Injuries tend to pile up by the time the playoffs roll around, but the rash of quarterbacks who were injured over the final few weeks of the season have changed the complexion of the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
Nonetheless, this weekend offers plenty of high-level football beyond the Giants-Packers matchup late Sunday afternoon. Read on for thoughts and predictions for the other three games.
(5) Raiders at (4) Texans
4:35 p.m. Saturday on ESPN/ABC/7
Oakland is down to its third-string passer and one could argue host Houston would rather start Tom Savage (concussion) than big-money Brock Osweiler.
Despite being forced to start rookie Connor Cook, the Raiders (12-4) have to like their chances on the road, where they went 6-2 this year. Outside of Cook, most of the offense is pretty solid. Plus, Khalil Mack is arguably the best defensive player in football.
The Texans (9-7) went 4-6 against non-division foes. They just aren’t a great team.
Pick: Raiders 27, Texans 10
(6) Lions at (3) Seahawks
8:15 p.m. Saturday on NBC/4
A few weeks ago, Detroit was 9-4 and poised for its first division title in 23 years. The Lions (9-7) haven’t won since. It’s hard to believe in them in Seattle, although the Seahawks (10-5-1) have problems with consistency on offense with Russell Wilson.
The Lions’ trump card is quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has keyed several late-game comebacks this year and will keep the game interesting throughout.
It won’t be enough, as the Seahawks thrive at home and are the better team, especially on defense.
Pick: Seahawks 20, Lions 17
(6) Dolphins at (3) Steelers
1:05 p.m. Sunday on CBS/2
On a wild afternoon in October, Miami running back Jay Ajayi torched Pittsburgh for 204 yards and two scores on the ground.
But that was in South Florida, and the Dolphins (10-6) still had starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill healthy and playing. This weekend, they turn to backup Matt Moore against the Steelers (11-5).
The Steelers offense is loaded with talent at quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger), running back (Le’Veon Bell) and wideout (Antonio Brown). After a week of rest, expect a big day from one or all.
Pick: Steelers 30, Dolphins 20
Super Bowl Prediction 2.0
Packers over Patriots
Green Bay is cruising thanks to Aaron Rodgers. Tom Brady has New England clicking too, but this is a hunch pick at this point. Should be a better game than the clear Packers victory the last time these two met in the Super Bowl 20 years ago.