Playoff football is here. Should be exciting right?
I mean, hopefully. Last season’s wild card round saw all four of the lower seeds advancing as road warriors, and two of those games were decided by less than a field goal. This weekend will be highlighted by superstars and teams that truly have the ability to make deep playoff runs and shake things up within their respective conferences. In the least appetizing game on the slate, wildcard weekend will kick off at NRG, the same place the road to the Lombardi Trophy will end on February 5th. Wouldn’t the Texans love nothing more than to blindside the NFL universe and trek a path to play in Super Bowl LI right in Houston? Probably. But the odds certainly don’t stack in their favor.
Here is what you need to know about all the teams competing on wild card weekend.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans Saturday 4:35 ET
Head Coach Bill O’Brien and the Houston staff has given the nod to Brock Osweiler to start this week at the quarterback position. You can’t help but to wonder where Brock’s head is at. After he was yanked from his starting spot, replacement Tom Savage showed flashes of solid QB play and was able to ward off the Bengals in week 16 to win the division and become back to back AFC South Champions. Is Osweiler’s confidence at an all time low? Or is he ready to redeem himself and prove that he should have never been stripped of his job. The Texans hope for the latter, but it doesn’t help they had less offensive output than the NY Jets this season, and averaged less points per game than the 49ers. The Texans are prepared get RB Lamar Miller back from injury. Also with Osweiler back at the helm, keep an eye on superstar WR DeAndre Hopkins who will be poised for a big day.
The Raiders have a mess of a QB situation of their own. The Raiders went 12-4 and had a superb (and perhaps surprising) season led by the young gun of Derek Carr. After suffering a leg fracture in week 16, it became Matt McGloin’s team to lead into the postseason. McGloin’s time didn’t last long, as a shoulder injury knocked him out of the next game. 3rd string rookie QB Connor Cook got his first taste of action in the Raiders 24-6 loss to Denver in the regular season finale. The Raiders seem to be a different team without Carr, and certainly have a bigger QB concern than the Texans do. However without excuse, the Davis family, Coach Del Rio, and the (crazy) Raiders nation do not expect a first round flop after what was a stellar season. It will be up to whoever starts at QB for the Raiders to get the ball to their star playmakers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
With both teams not exactly equipped to make too much noise in the AFC playoffs, someone has to win on Saturday. Both teams have defenses that are pretty great, and it might be the team or player that makes a 4th quarter play that caps the game. Will it be JJ Watt? Khalil Mack? I believe the Raiders have more experienced veteran defenders that have tasted playoff and Super Bowl football. The Raiders also have allowed the least amount of sacks in the NFL this year, and should be able to protect their young inexperienced quarterback from the excellent Houston pass rush. Look for Latavius Murray to carry the load offensively for the Raiders. With Derek Carr, the Raiders would’ve made things interesting in later rounds. Without him, they at least have enough to get past the Texans on Saturday.
Prediction: Raiders 20 Houston 17