Thursday, January 5, 2017
NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
Oakland @ Houston (-3)
The Texans host a wild card game for the second year in a row after winning the AFC South. Last year, Houston was shutout 30-0 by the Chiefs. This year, the Chiefs earned a bye, and AFC West rival Oakland heads to Houston.
"We're confident in facing the Raiders," Bill O'Brien said. "If anyone knows how to prepare for a team with little to no talent at quarterback, it's me.
"Tom Savage is in the concussion protocol and will not be able to play on Saturday. Whether that is good news or bad news is anybody's guess. In any case, Brock Osweiler is back in the starting lineup, and he's eager to prove in a single game that what he did in his previous 15 games was a fluke. I wishing for the best; I'm hoping for just decent."
The Raiders lost their last two regular season games to fall from the AFC's No. 1 seed to the No. 5 seed. Backup quarterback Matt McGloin injured his left shoulder in last week's 24-6 loss to the Broncos. Rookie Connor Cook will start.
"Frankly," Jack Del Rio said, "I'm glad we're playing in Texas and not California, because our quarterback situation has left us in a 'state' of panic.
"For what Connor lacks in experience, he makes up for in confidence. He's extremely confident. To say he has a high opinion of himself is an understatement. And most of his teammates don't really care for him. Some do, but they are few and far between. Heck, if you told fellow Michigan State alum Kirk Cousins that you have a high opinion of Cook, he would probably reply, 'You like him? You like him?'
"Anyway, the situation is weighing on my nerves, and I'm having trouble sleeping. Luckily, Sebastian Janikowski has given me something to help with that. Much like most of his 'patients,' I awoke wishing none of this had ever happened."
What awaits the winner of the Raiders/Texans clash? For starters, a newfound fandom for the Miami Dolphins, because a Miami win at Pittsburgh means Oakland or Houston avoids a trip to Foxboro for the divisional round and an expected 30-point loss and the greatest talent discrepancy at quarterback in the history of playoff football.
It's not often Osweiler can start and say he's the best quarterback on the field. On Saturday, he can. But that's not saying much, and Osweiler, likewise, doesn't say much in his pre-game speech to the Texans defense, in which he tells them, "I got this." Wisely, the defense determines that to mean that they'll need at least 3 turnovers, 4 sacks, and a defensive score, and triumphantly carry Osweiler off the field before the game.
Houston wins, 22-14.
Detroit @ Seattle (-7½)
The Seahawks finished the season 10-5-1 and enter the playoffs as the NFC's No. 3 seed. They closed out the regular season with a 25-23 win over the 49ers.
"We're not exactly playing our best football," Pete Carroll said, "but that doesn't mean we can't regain our mid-season form. And what better person than Marshawn Lynch to explain that to them. I'm not sure what 'Beast Mode' said to them, but I'm pretty sure it involved the words 'mo fo' and 'mo jo.' In other words, Marshawn went 'Mo Mode' on them.
"Hopefully, the noise at our place will disrupt the Lions. The '12s' have been known to break noise records on occasion. We also call them the 'Disciples of rhe Decibels.' And I doubt the Lions will be able to quiet them. Take it from someone who's been in Seattle for seven years, it's nearly impossible to get someone in a Seahawks jersey to shut up, especially if that jersey is No. 25.
"And speaking of Richard Sherman, I'm sure he was quite entertained that Michael Crabtree has his gold chain ripped off by Aqib Talib. Richard's also upset because he felt that he should have been the one to rip that chain off. If there's someone that should be known for yanking Crabtree's chain, it's Richard. But if he gets his chance in the future, Richard won't blow the opportunity. He's even planned off-season workouts with Mr. T."
The Lions lost their Week 17 NFC North showdown to the Packers and fell to the NFC's No. 6 seed.
"The Packers did what Aaron Rodgers said they would," Matthew Stafford said, "and that's 'run the table.' The fact that his teammates jumped right on board with his proclamation shows what a great leader Rodgers is. They were all 'willing and table.'
