NFL Playoffs - 2017 Wildcard Weekend Preview

 

The 2017 NFL Playoffs are here! It all starts this Saturday and Sunday with the NFL Wildcard Games. There are four terrific match ups that we need to dig into on this 2017 Wildcard Weekend Preview. In the words of boxing great Judge Mills Lane, “Let’s get it on!”

NFL Playoffs – 2017 Wildcard Weekend Preview

Saturday, Jan. 7

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans -3.5 (4:35 pm ET)

Unless you’re a fan of the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, or Denver Broncos, you must feel for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders had one of their absolute best seasons, well, ever. They started out the season by winning 7 out of their first 9 games. The two losses were to AFC West Division winning Kansas City 10 to 26 and a 28 to 35 loss to NFC second seed Atlanta.

After their bye, it appeared that Oakland wasn’t going to slow down. They beat Houston, Carolina, and Buffalo all in a row before losing, again, to Kansas City. This time, the Raiders showed up and only lost 13 to 21. But, this is the NFL where fortunes can be won or lost in the matter of moments.

The Oakland Raiders lost their season in Week 16. Although the Raiders beat Indianapolis 33 to 25 in Week 16, it came at a great cost. Oakland lost the leader of its team, QB Derek Carr, for the rest of the season. Without Carr, do the Raiders have any shot of beating the Houston Texans this Saturday? No. No, the Raiders don’t.

Oakland lived off Carr’s heroics this season. Without their unflappable QB, Oakland has no chance of beating Houston again. In Oakland’s 27 to 20 win over the Texans on Nov. 21, Carr threw for 295 yards and 3 TD passes. He tossed 2 TD passes in the 4th quarter to lead the Raiders to victory.

Carr isn’t playing on Saturday. Instead, the Raiders must start rookie Conor Cook. Houston may not be a great team, but the defense is great at times. Plus, the offense is loaded with veterans and awesome WR DeAndre Hopkins.

Houston should win this matchup by at least a TD.

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks -8 (8:15 pm ET)

The Detroit Lions travel to Seattle looking like one of the biggest losers of Wildcard Weekend, right? Not so fast. The betting line is way off in this game. Seattle should be favored, no doubt, but what’s wrong with being a 4-point favorite? Too low? Okay, how about 5 points? The reason I ask is because you’re crazy if you think that Seattle, a team that played a relatively easy schedule, should be an 8-point favorite over Detroit.

The vaunted Seahawk defense is a mess. It allowed San Francisco to score 23 points. It gave up 34 points in a loss to Arizona in Week 16. It was horrendous in a 10 to 38 Seattle loss to the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 11. Oh, I can hear already, what about Seattle’s offense? Won’t that get them through this game?
I don’t think so. QB Russell Wilson has no rushing attack to lean on. What it means is that he must do everything on his own. Sometimes, it works for the Seahawks, but, sometimes, it doesn’t. Russell threw for 350 yards and 4 TDs versus Arizona in Week 16. Seattle still lost 31 to 34.

The problem that Russell and Seattle’s offense has in this game versus Detroit is that the Lions’ defense breaks down once an opponent gets its rushing attack going. The Seahawks don’t have a rushing attack. Seattle only averages 99.4 rushing yards per game.

If Seattle can’t rush the football, Detroit should be able to concentrate on Wilson and the passing attack when they’re on defense. When the Lions are on offense, Seattle has had so many problems on defense the past month that Matthew Stafford should have no trouble moving the football.

I think Detroit beats Seattle straight up.

Sunday, Jan. 8

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers -10 (1:05 pm ET)

Before getting into the particulars of this game, let me just write that making the Steelers a 10-point favorite over the Miami Dolphins is ridiculous. Do I think that Pittsburgh wins this game? Yes, I do. I believe that Pittsburgh wins the AFC. But, I’m not sure they’re capable of beating a team like Miami by 10 points.

The problem that Pittsburgh has in this game is stopping Miami’s offense. First year head coach Adam Gase can turn any quarterback in the NFL into a successful signal-caller. When Ryan Tannehill went down with an injury, the Dolphins had every right to give up on the season. But, the Fins didn’t. Instead, the offense rallied around vet Matt Moore. The Dolphins have a good offense with Moore under center. It helps that Miami’s offensive line protects Moore and that Jay Ajayi at the RB position demands attention.

Don’t get me wrong. Pittsburgh could win this match up by 30 points. RB Le’Veon Bell is the best player in the NFL at any position. He should be dynamite on Saturday. Big Ben Roethlisberger already has two Super Bowl rings. It’s just that I can’t get myself to give 10 points to an offense that’s bound to score over 20 in this game.

The last time these two teams met, Miami beat Pittsburgh 30 to 15. Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards in that game. If Pitt decides to stop Ajayi from having success rushing the football, which Pitt should do given the last game between these two, Moore should have success throwing the football.

Pittsburgh’s D garnered 38 sacks this season. They’ll get to Moore a couple of times. But in a game that figures to be a shootout, 10 points is gold. I think

Miami keeps it closer than the number.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers -4.5 (4:40 pm ET)

This is my Super Bowl future bet. Right here. I’ve got big money on the Giants. I’ve got a few bucks, as a saver, on the Packers. It all comes down to this game. Hopefully, at the end of this I’ll be able to root for the Giants.

Why do I like the Giants to beat the Green Bay Packers straight up on Sunday?

For starters, the Giants have a two-time winning QB on their roster. The only other teams to have that in the NFL Playoffs are the New England Patriots with the brilliant Tom Brady and the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger.

Second, that two-time winning QB has the best target that he’s ever had in his career in WR Odell Beckham Jr. Eli to Odell is the best QB to WR combo in the NFL.

But, that’s not all. Third, the Giants found a legitimate running back in rookie Paul Perkins in Week 17. Perkins rushed for 102 yards from 21 carries. He has breakaway ability. Forcing the Packers to concentrate on the Giants’ rushing attack is only going to help open things up for Eli and Odell.

The final reason to love the New York Giants is their defense. Forget stats. No team has played defense as well as the New York Giants in the second half of the season. The G-Men held Dallas to 7 points in a 10 to 7 win. It held Detroit to 6 points in a 17 to 6 win. It sent Washington home for the playoffs by holding the Redskins to only 10 points in a 19 to 10 win.

Here’s the thing, if the game turns into a shootout, like so many expect it to, Eli to Odell will allow the Giants to hang with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. But if the Giants’ D shows up big, like I expect it to, the G-Men should win by a 21 to 17 score. Either way, via their offense or defense, I like the Giants to get it done on Sunday.