By Hamish Girvan
So its straight knock out now for those teams left. This weekend sees four wildcard games with the winner moving on to take on one of the four top seeded teams next weekend
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans – 10.35am Sunday NZ time
This is the battle of the second and third string quarterbacks from both team. Yes even though $70M Brock Osweiler is starting he’s only there as their new first choice as Tom Savage was injured in last week’s win against Cincinnati. Meanwhile the Raiders had their own setback with their second string quarterback getting injured in their loss to Denver and they had to rely on third string Connor Shaw to finish the game off. He’s now confirmed as their starter. Possibly the worst of the four wild card games the Texans start as a 3.5 point favourite. Texans Coach Bill O’Brien is rumoured to be on the hot seat in terms of job security even though he steered them to a division title in the weakest of all divisions in the NFL this season. The Raiders had it all two weeks ago and were looking at being a no.2 seed in the AFC. That all disappeared when quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg. So is there is such a thing as a one man team? Definitely in the NFL there is. A game the Texans should win based on last week and now against a Raiders team that have lost their two offensive leaders.
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks – 2.15pm Sunday NZ time
The Lions travel to the much vaunted Seattle Seahawks home ground of Century Link field, solely making the play-offs when Washington fluffed their lines against the New York Giants last week. Detroit have underachieved for a few seasons now even though quarterback Matt Stafford can still throw a winning pass downfield. It’s the playing corps around him that let him down. Seattle won their division with a week to spare however they hardly had the ideal practice run losing to division rivals Arizona last week had. They should prevail in this match up though and have a7.5 point start over the Lions. If the home crowd start the noise and the Seahawks defensive unit hit the right gear expect a torrid afternoon for the Lions. Seahawks by more than the 7.5 point start here.
Miami Dolphin at Pittsburgh Steelers – 7.05am Monday NZ time
Miami won 10 games in the regular season. Nothing to be sneezed at however coming to Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is tough enough for any team. The Dolphins suffered a setback two weeks ago with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffering a season ending injury, however back up Matt Moore has not really skipped a beat. Well beaten by the Patriots last week (not Moore’s fault at all) they come into this game with nothing to lose. The Steelers are a team that can easily run the board in terms of the rest of the post season and should not be counted out of going all the way. They have an 8.5 point start here. On paper they should waltz it. Dolphins coach Adam Gase in his first season at the helm should to be a coach of the year contender however take the Steelers here.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers – 10.40am Monday NZ time
This is a bogey match up for Green Bay. The Giants have been their nemesis in the post season in recent years and both times went onto winning the big prize after passing through the Packers. The Giants this season have been hugely underwhelming on the offensive side of the ball however on defence they have been immense. Eli Manning has already won two Superbowl and this is possibly his best chance at a third. The Packers had a horrid start to the season however won their last 6 games (as called out by their quarterback Aaron Rodgers to do so) to not only make the playoffs but win their division. The toughest of all the wildcard games this weekend to pick the Giants have a shot here. Some of their players partied with Justin Bieber this week on their day off however it’s more a media distraction then a team distraction. The Packers are favoured by 3.5 points however the Giants will run them close. Take the G-Men here.
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