The playoffs are here, with 12 of the best teams left to fight it out for the Vince Lombardi trophy. As always, the eight of the sides begin their playoff journey this weekend with the Wild Card round. Four teams will be eliminated this week, while four will move on to the divisional round and if you thought this weekend was predictable, think again. Last year, all four road teams won on Wild Card Weekend. So who will advance further into the playoffs?
1) #5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ #4 Houston Texans (9-7)
The Raiders had a phenomenal season, with an explosive offense led by Derek Carr. The future is definitely bright in Oakland, but unfortunately, their promising year ends in Houston. Carr’s season ended when he suffered a broken fibula, which leaves former Michigan State star and prima donna Connor Cook making his first career NFL start in the playoffs. I think fans would much rather have an injured Derek Carr over Connor Cook and Matt McGloin, but fortunately for the Raiders, the quarterback on the other sideline hasn’t exactly had the best year. After leaving Denver to sign a 4-year/$72 million deal to play in Houston, Brock Osweiler has repaid the team by throwing 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. So yeah, Connor Cook vs Brock Osweiler. Yikes. This game will come down to which defense stands tall and the Texans, who are #1 in total defense and #2 in passing defense, should have the edge here.
2) #6 Detroit Lions (9-7) @ #3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Ok, I think it’s safe to say this game’s over before it’s even started. This match-up takes place on Wild Card weekend. The Lions have never won a Wild Card game (0-8). Detroit is on the road this week. They have never won a playoff road game in the Super Bowl era (0-10). Seattle’s stadium is outdoors. The Lions did not win a single outdoor game in the 2016 season (0-3). This game is in prime time. The Lions did not win a prime time game this season (0-2). And just to top it all off, the Seahawks have never lost a home playoff game under coach Pete Carroll (5-0). It’s not impossible for the Lions, however. They’ve been doubted this entire season and comeback king Matthew Stafford seems to come through again and again. But this is Seattle. At home. In the playoffs.
3) #6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
For the second year in a row, the Steelers head into the playoffs facing a backup quarterback. Last year, it was AJ McCarron. This year, it’s Matt Moore. But the key player in this game will be Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi, who exploded for 204 yards in Miami’s 30-15 win over Pittsburgh earlier in the season. Can he repeat that feat again and lead Miami to their first playoff win since 2000? Probably not. This week’s game is in Pittsburgh and when you have the playoff experience of one Ben Roethlisberger, then it’s hard to bet against the Steelers.
4) #5 New York Giants (11-5) @ #4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)
If you were wondering why the Giants receivers were partying on a boat down in South Beach, it’s probably because they were celebrating the fact that the Packers don’t have anyone in the secondary to defend them. The Packers, who are ranked 31st against the pass in 2016, lost Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randall and Makinton Dorleant in their Week 17 clash. All three may not be available this week and the secondary in Green Bay is already terrible as it is. Aaron Rodgers will have to be perfect against a stout Giants defense and it’s safe to say Rodgers has been perfect over the last six weeks, throwing for 15 TDs, 0 INTs and a 121.0 passer rating. Green Bay were 6-0 during this period. But Eli Manning has a history of winning playoff games at Lambeau Field. The last two times Eli played a playoff game at Lambeau, he’s come away with victory both times (2007, 2011). And they just happen to be the last two years the Giants claimed the Vince Lombardi trophy.