College football is over (save for one game) and we are going headfirst into the NFL Postseason. While we have teams that have been in the driver’s seat for most of the season, there has been no shortage of excitement and weeks 16 and 17 delivered the drama all fans love to see. The Patriots were locked in to a first-round bye for a while now, but David Carr’s broken leg helped them cement homefield advantage. It was also fortuitous for the Kansas City Chiefs, as well, who were able to win the division and ensure a first-round bye as well.
The Cowboys were another team that seemed to roll unobstructed to a bye. Their dynamic, rookie duo took the league by storm with efficiency and explosiveness. All the attention that was given to the Cowboys allowed the Falcons to remain fairly under-the-radar while locking up the second seed in the NFC.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
It’s only fitting that these two franchises meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Oakland Raiders looked to be the favorites to win the AFC West and vie for the #1 seed. However, in their game against the Colts, David Carr suffered a broken fibula and is likely going to be out for the rest of the playoffs. The Raiders dropped their last game and gave up the division to the Chiefs. Oakland’s backup quarterback was injured in that game as well. Their third string rookie, Connor Cook out of Michigan State, will get the start.
I do not think it is unfair to say that Houston has had issues on offense. Any of you who drafted DeAndre Hopkins in your fantasy leagues will agree with me, I’m sure. This last offseason, Houston went out and signed away Denver’s replacement for Peyton Manning in Brock Osweiler. He signed a contract for $72M over the life of a six year contract. Osweiler was benched late in the season in favor of former Penn State quarterback, Tom Savage. Savage would be concussed one game later, allowing Brock to get back on the field and get the start this weekend.
I have never been a big fan of Brock Osweiler and have told anyone who will listen that he isn’t worth half of what his contract says. Conversely, I am a big fan of Michigan State quarterbacks and their ability to game manage. I’m taking Oakland 24-20.
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle seems to get interesting draws against NFC North teams and we see it here again. Seattle had a very up-and-down year. Just when the Seahawks seemed to get on a hot streak they would drop a game (or tie) against someone they needed to beat. The offense has been re-tooled with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, but the lack of a premier back and the continuation of a sub-par line has left Russell Wilson in prime position to get knocked around by opposing defenses. Wilson now sports a knee brace that has limited his mobility. Most importantly, in my opinion, they lost Earl Thomas for the season. While I know some may disagree with me, I have spouted that Thomas is the most valuable player on the team for years now, let alone the defense.
When Calvin Johnson retired, it was difficult to see how the Lions could be successful this year. Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron along with a stable of running backs were able to keep offensive production rolling. That slowed down, though, when Stafford injured his finger and had to don a brace on his throwing index finger. On defense, Ezekiel Ansah and Tahir Whitehead bolstered the front seven of the defense with 8 sacks and 132 tackles respectively. Despite these impressive performances, the Lions defense landed squarely at the middle of the pack.
If Stafford is able to play through the brace and open up the passing game, then the Lions could exploit a relatively depleted Seahawks secondary. The same holds true for Russell Wilson. If Wilson is able to work around the brace (or take it off as some rumor mills are suggesting) then he could utilize his lethal mobility to put the Lions in fits. I’m taking the Seahawks over the Lions 27-17.
Stay tuned later for tomorrow’s games: Miami @ Pittsburgh and New York Giants @ Green Bay.