As the 2017 NFL season comes to a close, we are left with twelve teams to fight for the right to call themselves Super Bowl Champions. While we already know that the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, and Atlanta Falcons will be playing during the second round, the battle is for the right to play against them. This weekend features the four matchups that will make up the Wildcard round.
Oakland Raiders v. Houston Texans:
This matchup features two teams with no true starting quarterback. Raiders MVP candidate Derek Carr left their Christmas Eve game with a broken leg and has been ruled out for this game. In his place steps Connor Cook, a rookie out of Michigan State with no career starts. He steps into the lineup against the top defense in the league, so if there ever was a time to impress the rest of the NFL it would be now. For the Texans, they have to go with their $70 million quarterback Brock Osweiler in this game as third year player Tom Savage is likely to be unavailable due to a concussion suffered in week 17. Osweiler, in his first year with the team, has been a substantial disappointment this season and many Texan fans will be worried with him under center. Even with the deficiencies at the most important position, I believe that the Texans defense will step it up and win the game.
Texans 13 – Raiders 9
Detroit Lions v. Seattle Seahawks:
Unlike the first matchup of wildcard weekend, the two teams featured in this game both have their franchise QBs and they are healthy to play. The way one of these teams will win is by their defense outplaying the other. If this was a few years ago this thought would be laughable as the Seahawks would have had the upper hand, but this season their defense has looked quite vulnerable at times. The Lions pass defense has been a blessing for opposing offenses in recent weeks and unless some of their top corners can return from injury they have no chance of winning this game.
Seahawks 18 – Lions 17
Pittsburgh Steelers v. Miami Dolphins:
This game is a rematch of the week six meeting between these two teams. The Steelers defense has not looked good this season, and this culminated in week 17 when they nearly allowed the Cleveland Browns to come back and win. The big storyline in week six was their inability to stop the rushing attack generated by Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, and it will likely be the same as the Steelers are coming off a game where they let Browns running back Isaiah Crowell rush for 150 yards. Despite Ryan Tannehill being unlikely to play in this game, and even with the Steelers offensive unit fully healthy, there is not much of a chance for the Steelers to win this game.
Dolphins 38 – Steelers 31
New York Giants v. Green Bay Packers:
The last two times these teams met at Lambeau in the playoffs, the Giants won and went on to become Super Bowl Champions. This year the Packers come in as one of the hottest teams in the league behind the resurgence of the Aaron Rodgers- Jordy Nelson tandem. However this year it will not be enough as that defense on Green Bay is still leakier than a rusty faucet. The Giants spent some money this offseason to work on their defense and it has helped dramatically. This coupled with the ability of Eli Manning to turn up his play in big games leads me to believe the New York Giants will be able to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive for another week.
Giants 27- Packers 17