Outcomes for 2016 Wildcard Madness
Can you believe the playoffs are here already? The 2016 NFL season just flew by faster than one of Tyreek Hill's punt returns! The good news about this is the fact that with playoff time comes a slate of epic matchups (one of which I believe will produce a Super Bowl team). I am going to attempt to predict the future here, and explain who will win each game, and why it will happen.
Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ Houston Texans (9-7)
This will be the battle of poor quarterback situations. The Raiders are rolling with rookie Connor Cook, as the two passers in front of him (Derek Carr and Matt McGloin) deal with injuries - Carr is on injured reserve.
Oakland's production could be lost if Cook doesn't show the ability to run an NFL offense. Receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree can help guide Cook through his very first start, but the rookie would still need to get the ball to them.
Houston has a much better defense than Oakland, but are not as set offensively. DeAndre Hopkins is still a special player, but hasn't been given the chance due to the quarterback carousel of 2016. Luckily for them, the Raiders don't have the best defense, so Osweiler may be able to do just enough to pull out the win.
In the end, I can see Connor Cook surprising many people with his play (especially against Houston's imposing secondary). Cook is surrounded with enough offensive talent to survive the first round of the playoffs, but round 2 could be another story...
New York Giants (11-5) @ Green Bay Packers (10-6)
In this writer's opinion, this would be the perfect game to take place in the conference championship round. I think that whoever comes out of this game on top will represent the NFC in Super Bowl 51.
The Giants have a habit of doing this. They're not a great team, but they're not a bad team. They just seem to get hot at the right time, and carry that momentum through the playoffs. New York has a very good defense, which is a necessity when your offense lacks great firepower. Odell Beckham is obviously an elite receiver, but outside of him there isn't anyone who's considered a threat.
Green Bay was dead in the water in week 11, but have won their last six games since to claim the NFC North from rival Detroit Lions. Aaron Rodgers returned to form (although he never really was "not himself" in 2016) and the Packers are now arguably the hottest team in the NFC. Ty Montgomery is finding success as a running back, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams are catching plenty of passes, and their defense has been stepping up.
This is my pick for the game of the week. The Giants and Packers create a great matchup and should be watched closely. This will be a great, close game but in the end, Rodgers does his thing and Green Bay will move on (and eventually represent the NFC in the Super Bowl).
Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Miami has been an interesting team to watch throughout the 2016 season. At first it looked like another typical Dolphins season (8-8 or 7-9 and out of the playoffs), but from week 6 to week 12, they improved from 1-4 to 7-4 with six straight wins, a surprisingly productive running game, and a solid defense. Miami lost Ryan Tannehill to injury, but veteran Matt Moore has done a decent job in his stead, although I'm unsure if he can win them a playoff game.
Pittsburgh's offense is the definition of explosive. Ben Roethlisberger is still a great quarterback, Le'Veon Bell is a top three running back, and Antonio Brown might be the best receiver in the league. They can score at any time, from anywhere on the field. Their defense is fairly average, but not bad. The secondary has improved, and the Steelers have good linebackers.
It shouldn't be long until Pittsburgh's pass rushers can strictly worry about getting to Matt Moore every play. At that point, the game should be over.
Detroit Lions (9-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
The final game left for us to cover is the other NFC game consisting of a surprise team and a somewhat disappointing team.
The Lions held a major lead over the Green Bay Packers earlier in the year. While the Packers and Vikings were falling off, Detroit was just hitting their stride, winning close games in epic comeback fashion. Matthew Stafford was finally living up to the hype of his number one overall draft pick status, while Golden Tate and Marvin Jones were proving to be solid options. The Lions were playing stingy on defense as well, holding opponents to 20 points or less in eight straight games. After losing their last three games, Detroit ended up missing out on first place in the NFC North but still snuck in as the sixth seed.
Seattle has a terrible offensive line, and it's probably the worst in the league. Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, but nobody can produce while under constant pressure like he is. Thomas Rawls is a decent running back, but nothing special (especially with their aforementioned offensive line). Defensively, Seattle lost their leader in Earl Thomas to a terrible injury. However, even with this setback, they're still an elite defense who is capable of matching up with the Lions' offense.
If Seattle is able to block enough, they shouldn't have too much of a problem here. However, the Seahawks haven't proved capable of this, giving the visiting team a chance. I think it will be a battle to the end, with Matthew Stafford falling just short of what would be another miraculous comeback.
Which of these playoff teams has the best chance at Super Bowl glory?
So what do you think? Do you agree with me? Do we differ in opinions? Do you have any comments? If so, let's hear it in the comment section below!
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