat the Chiefs by 29. They’re 2-3 against current playoff teams, including 0-1 against Miami.
Miami did beat Pittsburgh by 15 earlier in the season, but they had a healthy Ryan Tannehill who is still 1-2 weeks away from being able to play again. They have one of the top runners in the league in Jay Ajayi who did rush for over 200 yards against Pittsburgh earlier in the year, but he’s been really banged up lately.
I like Pittsburgh in this game simply because they have a proven franchise quarterback handing the ball off to the league best running back and throwing to the league’s best wide out. They’ll win this game, but asking them to win by more than 10 points is a lot of such an up and down team. Miami has a good defense and a good running game so I expect them to keep this one close. Something like 24-14 seems very realistic.
Sunday 4:40 FOX
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers(-3.5)- The winner of this game feels like the NFC favorite right now. Green Bay’s offense has awoken, their defense is finally healthy and they are rolling on a 6 game winning streak. The Giants finally have a defense and when they go actually get in the playoffs they tend to go on long postseason runs.
Despite all the success the Giants have had this year, their offense hasn’t been great. Their leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, has under 600 rushing yards and Eli Manning has throw 16 picks this season. That interception number is even worse when you consider this is an offense predicated on getting the ball out quickly.
For all the criticism Aaron Rodgers has taken over his personality, play this year and his relationship with his coaches he has actually had a really good year. He’s fourth in the league in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. His team is riding a 6 game winning streak with a resurgence in their running game thanks to a wide receiver and full back.
If Green Bay can get to 24 points they should win this game easily. They are at home and the Giants just don’t score enough to beat a team like Green Bay right now. The Giants are here thanks to really good play in their division and a really easy schedule outside of it(Bengals, Browns, Bears, Rams, Saints). The Giants are just 2-5 this season when their opponent scores over 20 points. This game will make it 2-6.