"Seattle's Michael Bennett said Zach Zenner is the best white running back in the NFL. Is that a backhanded compliment? After all, you can count the number of white RB's in the league on Jason Pierre-Paul's right hand. I think Bennett means it. Bennett would never 'throw shade' Zenner's way, because if anyone needs some sunlight, it's Zach. Bennett even suggested a few nicknames, like 'ZZ Top,' 'Cracker Zach,' the 'Galloping Ghost,' and 'White Power.' I think Zach enjoys the attention. So color him impressed."
If the Seattle defense isn't what it's used to be, then what to make of the Detroit defense? The Lions have given up 42 and 31 points in their last two games. That's an average of 36.5 points per game. Plus, they just announced that Jim Caldwell will be back in 2017. So, the Lions felt compelled to announce that a coach who led them to the playoffs can return? Neither situation is quite a roar of approval.
Seattle wins, 27-21.
Miami @ Pittsburgh (-10)
The Dolphins head to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field as the AFC's No. 6 seed after a 10-6 campaign and a second-place finish in the AFC East.
"What a coaching job by Adam Gase," Jarvis Landry said. "This ranks him right up there with Shula. But before the few surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins lose the rest of their minds, I'm talking about Mike and David, not Don.
"As people like to say, the best way to control an offense as dynamic as Pittsburgh's is to keep them off the field. But since we can't hand down suspensions for violations of the NFL's personal conduct and drug policy, and we're not Vontaze Burfict, we'll have to keep them off the field in another way. And our best option is to do it with ball control offense. And that means Jay Ajayi. Jay is a bruising 230-pound back who isn't afraid to initiate contact. In addition to the 'British Pound,' he's also known as 'Big Knockers.' If you don't believe it, do a search for 'Big Knockers' on the internet."
The Steelers beat the Browns 27-24 in overtime while resting several starters.
"We gave Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown the day off," Mike Tomlin said. "So, Terry Bradshaw, at least for a day, they became 'cheerleader guys.' If Terry must know, I was, in fact, a cheerleader in college at an institution of learning called 'F Yourself.' And our signature battle cry was 'Go F Yourself!'
"It's going to be cold on Saturday/Sunday in Pittsburgh. Now, it's not historically cold; on this team, we don't use the term 'Ice Bowl' unless we're talking about Le'Veon's urge for a taste of menthol."
Steelers win, 27-15.
New York Giants @ Green Bay (-4)
The Giants enter the playoffs as a dangerous No. 2 seed, with an aggressive, attacking defense and the always-dangerous Odell Beckham, Jr. on offense. New York's last two Super Bowl-winning seasons featured playoff wins at Lambeau Field.
"History is on our side," Eli Manning said. "I love history. But I love geography even more, especially when Lambeau Field is on the map.
"When the Giants and Packers meet, you might as well throw out the playoff seeds. Personally, the Cowboys don't scare me as the top seed. I'm a Manning. I have two Super Bowl rings. My brother Peyton has two Super Bowl rings. Winning the big one is in our blood. As far as I'm concerned, our father Archie has the No. 1 'seed.'
"To win, we have to protect the football. And I don't mean 'protect the football' like you would if you were playing the Patriots. I mean I need to 'protect the football,' as in not throw interceptions. But 'Playoff Eli' always puts the ball where it needs to be, like on David Tyree's helmet. Hopefully, my receiving corps will have their minds on the field in Green Bay and not on a boat in Miami. I expect them to take their talents from South Beach."
Aaron Rodgers passed for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Packers beat the Lions 31-24 to claim the NFC North title.
"When it's all on the line," Mike McCarthy said, "Rodgers plays his best. He is so money. His girlfriend, likewise, is so Munn-y.
"As you know, the 'table' is still running. If Aaron is marketing-savvy, he would capitalize on this table business. If he simply puts his name on a table, any Packer fan would buy it. Heck, Aaron's done more for tables than Rick Pitino, or the Dudley Boyz, or the kitchen.
"You probably saw some Giants players hanging out on a yacht in Miami with Justin Bieber and Johnny Manziel. Am I supposed to be impressed? I play in the NFC North, where if you're on a boat with just two douches, you're going to be way short on douches, because there's likely 30-40 partygoers on the boat that need at the very least one douche."
Mason Crosby kicks a 41-yard field goal with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and Manning throws a pick off a tipped pass as the Packers seal the win.
Packers win, 27-24.