The Texans won in Kansas City earlier this season. Can they do it again in the playoffs?
By: Elias McMillan
Minnesota @ San Francisco – I was really impressed with the Vikings’ defensive line in their upset victory over New Orleans last weekend. In fact, this divisional round game between the Vikings and 49ers will be heavily influenced by the play at the line of scrimmage. San Francisco has bolstered a pretty dominant unit up front all season and they’ll have a chance to really exert their power in this game. QB Kirk Cousins avoided mistakes last weeks and made some pretty big throws. He will be under pressure again this week but I think past experiences will help him. I think Minnesota’s experiences in the post season will help them on Saturday. Many players on San Francisco will be making their playoff debuts. Everyone usually puts a spotlight on Cousins but I think Jimmy Garoppolo is the QB under the most pressure this weekend. Minnesota’s defense has been inconsistent but if they play like they did in New Orleans, the Vikings will be in this one. RB Dalvin Cook could see plenty of opportunities in this game, which will help Cousins against a top ranked pass defense. The 49ers have taken on all challengers this season but recently, they’ve been able to escape in some close games by the skin of their teeth. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said something this week about the last time they defeated New Orleans in the playoffs and came back the next week and laid a total egg in Philadelphia. That message will be hammered into his team this week and I think it will pay off as they will score the upset and advance to the NFC Championship Game. Prediction: Vikings over 49ers
Tennessee @ Baltimore – Tennessee didn’t have to do much to end the Patriots reign last week. But getting the job done in Foxboro shouldn’t be scoffed at. The Titans have a good thing going right now with the way they can control the clock with RB Derrick Henry which in return sets up the league’s highest rated passer, Ryan Tannehill. That formula will have to work overtime this week, as the Titans will face the league’s top offense in the Baltimore Ravens. League MVP Lamar Jackson should be fresh coming off the bye and his offense will be able to attack the Titans defense in a way that New England couldn’t do last week. This game will be all about which offense can control the clock as both teams feature highly successful running games. I think the difference will be which offense can produce more big plays down the field. The Titans cannot sleep on what Lamar Jackson’s arm can do. Also, you have to consider that Jackson has a talent group of skill players on offense to go to. I have a feeling that Tennessee might be able to keep this one close to start but eventually Jackson and Ravens will overwhelm them. Prediction: Ravens over Titans
Houston @ Kansas City – The Texans pulled off a great comeback in the Wild Card round against Buffalo. I don’t think they can afford another slow start this weekend, as they’ll visit the Chiefs in Kansas City. Houston showed against Buffalo that when pressed, their biggest stars can make game altering plays. On offense, QB Deshaun Watson proved his worth during crunch time and on defense, it was J.J. Watt who provided the spark. The Chiefs are a team that can apply pressure for all 4 quarters, offensively and defensively. QB Patrick Mahomes and his fast break offense should be able to stretch the field against the Texans defense. Kansas City isn’t a great defensive team but they do have an active front four along with a tough secondary. The Chiefs have had problems with injuries this season and it is something that they will have to continue to avoid during this post season run. If the offensive weapons are rested and healthy, Houston is going to have a tough time keeping them off the scoreboard. Houston defeated KC earlier this season and I’m sure the home team hasn’t forgotten about that. Unlike that game in Week 6, the Chiefs will need to get off on a fast start and keep the Texans offense on the bench. Prediction: Chiefs over Texans
Seattle @ Green Bay – This game will be pretty to look at. A cold and snowy Lambeau Field will set the scene for two teams that are usually mainstays in the NFC playoffs. Seattle was able to get by a wounded Eagles team last week and they didn’t earn any style points with that victory. With better QB play, Philadelphia might have been able to pull that one out. Seattle is currently having issues with scoring touchdowns, which may have to do with their injury situation. It’s cool that RB Marshawn Lynch is back but even he admits that he is not in game shape. QB Russell Wilson will have to do the heavy lifting for this Seahawks offense but how is that different from any other season? Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is used to putting the team on his back as well but this season, his supporting cast isn’t that bad. In this cold weather game, I’m expecting big things out of RB’s Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. I think the Packers running game will have a huge affect on the outcome in this one and it will allow Aaron Rodgers to control the clock and take some big shots down the field. Seattle’s defense is talented but they really got off easy last week. If their front four can’t get in the face of Rodgers, it could be a long, cold night for that unit. I’ve been mostly unimpressed with the Packers this season but I think they matchup well against Seattle. Russell Wilson has never won in Green Bay and on Sunday, the Packers will set the scene for a NFC North Championship game for the conference title and a Super Bowl berth. Prediction: Packers over Seahawks