Ah, what sweet, sweet relief.
It’s the advent of the NFL playoffs. After a year of mediocrity in play quality (according to some), we’ve finally hit the peak month of NFL football, where it’s at least a little more palatable – or should be.
Objective laughers of playoff games aside, sure, the weeks leading up to February 5th in Houston, should prove to provide more than a many legendary moment. This is why we watch – as cliche and groan-inducing at it sounds – this is the time of year we wait for.
Who’s this year’s David Tyree – an unknown making the play of his life to save his team?
Who’s this year’s Von Miller – a defensive superstar who takes over a game again and again?
Only time will tell, and for a lack of a better term, it’s going to be giddy fun.
First, we have to get through Wild Card weekend and some of the potential embarrassing games the NFL wouldn’t normally market if they weren’t playoff football games. Such is the nature of the broadcasting beast.
Let’s get right to it and preview what’s to come on a “wild” weekend. Saturday first.
1. Raiders at Texans, Saturday afternoon: Who is worse off at quarterback in this game?
Robert Zeglinski: This is a lose-lose for everyone, isn’t it? Osweiler is 13-8 in 21 career regular season starts, but he’s also been benched twice in that time frame: once for a Peyton Manning past his last legs, and once for Tom Savage (who?). That’s happened for a reason for a guy with a career 77.4 passer rating and just a 72.2 passer rating this year. Osweiler, for all of his $72 million dollars acquired in the offseason in free agency, just doesn’t seem to be the guy in Houston.
But it’s much tougher sledding in the wild card round for Connor Cook, who struggles with half-field reads, and who has to go against the league’s number one defense in Houston. Osweiler need only fear Khalil Mack on the league’s 26th ranked Raiders defense. In maybe the only time you’ll hear this, advantage: Osweiler.
Brian Hall: Here’s what I know about Osweiler playing quarterback in the NFL: he isn’t that great at it. The Texans have made it to the playoffs again this season because they play stingy defense and are in the AFC South, which despite the up-and-coming Titans, is pretty weak. Furthermore, to win the Super Bowl, the Texans would have to win four games in a row against (theoretically) tougher and tougher competition. There’s not much to be confident in Osweiler in that scenario.
Now, here’s what I know about Cook playing quarterback in the NFL: …
Sure, he’s a rookie and untested and whatever, but he at least has some experience on a big stage. Yes, it’s college football which doesn’t really equate, but he’s proven he can win in the national spotlight. Whether or not he’ll do the same in the NFL remains to be seen, but Osweiler hasn’t shown that he’s capable at all, so when in doubt, go with the untested wildcard.
Sam Pouncey: There are competing philosophies when hiring managers seek to fill an upper management position. Simply put, managers will either hire from within, in other words a “known commodity”, or they will bring in someone from the outside, an “external change agent”. There’s no real way to know which is better, and the truth is that it’s situational. So, the question here is would you rather bank on what you know with Osweiler or the guy who hasn’t started an NFL game yet in Cook?
The difference here is that we kind of know Cook. He was last seen getting shutout by Alabama in the college football playoff. At quarterback, the Texans are in a better situation as hard as that is to believe, but Oakland has such a massive offensive line advantage. If Mack and company can pressure Osweiler like I think they can, they can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and win the game in gritty fashion.
Oakland wins a gritty game.
Dan Soden: If this was next year, without question I’d be on Cook’s side, but with less than a year under his belt and the pressure of his first start being in the playoffs, things aren’t going to be easy for the rookie.
While the Texan’s offense hasn’t been anything special, they do have the league’s second best pass defense, something that should come into play this Saturday. There is nothing more I’d love to see then Cook come out and start lighting up the Texans defense, but realistically we are looking at a pretty low scoring game with Brock Osweiler most likely being the best QB on the field.
Houston edges Oakland out.
2. Lions at Seahawks, Saturday night: Can Seattle overcome the loss of Earl Thomas to make a deep run? How much will Detroit’s health factor in?
Robert Zeglinski: With Thomas, this was a team that could compete with a less than complete NFC. Without him, a once elite passing defense has fell all the way to eighth and capitulated. Thomas is what holds Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” together. He’s their Swiss Army Knife and the guy that is able to cover for his elite counterparts in Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman all over the field as a safety valve. Now, with an offense that’s really only running on the strength of Russell Wilson’s playmaking, they’ll need Wilson to go superhuman for four games straight against elite competition. Easier said than done.
Against the Lions – who are here a year ahead and were just 27th overall in DVOA – it won’t matter though, all of their injuries to Travis Swanson and others aside.
Seattle, and comfortably.
Brian Hall: If the Seahawks offense was clicking like it was at this point last year, I’d say they’re capable of anything, but that side of the ball has taken a clear step back. They shouldn’t have a problem putting the clamps on Detroit, who have too many injury issues to be believed in for a deep run. However, potentially having to play Matt Ryan and the Falcons would be far too much to handle, even for a secondary as solid as the Seahawks.
I like the Seahawks this weekend.
Sam Pouncey: The short answer to both of these questions is, respectively: No, and very little.
The Seahawks weren’t going to win the Super Bowl even if Earl Thomas had been healthy. Seattle’s offense finished the regular season 17th in DVOA, and the once-vaunted running game was a measly 23rd. As for the Lions, injuries in, or before, the playoffs suck (Oakland fans nodding sadly). But Detroit wasn’t going to go into Seattle in a playoff environment and win anyway. As a matter of fact, I’d have had them losing to New York if they had hosted them too. Matthew Stafford has had a fantastic year and will keep the game close and get the cover but that’s it. Seattle wins 27-21 (Spoiler: This is the only postseason game the Seahawks win this year).
Dan Soden: The Seahawks being without Thomas, arguably their best defensive player, is going to have a major effect on their Super Bowl run. But in a game against a battered Lions team, it might not be as alarming.
Thomas is a key factor for the Seahawks and in a game against a quarterback who loves to throw down field you might be a little worried, but it is in Seattle and they do have a Pro-Bowl laced defense.
I’d like to think the Seahawks have this one in the bag, but the inconsistency of both teams has me worried to call Seattle’s win a sure thing. It’s as close to one as can be, though.
Seattle edges out Detroit.
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