The NFL regular season is officially over and now the real season is upon us.
The playoffs are the best time of year and exactly thirty two days from now, the king of the football world will be crowned.
The first game to kickoff is Saturday at 4:30 when the Oakland Raiders visit Houston to take on the AFC South champion Texans. The Raiders had a chance to secure the second seed in the AFC in Denver this past Sunday but they caught the injury bug late in the season and will most likely have to go with third string quarterback, rookie Connor Cook making his first career start. Derek Carr put up MVP like numbers until breaking his fibula in week 15 and then backup Matt McGloin injured his shoulder in week 17 this past weekend. Despite Oakland’s question mark at quarterback, Houston has not had much of a better go at the position either. Brock Osweiler was brought in from Denver this past offseason to be the “quarterback of the future” for Bill O’Brien’s squad but after playing poorly for most of the season he was demoted to backup for Tom Savage. Savage then suffered a concussion in week 17 and will serve as the backup yet again for Osweiler if he passes the league’s concussion protocol.
It will for sure be a battle of the defenses this week and I think the Raiders offense will make enough plays to win on the road, despite all of the injuries.
OAK 20 HOU 10
Later that night the Detroit Lions visit the 12th man in Seattle to face the Seahawks. Matthew Stafford has had a career year despite losing Calvin Johnson to retirement last offseason and the Lions were one win away from winning their first division title since 1993. For the Seahawks to have a chance on offense, Russell Wilson will need to use his athleticism to extend plays with his feet and give his receivers time to get open down the field like Aaron Rodgers did in week 17. The Seahawks have a great run defense but the loss of safety Earl Thomas has hurt them in the passing game. I think Stafford will put up big numbers through the air but the Seahawks experience will help them make enough plays in the fourth quarter to propel them to victory.
SEA 24 DET 20
Sunday starts off with the Miami Dolphins facing Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1:05. The Dolphins ended the season winning nine of their final eleven to get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been out with a knee injury he suffered in week 14 and is not a guarantee to be ready this week. Matt Moore is a solid backup who has been with Miami for a long time, but I think Pittsburgh will win this game with ease. They are athletic on defense and with Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell on offense they will avenge their early season loss to the Dolphins and send them home.
PIT 34 MIA 10
The weekend closes out with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers playing hosts to Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the frozen tundra Lambeau Field. The Giants are the only team who seemed to crack the Dak Prescott code down in Dallas and have been playing extremely well as of late, but the Packers have been playing some of their best football in the past six weeks. Green Bay is pretty banged up defensively and will have to get after Eli Manning and force him to make mistakes to have a chance. Rodgers will play another incredible game and the Packers will survive a shootout in Green Bay.
GB 35 NYG 31