It is here. Playoff football weekend, following up what was a relatively exciting College Football Bowl season. Starting Saturday, 12 teams enter at 0-0 with the hopes of hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February, and after Sunday night only 8 will remain.
This should be a relatively interesting postseason, at least for the NFC. The AFC really only features two teams with a chance to take down the Patriots, it’s their tournament to lose really. But there are still potentially entertaining matchups in the first round on that side of the coin.
Let’s review, shall we?
5 – Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ 4 – Houston Texans (9-7)
Saturday, January 7, 3:35pm
Not going to lie to y’all. This one might suck. Majorly. I’m glad the NFL is getting it out the way, but at the same time I’m kind of upset because I can feel a monsoon of complaints coming about the NFL being “so boring”. You almost hate it for the Raiders: finally back in the postseason after a 14 year drought, then lose their QB in the next to last game when trying to secure the 1-seed, then lose their backup QB AND starting LT in the final game when they still had a shot at the 1-seed. As a result the Raiders limp into the playoffs with a rookie QB and all of the air around their offense yanked right out. It’s not all bad for them though, the Texans don’t have an offense either.
Re-enter Brock Osweiler, coming off the bench after getting benched for Tom Savage who got hurt and then subsequently benched for Osweiler. Both have been bad, so bad that you could probably yank any FA QB off the market and be just as equipped for this game as they are now. The Raiders defense has gotten better and better each week of the season, but they can be exploited on the ground. Their 25th ranked rush defense allows 4.5 yards per game, which could setup Houston for 3rd and short situations which is kind of like letting Osweiler play on rookie mode. Brocky himself ranks 30th in yards per attempt which is dead last when it comes to all NFL QBs who have attempted at least 300 passes this season. He does not throw down the field: 10/51 on passes over 20 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs, also 25% of his interceptions have come on 3rd down. The Texans won’t be able to move the ball much unless their ground game has a phenomenal day.
The Raiders offense has two main keys: get Murray and co the ball, and get Connor Cook comfortable with easy completions. That means find a way to isolate Cooper,Rivera and Crabtree one on one: give them screen passes or hit them on short 3 step drops and allow them to create. Just don’t get him in a position where he might cause a turnover early, confidence is going to be key, especially against a defensive coordinator like Romeo Crennell.
Ultimately I do believe Oakland is way more talented than Houston all-around. They can be without quarterback and survive longer, they might even have a chance against New England.
Might. A Chance.
Raiders 13, Texans 9
6- Detroit Lions (9-7) @ 3- Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Saturday, Jan. 7th – 8:15pm
This one might get boring too, just a warning. The Lions have a strong passing game, but outside of Zach Zenner there’s really nothing going for them on the ground. There’s a common theme for Detroit: keep pace in the first half, score little to nothing in the second. That’s how they lost to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers to close the regular season. They’ll have to find a way to get Zenner moving and get big plays out of Tate and they’ll have to do it all game long.
I will say that this one could get interesting, if for no other fact than the Seahawks are missing Earl Thomas. While this is still a top defense without him, there’s a certain element of intensity that Thomas brings that cannot be matched.
Offensively Seattle just has to keep Wilson moving in and out of the pocket. Make what they’re trying to do unpredictable. The Lions don’t have the talent defensively to be able to match Seattle’s Offense once they find their groove. It’s really as simple as that. Darius Slay has to create turnovers for them to have a shot.
Lions 14, Seahawks 23
6- Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ 3- Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Sunday, January 8th, 12:05pm
Let me go ahead and say that I am a fan of Matt Moore. He’s a ballsy quarterback who isn’t afraid to take chances and doesn’t care that he’s a “backup”. He fully believes he can play with anyone and no defense intimidates him.
That’s good because the Steelers defense isn’t that great and he can make a few plays against them. Moore has a few weapons on his side too: Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi, Kenny Stills, etc. They can separate from DBs, create space at the line of scrimmage and turn small passes into huge gains. The Dolphins have a chance, no matter how small and I expect Adam Gase to empty out all the shells for this one. I’ll give @CourtneeHendrix credit, he convinced me Miami has more of a shot than I initially thought.
I still think Pittsburgh is going to put pressure on Moore and company early and see if they really can keep up. To me, Pittsburgh is one of only two AFC teams that can really challenge the Patriots, and in their case it’s because of the offense.
I still think Pittsburgh takes the lead into the 4th and does’t relinquish.
Dolphins 24, Steelers 33
5 – New York Giants (10-6) @ Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Sunday, January 8th at 4:30pm
Oh this is the good one, this is the one I’m waiting for. I don’t even really have any research to go along with this one, I’m stoked.
The Giants and Packers are both riding high off waves, the Pack’s offense has been an unstoppable force for weeks and the Giants defense has been an immovable object since roughly Week 3. Landon Collins has become one of the more feared defensive players in the league, and has sort of taken on a Troy Polamalu role. He can play from any position on the field and create turnovers from wherever. He’s incredibly dangerous and must be accounted for every snap. Rodgers knows this and he’ll play keep away from Collins as long as possible, but that still leaves DRC as a threat.
For the Giants, their offense needs to take a few steps here. They can keep the Packers in check, but ultimately 17 points won’t do it here. This is where playoff Eli has to show up, if he can come through I pretty much give this game to New York because they actually have the pieces to be a complete team unlike Green Bay. The Packers are pretty much just Rodgers and 52 other bodies.
And Jordy Nelson.
Packers 23, Giants 27