Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2016 at 3:35 CT on ESPN/ABC
NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas
The first matchup of the 2016-17 NFL playoffs features two teams dealing with issues at quarterback.
The Raiders are coming off their best season in over a decade, winning 12-plus games for the first time since the 2000 season and snapping a 14-year postseason drought. Oakland was fueled by a high-powered offense throughout much of the season, averaging the second-most points per game in the AFC, but lost starting quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr to a broken leg in Week 16. The Raiders then lost backup quarterback Matt McGloin to a shoulder injury in Week 17, giving way to rookie signal-caller Connor Cook. It remains to be seen who will line up under center on Saturday, but whoever it is will have a tough task at hand. The Texans held opposing offenses to a league-best 301.3 total yards per game and had the second-best pass defense in the league this season.
The Texans have struggled offensively, however, and have been dealing with issues at quarterback as well. The Texans benched incumbent starter Brock Osweiler in Week 15 for second-year quarterback Tom Savage, only for Savage to suffer a concussion in the season finale. Osweiler will make the start on Saturday and will look to take advantage of a Raiders defense that allowed 257 passing yards per game during the season.
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2016 at 7:15 CT on NBC (KSHB)
CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.
Seattle is 7-1 at home this season and has won nine straight postseason games on their home turf. In fact, the Seahawks haven’t lost a playoff game at home since falling to the St. Louis Rams on Jan. 8, 2005. Much of that streak can be attributed to Seattle’s defense, which allowed the third-fewest points per game (15.6) and the fifth-fewest yards per game (318.7) in the NFL.
The Lions, on the other hand, are trying to break a streak of their own. Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game on the road since 1957 and is just 2-11 in road postseason contests in team history. This year’s edition of the Lions has been about as clutch as any team, however, coming from behind to win in the fourth quarter or overtime eight times.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, Jan. 8, 2016 at 12:05 CT on CBS (KCTV5)
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
A rematch of a Week 6 Miami victory, this game has major implications for Kansas City. If Pittsburgh wins, they’ll be the Chiefs’ opponent in the divisional round next Sunday. If Miami wins, the Chiefs will take on the winner of the Texans and Raiders matchup.
Miami handedly beat Pittsburgh in their first meeting earlier this season, 30-15. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi had a monster performance, rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The win breathed life into the Dolphins, who were 1-4 at the time, as Miami went on to win nine of their next 11 games. These Dolphins have a bit of a different look now though, with Matt Moore filling in at quarterback for the injured Ryan Tannehill.
The Steelers caught fire after a slow start to the season and haven’t missed a beat since. Pittsburgh has won seven in a row, averaging 26.4 points per game in that span. Running back Le’Veon Bell had another impressive season, tallying the third-most yards from scrimmage (1,884) in the NFL despite missing the first four games of the year.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Jan. 8, 2016 at 3:40 CT on FOX (WDAF)
Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
The Packers struggled early on this season, limping to a 4-6 record, before ripping off six straight wins and claiming the NFC North title. The Packers were a force offensively, scoring 27 points per game for the season and 30-plus points in each of their last four contests. At the center of all that scoring was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who put together a MVP-worthy season with 40 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
If there’s a team that can slow down the Packers, it might be New York. The Giants allowed just 17.8 points per game this season – the second-best mark in the NFL. The Giants have also had Green Bay’s number over the years, winning two straight postseason games at Lambeau Field.