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Game Capsules: Wild-Card Playoffs

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

Oakland (+3.5) at Houston, 36.5 o/u Saturday, 4:35 p.m. EST

Comments: It's kind of fitting, really. In a year where rookie quarterbacks (especially ones drafted in the fourth round) have made a huge impact across the league, Connor Cook will become the first rookie QB to make his first NFL start in a playoff game during the modern era. Of course, that bit of history doesn't do much for the Raiders' chances of winning, but it's a nice story nonetheless. The Texans also finished the regular season seventh in QB rating against (84.3), so pick your favorite cliche for what Cook will be facing: trial by fire, thrown into the deep end, etc. I guess the bright side is he won't face the Broncos again, though he actually put up respectable numbers against them after taking over from Matt McGloin in Week 17. In fact, Cook's performance in Denver (66.7 percent completion rate, 7.1 YPA, 1:1 TD:INT) was better than Derek Carr's at home against the Broncos in Week 9. Hmm. Maybe this isn't the gimme for Houston that it seems. ... The Texans have their own issues at QB to worry about anyway. Tom Savage's concussion puts Brock Osweiler back under center, and that's not an improvement despite their respective salaries. Since Houston's Week 9 bye, Osweiler's played seven games. During that stretch he never put up a YPA over 6.6, never passed for more than the 253 yards he managed against a Titans defense just playing out the string, and compiled a 6:7 TD:INT. Those are brutal numbers for a starting quarterback in 2016. Oakland's pass defense isn't good, with its 7.9 YPA allowed (30th in the league) particularly egregious, but Osweiler's also not the guy to exploit it. ... Lamar Miller (ankle) is off the injury report for the Texans. Amari Cooper (shoulder) and Michael Crabtree (finger/ankle) remain questionable, but both will play for the Raiders.


Predictions: Latavius Murray rushes for 70 yards, but DeAndre Washington vultures a TD on the ground and Jalen Richard adds a receiving score. Cook throws for 180 and a second touchdown to Crabtree. Miller picks up 80 yards and a TD. Osweiler throws for 220 yards and a touchdown to C.J. Fiedorowicz. Raiders, 21-17


Detroit (+8) at Seattle, 43 o/u Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST

Comments: The Lions couldn't hold off Aaron Rodgers in the second half last week, and as a result will be trying to hear themselves think at CenturyLink Field this weekend rather than hosting their first ever playoff game at Ford Field. Matthew Stafford looked more like his old self in Week 17, though, and his injured finger didn't stop him from putting up 347 yards against the Packers, his second-highest total of the season. The Seahawks aren't the Packers, of course their pass defense was ninth (85.0) in QB rating against, while Green Bay's was 26th (95.9) but they also aren't really the Legion of Boom anymore. In the four games since Earl Thomas got hurt, Seattle's allowed an 8.7 YPA and 5:0 TD:INT, and that includes a game against Jared Goff and the Rams. If Stafford has figured out how to be more accurate with that brace thingie on his finger, he could give the Seahawks a surprisingly tough time. ... Seattle's backfield is in disarray, as Thomas Rawls managed only 56 yards and a putrid 1.5 YPC over his final three games, opening the door for Alex Collins to potentially be this year's surprise playoff RB if he gets double-digit carries. They really have little incentive to run the ball, though. The Lions' secondary ranked last in the league in QB rating against (106.5), driven by an astounding 72.7 percent completion rate allowed. To put that in perspective, Sam Bradford just set an NFL record for completion rate in a season at 71.6 percent. Detroit's pass defense made every QB they faced more accurate than the most accurate quarterback in league history. Russell Wilson also has a nice head of steam heading into the postseason, posting an 8:1 TD:INT over his final three games. ... Neither team reports any significant injuries to their skill players on offense, but DeAndre Levy (knee) is still questionable and hasn't looked 100 percent healthy since returning to the lineup.


