Tag Archives: Wild Card Weekend

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

jay-ajayi

Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21

NFL 2016: Wild-Card Playoff Round Predictions!

Kirk Cousins

“You like that?!” I can’t believe Washington might be the home underdog that might actually win this weekend.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Final 2015 Regular Season: 163-93

NFL Wildcard Playoff Round

Kansas City @ Houston – On paper, this wildcard matchup doesn’t provide much flash but it could really turn into one of the better games this opening playoff weekend in the NFL. Kansas City may have benefited from a weak schedule but they are entering the playoffs on a great stretch that goes back to the middle of the regular season. Its amazing how the Chiefs were able to rebound and make a playoff run after losing its best player, Jamaal Charles, to injury. Houston was a pretty average team for most of the season and coach Bill O’Brien was largely rumored to be on the hot seat at one time. Houston got their act together in time to make the playoffs but they got a lot of help from the imploding Colts. This match up will be all about the defenses as both units rank in the top ten in the league. Houston does a great job up front at stopping the run and they are led up front by all-world DE J.J. Watt. Watt is going to automatically affect the way Kansas City runs their offense, which will give Houston an advantage. Kansas City has done a decent job at running the ball without their star this season though. QB Alex Smith has had a bounce back season in 2015 and you can charge that to the improvements at the receiver position. Smith has dynamic targets to go at WR (Jeremy Maclin) and at TE (Travis Kelce) but Houston usually doesn’t allow tons of yards through the air. Kansas City is pretty solid defensively as well. They have a pair of great pass rushers in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, they are stout against the run, and safety Eric Berry leads a tough physical secondary. I really like rookie CB Marcus Peters but he will have his hands full on Saturday against WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is having a breakout season and has already seen success against this defense earlier this season. QB Brian Hoyer will be starting in his first ever playoff game and Houston really isn’t a strong running team so they will be counting on Hopkins to provide the big plays on offense. The Chiefs are favored in this game probably because they have more offensive weapons than the Texans. I think both defenses will play great in this game but I think I’ll trust the veteran Alex Smith to make more plays on offense than Hoyer. I don’t know if J.J. Watt can win this game for Houston by himself but he is capable. And if he is successful at doing so, ESPN will never shut up about it. I’m taking Andy Reid’s bunch. Prediction: Chiefs 22 – Texans 16

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati – With this being the lone divisional matchup this wildcard weekend, this game is easily the main event. The hatred between these two teams will make this an entertaining game but really, this rivalry lacks the heat that Pittsburgh had with Baltimore. About 5 years ago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore made a great rivalry because it wasn’t overly one-sided. The Pittsburgh-Cincinnati rivalry mainly exists because Cincinnati can’t win a big game to save its life. And that will be the case once again on Saturday night as the Bengals are playing for their season (life). If you look at how each team is trending going into this game, you would think that Cincinnati should be the home favorite. But they are not because you simply can’t trust this team in the post season. Even against an injured and currently playing below average Steelers team. After Pittsburgh had that big comeback at home against Denver, they kind of skated through the last two games of the regular season. They played awful at Baltimore, which ended in a loss and really should have kept them from making the playoffs. Last week, they were able to beat Cleveland but they didn’t look too impressive in that game either. To make matters even worst, RB DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle last week and will probably be unavailable on Saturday night. The Steeler running game will be led by a couple of no names and that might cause the offense to be one-dimensional. That might not be a bad thing because the Steelers passing game has been their bread and butter this season. With a QB like Roethlisberger and the wealth of talent at the receiver position, passing the ball 50 times might not be a bad thing. But I have to bring up that also since that Denver game, Roethlisberger has been noticeably not as sharp as he once was. I think Cincinnati has the defense to slow down the Pittsburgh offense but I also think they will lack the ability to really make a game changing turnover in this game. Cincinnati has a scrappy defense but they don’t have a player on that unit that could possibly change the outcome. Cincinnati will be without starting QB Andy Dalton and despite his record in the post season, this is a bad thing for the Bengals. The only good thing about starting A.J. McCarron is that no one will expect anything from him so he might actually surprise some folks. Everyone and their mother knows that the Steelers have a weak secondary. And despite starting a backup, the Bengals will attack the Steelers defense through the air. I know that the Steelers rank in the top five in run defense but I think Cincinnati needs to get more creative on offense when attacking this defense. We keep hearing about how great a coordinator Hue Jackson is but he needs to find a way to get RB’s Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard more involved in this offense. Both backs have been inconsistent this season but they both have the skill set to be valuable pieces for this offense especially with starting a backup QB. The rivalry, the trash talk, and the extra stuff aside, this game will probably go as expected because Cincinnati lacks the killer instinct to beat Pittsburgh in a big game. When Pittsburgh beat Denver two week ago, every talking head was talking about how dangerous they are and how no one wants to play them in January. Its funny how fast things can change in the NFL. The Steelers are not that dangerous team that no ones wants to play but they’ll still be better than Cincinnati on Saturday night. Pittsburgh will probably start out the gates hot, they’ll let Cincy back in the game in the 2nd half but then they will close them out in the 4th quarter. Prediction: Steelers 28 – Bengals 21

