Just like that the regular season has come to an end and the postseason is upon us. Unlike the other major sports, the NFL postseason is the only one that presents a “win or go home” scenario. This makes it possible that the “better” team doesn’t necessarily always win. It all comes down to how they execute in their respective games. The slate of games for the wildcard is an intriguing one. All four home teams were/are underdogs depending on what outlet you use so it will be quite interesting to see how these games unfold.
Last week: 7-9, Season: 162-94
Last week against the spread: 8-8, Season: 129-127
Chiefs 20 Texans (+3.5) 16: Andy Reid favored on the road in a playoff game? What could go wrong? Kidding aside, no team is coming into the playoffs hotter than the Chiefs having won their last ten regular season games. The Chiefs won this matchup in week one, but a lot has changed since then. Jamaal Charles had a season ending injury and has now been replaced by a Charcandrick West/Spencer Ware timeshare which has been effective. Plus, the Texans have settled on their quarterback in Brian Hoyer who has for the most part displayed efficiency in the games he has played.
Considering the personnel for both teams, this one is likely to come down to defense. So while the Texans have the most dominant player on each side of the ball (J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins), chances are whoever makes the least mistakes decides the outcome. For that reason, I’m going with the Chiefs as we’ve already seen Alex Smith display in the past that he can limit turnovers and perform in playoff games.
Steelers 26 Bengals (+2.5) 21: An AFC North matchup where no love is lost, this game has the potential to be the highest scoring of the weekend. With DeAngelo Williams already ruled out, the Steelers will be relying on Ben Roethlisberger early and often. My guess is that Roethlisberger throws it 40 plus times and with the weapons around him, rightfully so. Antonio Brown is arguably the best receiver in the entire league, Martavis Bryant is a big play waiting to happen, and Markus Wheaton has shown growth in his third season. The other target to really watch in the passing game here is Heath Miller. The Bengals allowed over 1,000 yards receiving to tight ends this year and Miller has hauled in double digit passes each time they played in 2015.
If the Bengals do lose this one, it would be a shame with how promising this season looked. With Andy Dalton still not ready to return from a broken thumb, A.J. McCarron once again gets the starting nod. Considering how Dalton has been unable to win a playoff game to this point, it would be kind of funny if McCarron notched a coveted postseason win before him. Regardless, the Bengals have the personnel to still put up points as McCarron has had his moments when forced into action.
Steeler killer A.J. Green is still the number one receiving option and the ball should be thrown his way at least 10 to 12 times. Tyler Eifert also provides a mismatch down the seams at tight end against the Steelers linebackers. While Jeremy Hill has seen the bulk of the work lately, Giovani Bernard has the potential to be the x-factor in this matchup. Bernard has superior receiving chops which could come into play and has been effective on the ground as well. Despite that, the Steelers and their array of offensive weapons are too much for me to choose against.
Seahawks 24 Vikings (+5.5) 17: One of the hottest teams in the league, the Seahawks head to Minneapolis for a game where it is expected to be around zero degrees. Russell Wilson has been on an absolute tear for the last month and a half with one of those games already coming against this Vikings defense. Their rushing attack also figures to see a big boost with Marshawn Lynch returning from injury. Even if Lynch isn’t his normal self, it wouldn’t be surprising if Christine Michael makes a big impact as a change of pace back.
This game is going to come down to how Teddy Bridgewater performs. Starting his first postseason game, Bridgewater has the chance to prove naysayers wrong against a secondary he’ll need to attack more than usual. Any team playing the Vikings in this scenario would load the box in order to attempt stopping Adrian Peterson. But this is even more the case with Bridgewater who doesn’t yet have a history of beating defenses vertically. I’m going with the Seahawks here in what looks like an unfortunate draw for a young, upstart Vikings team. However all it takes is a few passes down the seams or a deep ball that could change things.
Packers 23 Redskins (-1.5) 24: We have lived to see the day where Aaron Rodgers is getting points against Kirk Cousins in a playoff game. Heck, D.C. news outlets this week were polling fans on which quarterback they’d rather have long term and it was close. So yes, the Redskin fans do “like that”. In the last few months, Cousins has had fantastic splits in home games and with multiple injuries to the Packers secondary, it could very well be another nice performance.
Rodgers is still one of the premier quarterbacks in the league but like any signal caller who would be in his shoes, the lack of supporting cast has been the major downfall. The Redskins secondary is beatable, but the real difference maker in this one will be Eddie Lacy and the Packers ground game. If Lacy or James Starks can’t get anything going, that would make the Packers one dimensional in a facet where even with Rodgers the results could be unfavorable. For that worry and the lack of supporting cast in the Packers passing attack, I’m going with the Redskins in what should be a very closely contested game.