Predictions: Zach Zenner manages 50 yards. Stafford throws for 270 yards and a TD to Golden Tate. Collins leads the Seattle backfield with 60 yards, while Wilson throws for 310 yards and three touchdowns, two to Doug Baldwin (who hauls in 110 yards) and one to Paul Richardson. Seahawks, 24-13


Miami (+10) at Pittsburgh, 47 o/u Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST

Comments: Ryan Tannehill's knee still isn't recovered enough to allow him back on the field, so it'll be Matt Moore leading the Dolphins into Pittsburgh. So far, that hasn't been a big liability for Miami. In his three starts, the 32-year-old has an 8:3 TD:INT and an 8.2 YPA, though a big portion of that damage was done against the Jets and comes with an asterisk. The Steelers sit in the top half of the league against both the run and the pass, so there's no particular vulnerability for Moore or Jay Ajayi to attack, but also no reason to change a game plan that's seen them score more than 27 points a game with Moore at the helm. ... Pittsburgh gave its Killer B's last week off, so Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown should be well rested. None of that is good news for a Dolphins defense that is 30th in rushing yards allowed per game (140.4) and tied for sixth most in TD passes allowed (30). Miami will have to pick its poison on defense, but there's no guarantee it will even be able to slow whichever B it tries to take out of the picture. ... Ladarius Green hasn't been cleared through the concussion protocol yet, but practiced Wednesday and seems likely to play for the Steelers on Sunday. Byron Maxwell (ankle) missed the final two regular-season games for the Dolphins and is questionable to play, possibly limiting their options when it comes to containing Brown.


Predictions: Ajayi runs for 80 yards and a score. Moore throws for 240 yards and a TD to Jarvis Landry. Bell explodes for 170 combined yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger throws for 330 yards and TDs to Brown (who pulls down 130 yards) and Cobi Hamilton. Steelers, 34-17


NY Giants (+4.5) at Green Bay, 44.5 o/u Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST

Comments: The Giants ended up tied for the second-best record in the NFC, but all it got them was a ticket to Green Bay in January. They also held the Cowboys, Lions and Washington offenses to a combined 23 points in their last three wins, so while it's tempting to think back on past postseason glories and wonder if Eli Manning is going to go off, any chance the Giants have of winning this one will come from their defense. That said, the Packers are 26th in QB rating against and only the Lions and Browns surrendered more TD passes than their 32, so if Manning is allowed to take some shots downfield, he could find success. He hasn't posted a YPA above 7.2 since Week 6, though, and his only game with more than 300 passing yards in that stretch came in Week 16 when he needed 63 attempts to do it (and threw three picks to boot). Don't look for Ben McAdoo to take the shackles off Eli unless he has to. ... When Aaron Rodgers says a thing, he means it. The Packers did indeed run the table to take the NFC North, winning their final six games including last week's showdown with the Lions. When he faced the Giants at home in Week 5, he had arguably his worst game of the year, throwing two INTs and managing a season-low 51.1 percent completion rate, but both the Green Bay offense and the New York defense have improved since then, so that result might not be terribly predictive. The Giants still finished second in the league in QB rating against (75.8), though, and were one of only two teams to have more INTs than TD passes allowed, and with the Packers' backfield still a bit of a mess fullback Aaron Ripkowski led them in rushing last week it'll be all on Rodgers to keep the offense moving, as usual. ... Randall Cobb (ankle) and James Starks (concussion) are both questionable for the Pack, but the former seems more likely to play than the latter. Janoris Jenkins (back) seems likely to return for the Giants, but is officially questionable.


Predictions: Paul Perkins picks up 60 yards and scores. Manning throws for 210 yards and two TDs, both to Odell Beckham. Ty Montgomery gains 70 combined yards. Rodgers throws for 260 yards and two touchdowns, one to Jared Cook and the game-winner to Jordy Nelson. Packers, 23-21


Last week's record: 13-3, 6-10 ATS, 11-5 o/u
2016 regular season record: 155-99-2, 110-136-10 ATS, 139-112-5 o/u