Saturday, January 07, 2017

2016 NFL Playoffs: Wildcard

Oakland Raiders (+3-1/2) at Houston Texans: The Raiders will start rookie Connor Cook at quarterback and the Texans will go back to Brock Osweiler in what will be perhaps one of the worst QB matchups in recent NFL postseason history.

The Raiders were a high octane offense with QB Derek Carr at the helm, but he's out for the postseason with a broken fibula. Without Carr, the Raiders will have to put up a stout defensive effort, which isn't exactly their strong suit. The good news though is its more a possibility with Osweiler as the Texans QB.

Expect the Texans to go with a heavy dose of RB Lamar Miller, who returns after being out two games with a bum ankle.
Houston 17 Oakland 10

Detroit Lions (+8) at Seattle Seahawks: The Lions have not won a playoff game since 1991. They haven't won a road postseason contest since 1957. The Lions are also limping into this game having lost their final three contests due in large part to QB Matthew Stafford suffering from a finger injury on his throwing hand. The run offense won't be of much help as they are 30th in the NFL in rush yardage and 27th in yards per carry.

The Seahawks meanwhile are still a top 5 defensive unit and have not lost a home postseason game since 2004. They also scored close to 30 points per game at home in the regular season. Ain't no way the Lions will approach that total.
Seattle 27 Detroit 13

Miami Dolphins (+10) at Pittsburgh Steelers: This a rematch of a Week 6 contest where the Dolphins prevailed 30-15 in Miami. However, that result has little meaning this week given conditions in Pittsburgh in January are vastly different than those on an October day in Miami. In addition, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tore his meniscus early in the Week 6 game and thus was ineffective the vast majority of it.

This will be the first postseason game where the Steelers will have all three of their highly formidable offensive "triplets" (Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown) ready to go. Miami's best bet is to keep that trio off the field with a heavy dose of RB Jay Ajayi, who shredded the Steelers for 204 yards rushing and 2 TDs in October. That will be an effective strategy if the Dolphins can keep it close. But without starting QB Ryan Tannehill and the 29th ranked defense in yards allowed, Miami will likely be playing "catch up" all game.
Pittsburgh 31 Miami 17

NY Giants (+4-1/2) at Green Bay Packers: After three weeks of the 2014 season, the Packers were 1-2 and looked downright pedestrian on offense. All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers urged panicked Packer Backers to "R-E-L-A-X." The Pack then went on to win 11 of their final 13 regular season games and came within a botched onside kick recovery of going to the Super Bowl. Then this season, after back-to-back blowout losses to Tennessee and Washington, the Pack stood at 4-6. Many NFL "pundits" and even some Packers faithful left them for dead. Nevertheless, Rodgers, with a straight face, insisted Green Bay could "run the table" in their final six games. And run the table they did, finishing 10-6 and winning the NFC North division.

Another intriguing story line for this game is the fact that Giants QB Eli Manning has as many postseason wins in Lambeau Field (two) as Aaron Rodgers. Both Giants victories occurred the same postseasons (2007 and 2011) where Manning & Co. went on to defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

This game is also a rematch of a regular season contest, a 23-16 Green Bay win in Week 5 at Lambeau. However, it was arguably Rodgers' worst performance of the season, as he registered season lows in yards per pass (5.76), completion percentage (51.1) and QB rating (65.0) as well as tying his 2016 single game high with two interceptions.

With the Packers' lackluster defense attempting to overcome injuries in their secondary, this should open up the passing game for Manning (provided WRs Odell Beckham, Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard aren't feeling ill effects of their off day partying in Miami this past Tuesday). It'll be interesting to hear the fallout if the Giants lose, particularly if their top 3 WRs have sub par games. No doubt their Miami excursion will become even more scrutinized. Personally, I believe it's the Packers' Hall of Fame QB who will be the deciding factor.
Green Bay 27 NY Giants 24

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