Some years the Super Bowl champion has played in the Wild Card round, but that hasn’t been the case the past three seasons, with the top seeded Seahawks, Patriots, and Broncos taking home the honors. You’d have to go back to 2013 and 2012, when the Ravens and Giants (as wild card teams) even went to the Super Bowl (both won). Is this the year a team emerges and has that Cinderella look about them, or are we looking at yet another 1st or 2nd ranked team taking home honors off a Wild Card week bye?
Regardless, though, games have to be played this week, and some should be good (Giants vs. Packers), some should be bad (Raiders vs. Texans), some should be ugly (Lions vs. Seahawks), and some might be surprising (Dolphins vs. Steelers). But all should be entertaining, at least from some perspective. Could one of these teams break through and lead a charge to Super Bowl glory, with this game as a springboard? Definitely.
Here are my Wild Card weekend picks:
(5) Oakland @ (4) HOUSTON – This one should have been so much better, with Derek Carr leading a home game against some lesser team, but who is the lesser team now? After an abysmal showing last week in a game that could have given them the bye, the Raiders fell apart on both sides of the ball in losing to the Broncos. Who will show up here? Connor Cook starts against Brock Osweiler, and I think that’s a tie, honestly. What will make the difference is how the Raiders run game fares against the Texans stout defense. I think they do enough. Pick – OAKLAND.
(6) Detroit @ (3) SEATTLE – One thing should be clear from the start. This is not the juggernaut Seahawks team that steamrolled its way to the Super Bowl two of the past three seasons. This is not the same Russell Wilson who instilled fear in every defense he faced until this season. Because this season did happen, and the shine faded from that rose. Even the 12th Man couldn’t do enough to stem the tide of inconsistent efforts from this Seahawks team. Luckily for them they don’t have to worry about any of that this first playoff game, because they’re playing a team in a tailspin, and Matthew Stafford can’t throw it enough to save them in the great Northwest. Pick – SEATTLE.
(6) Miami @ (3) PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger is an absolute automaton at home, Le’Veon Bell is playing inspired football, and Antonio Brown is damn near unstoppable in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins limped into the playoffs on the strength of their run game, and they will start Matt Moore, who may or may not be a significant downgrade from Ryan Tannehill. This has all the makings of a blowout game, but the Dolphins beat the Steelers earlier this season, albeit with Tannehill. I think it will be close, but Big Ben will not be denied at home. Pick – PITTSBURGH.
(5) NY Giants @ (4) GREEN BAY – Sure, this one is at Lambeau Field. Sure, Aaron Rodgers has been the hottest human being on the face of the planet the past six weeks. But this Giants team was built to slay dragons, to stop runs, and to match up in the secondary with those talented Packers receivers. Don’t forget how abysmal Green Bay looked before this six-game run, something that’s easy to do when a team is high as they are now. But these Giants are for real, and I think they come to play, taking a close one on the road, in hostile conditions. Pick – NY GIANTS.