Seattle @ Minnesota – I was really happy for Mike Zimmer and his Vikings last Sunday night. They were able to beat a struggling Packers team and outright win the NFC North. Then, I learned their opponent for wildcard weekend and began to feel sorry for them. It’s been a long time coming for this Minnesota team. They’ve spend many mow draft picks, they have youthful talent of defense, and they’ve finally broken through to overtake Green Bay. Now, they have a very tall task at home Sunday in the 2-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only is Seattle the better team but they also matchup so well against Minnesota. Minnesota’s offense is led by their rushing attack and Adrian Peterson. Seattle has the best run defense in the league according to the numbers and they shut down Peterson earlier this season. Young QB Teddy Bridgewater has been playing well as of late but he is going to have to have the game of his life against Seattle’s second ranked pass defense. The real story of this game will be the matchup between Seattle’s offense and Minnesota’s defense. Russell Wilson, except for the St. Louis game, has been on a roll recently and I don’t remember the last time Seattle’s passing game has looked this good. Seattle’s rushing attack has dealt with many injuries this season but they’ll receive a huge boost this Sunday when Marshawn Lynch returns to the lineup. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad but they are quite average against the run. I like Minnesota’s secondary a lot. They have a good mix of veterans and young talent. The key for the Vikings defense on passing downs will be getting pressure on Wilson. If Wilson has time to run around and use his legs, he’ll provide the game with the big backbreaking play to Minnesota’s hopes. I think Seattle will be able to put up points in ways that Minnesota wont be able to. The freezing temps in Minnesota might have an affect on how this game is played but it wont decide the contest. A Minnesota victory would be one of the biggest upsets in wildcard weekend history. I don’t see that happening. Prediction: Seahawks 36 – Vikings 24

Green Bay @ Washington – I couldn’t foresee the Green Bay Packers backing into the playoffs like they did. But they have been struggling for the most part during the second half of the regular season. Green Bay has a lot of talent but a lot of things have been off for them this season. I guess you have to give Washington credit for winning the joke that was the NFC East this season. But they are on a roll right now and their chances to win on Sunday against the Packers are very realistic. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t looked like his usual self this season. It may be because he is missing his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. It may be because his offensive line has been horrible. Whatever the reason may be, Rodgers hasn’t been right and we saw proof of that as recently as last Sunday at home vs. Minnesota. Washington doesn’t have a dynamic pass rush but they’ll figure out a way to get after Rodgers. Washington isn’t strong against the run so Green Bay might have to find a way to get Eddie Lacy and James Starks going with the running game. Green Bay’s defense has been inconsistent at times this season and they’ll face a red hot QB on Sunday. QB Kirk Cousins may not be a sure thing for Washington in the future but he is playing well enough currently. Washington also has a lot of weapons at the skill positions that the Packers will have to contend with. Washington has dynamic pass catchers in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and TE Jordan Reed. The Washington passing game has carried the offense this year as RB Alfred Morris and the running game had a lackluster season. This game will be weird because I feel like everyone will be waiting for the real Aaron Rodgers to show up but I feel like we’ll be waiting forever. The Packers are favored, barely, but they are easily the most vulnerable road team this wildcard weekend. I can’t believe it either but I’m taking Washington in a small upset. Prediction: Washington 24 – Packers 23