NFL Wild Card Predictions 2016
Oakland at Houston: The Raiders’ season came to an abrupt halt when quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula on Christmas Eve, ruling him out for the rest of Oakland’s magical 2016 season. Matt McGloin did not impress in Carr’s absence in the next week at Denver. However, McGloin got hurt, and rookie Connor Cook, the Raider’s third-string quarterback, came in and put up a solid performance, throwing for 150 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. Cook will be starting in the Wild Card game at Houston, and although he will be facing a stingy Houston defense, he has a good chance of making himself an Oakland hero. Going into the draft, I thought Connor Cook was the most underrated quarterback in the 2016 draft class. He showed great poise, throwing darts with sharp accuracy. The Texans, on the other hand, are in a mess. They have shown no evident signs of being a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and the offense is broken. Quarterback Tom Savage is hurt, forcing the team to go back to the overpaid Brock Osweiler, who was benched earlier in the season. Hopefully, the benching has motivated Osweiler to improve his level of play, or else the first Wild Card game could quickly go out of hand.
Prediction: Oakland over Houston 28-17
Detroit at Seattle: Although overcoming a 1-3 start to their season, the Detroit Lions have lost the last three games of the regular season, effectively backing themselves up into the playoffs. The team has lost momentum, and will have to get it back in Century Link Field, arguably the hardest place to play at in the league. However, Seattle is also struggling. The team has proven to be inconsistent during the regular season, blowing out some teams, but also losing to other lower-tier teams. Their last two games include a loss to Arizona, a non-playoff team, at home, and a very narrow 25-23 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the second worst team (in terms of record) in the league. This year’s Seattle team is not the same dominant group as the league has been used to in the past five years. With no Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls struggling, the Seahawks have become almost one-dimensional in their offense, which is now solely centered around Russell Wilson and his efforts to create Houdini-like plays due to poor offensive line play. If the game was played in a neutral field, I would take the Lions, but I will have to go with Seattle due to its home field advantage, and its playoff experience.
Prediction: Seattle over Detroit 23-20
Miami at Pittsburgh: One of the biggest upsets of the 2016 regular season came in Miami, where the Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 behind runningback Jay Ajayi’s 200 yard rushing day and a tough Miami defense that forced Ben Roethlisberger to throw for only 189 yards and two picks. In retrospect, the game was huge for both teams’ seasons, starting a six-game win streak for Miami, and a four-game losing streak for Pittsburgh. However, the scenarios are different for the Wild Card game. The game is at Pittsburgh, the Steelers are riding a seven-game win streak, Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is out, and the Dolphins are coming off a 35-14 blowout loss versus New England. The Steelers are the hottest team in football, and at home, I cannot see a scenario that Miami can beat them.
Prediction: Pittsburgh over Miami 35-21
New York Giants at Green Bay: This game is arguably the most anticipated game of the Wild Card Weekend, and for good reason. The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in football offensively, overcoming a 4-6 start to the season with six straight wins to end up with a 10-6 record to win the division. Aaron Rodgers is playing like the greatest quarterback of all time, and his confidence has surged through the entire offensive group. Rodgers will face a tough test in New York’s shutdown defense, however. Defense wins championships, but I believe that Rodgers is too hot to get shut down by the New York defense. However, the Green Bay defense, whose secondary has been carved up by opposing quarterbacks, also faces a stiff challenge in Eli Manning and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Manning is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history in the playoffs, with clutch genes rooted inside of him, unlike his brother. And Odell Beckham is just Odell Beckham. The receiver has a chance to score every time the ball is in his hands, and his hands are the best in the league. I expect this to be a shootout, despite the resurgent New York defense. However, expect Aaron Rodgers to win the game, just because he is Aaron Rodgers.
Prediction: Green Bay over New York 38-35 (OT)