NFL – 2016 POST SEASON WILD CARD GAMES 1 & 2

The following teams made it to the 2016 NFL post season in each conference:

AFC

NFC

1 – Patriots – AFC EAST WINNER (14-2) 1 – Cowboys –  NFC EAST WINNER (13-3)
2 – Chiefs – AFC WEST WINNER (12-4) 2 – Falcons – NFC SOUTH WINNER (11-5)
3 – Steelers – AFC NORTH WINNER (11-5) 3 – Seahawks – NFC WEST WINNER (10-5)
4 – Texans – AFC SOUTH WINNER (9-7) 4 – Packers – NFC NORTH WINNER (10-6)
5 – Raiders – WILD CARD (12-4) 5 – Giants – WILD CARD (11-5)
6 – Dolphins – WILD CARD (10-6) 6 – Lions – WILD CARD (9-7)

This weekend, seeds 3-4 will duke it out with the wild card teams (seeds 5-6), while seeds 1-2 have a bye.

I’ll break down the first 2 games of the weekend and reveal who I think will win:

Raiders at Texans (Sat, Jan 7 – 4:35pm ET)

This is probably the hardest game of the weekend to predict since the quarterback situation for each team is a real problem for both.

For Oakland, their MVP caliber quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg during Week 16’s game.  His backup Matt McGloin hurt his shoulder during Week 17’s game.  So their 3rd string QB Connor Cook is expected to play today.  Unfortunately for him, he will be the first rookie to start his first NFL game ever during the playoffs.

The good news for Raiders fans:  Cook’s scouting report indicates that he has considerable arm talent and there is confidence by the coaches that he can handle this big game situation.  Also, opposing teams have not yet had the opportunity to perform reconnaissance on the kid’s game/style, so he may have an advantage there.

The bad news for Raiders fans: Houston finished the regular season with the #1 Total Defense and #2 Pass Defense.  Their mission will likely be to disrupt Cook and try to force the green QB into making mistakes.

Houston’s quarterback situation seems equally precarious.  Their starter Brock Osweiler has been so terrible this season that he was benched 2 weeks ago and replaced by backup Tom Savage.  However, Savage was ruled out to start this wild card game due to a concussion he suffered in last week’s game.  So, Osweiler has been restarted.  Backup to him now will be Brandon Weeden.

The good news for Texans fans:  Osweiler is motivated to play well and earn back respect.  Whether he can do it will be the question.  I think he can.  A look at his career numbers indicates he plays his best football in the 4Q within a 7-point difference and, in overtime his passer rating has jumped up.  If this game is close, which many think it will be, at least Osweiler has the experience to help his team get to the next round.

Also, Oakland’s pass defense finished the year ranked #24 overall and they only sacked quarterbacks 25 times this season which is good for LAST place in the league.  Obviously, they are not good disrupters and this will bode well for Osweiler who needs a clean pocket and time to perform well.

The bad news for Texans fans: Brock Osweiler hasn’t shown the ability to play well this season since getting a big contract.

What this game comes down to:  With the quarterback situation(s), there will be a lot of running in this football game.  Oakland has shown they can run it well (#6 rushing offense), but so has Houston (#12 rushing offense).  Which team eliminates turnovers will be the victor.

Since Houston’s defense is by far better and Oakland is missing Derek Carr and have a rookie QB starting for the first time today, the Texans seem to have the edge.  I like them to win.

But, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oakland pushes through, especially if Connor Cook lights up the air and performs like a superstar.  No one really knows what he is capable of.

Conclusion: Houston prevails

Lions at Seahawks (Sat, Jan 7 – 8:15pm ET)

The Seahawks seem to have the advantage in every way over the Lions in this game.

For one, Seattle has outperformed Detroit all season in every category:

Category

Detroit

Seattle

Pass Offense

11

10

Run Offense

30

25

Pass Defense

19

8

Run Defense

18

7

Total Offense

21

12

Total Defense

18

5

Second, the Seahawks will host this game.  The so-called “12th Man” is a real phenomenon as the noise and rowdiness from the crowd will certainly agitate the Lions. Seattle has the #1 “Best Home-Field Advantage” in the league today.

Third, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson seems to be healthier now than he has been all season.  If he has his legs going and is able to escape from being sacked, he is a real weapon.  The only question is – just how injured is he at the moment?  For me, I don’t think you can ever count this guy out.  Even if he makes major mistakes (which he inevitably will) he seems to make up for them in the big moments.

Also, the Lions only accumulated 26 sacks this season, tied for second-fewest in the NFL.  That is good news for Seattle’s O-Line who has been performing well and have been more consistent in at least the last 4 games of the season.

Fourth, since Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford dislocated his middle finger and tore ligaments in his throwing hand during Week 14, his production has declined significantly.  Even though he finished 6th in the league with 4,327 yards passing, he’s not been the same quarterback:

Before the finger injury, Stafford had completed 67.2% of his passes, had 21 TDs to 5 interceptions, and the Lions were 8-4.

Since then, he has completed just 60.2% of his passes, only had 3 TDs to 5 interceptions, and the Lions went 1-3.

To add insult to injury (pun intended), Detroit’s O-Line is pretty banged up.  Their starting center Travis Swanson was ruled out to play this game due to a concussion.  In his place will be a rookie (Graham Glasgow).  Also, tackle Riley Reiff has a hip injury which kept him out of the last game of the season and his replacement Corey Robinson went out on IR during the week.

Finally, momentum is with the Seahawks since the Lions lost their last 3 games of the season.  And, since the Lions haven’t been in the playoffs since 1991 and have plenty of issues, where will the magic come from to overcome Seattle?

I’m not seeing it, BUT this Seattle team is not the same quality as the one that won the Super Bowl in 2014.   They are feeling the void left by running back Marshawn Lynch and there are some holes in Seattle’s defense that the Lions can exploit (and have to) in order to win.   Also, if the Lions get great production from their exciting young running back Zach Zenner and stop Russell Wilson and the Seahawks running game, there is hope for Detroit.   The Lions Special Teams unit led by clutch kicker Matt Prater must also keep performing well to make a real difference in this game.

Conclusion: Seattle prevails



Source : ESPN NFL Stats

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