NFL Playoffs on Sling: Raiders vs Texans in Battle of Backup QBs; Lions Head to Seattle, and G-Men Take to the Tundra at Lambeau
Oakland Raiders (12-4) vs Houston Texans (9-7)
4:35pm ET on ESPN/ABC
The Raiders’ quest for a Super Bowl title essentially ended midway through the 4th quarter of the their 33-25 Week 16 win over the Colts, when MVP candidate Derek Carr’s broke his fibula. Fourth-year backup Matt McGloin finished the game, completing 2 of 3 passes for 29 yards before taking a knee on the game’s last three plays, but he is not the stuff of which title runs are made. The following week, in a 24-6 loss to Denver, McGloin was 6-for-11 for 21 yards before leaving the game following an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, and gave way to rookie Connor Cook, who completed 14 of 21 for 150 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception. It looks like Cook will get the start, though neither option can leave a Raiders fan feeling too excited.
It’s a miracle the Houston Texans have come this far, given that they paid Brock Osweiler $72 million to be their starting QB, and they’ve been without JJ Watt since Week 4. Making matters worse, Tom Savage, who took over for Osweiler during a Week 15 win over Jacksonville, suffered a concussion during Houston’s 24-17 loss to Tennessee to finish the regular season, so now coach Bill O’Brien has to give the ball again to Osweiler – awkward. Jadeveon Clowney, who missed the Tennessee game with a hurt elbow, says he feels “great,” and will be suiting up for the game, as is running back Lamar Miller, who missed the previous 2 games with a bum ankle.
The Raiders have so much more talent at other positions, including Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Khalil Mack, that even without Carr, they should get past Houston, despite being on the road. The Raiders won their previous meeting, 27-20, during Week 11.
Detroit Lions (9-7) vs Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
8:15pm ET NBC
After holding a 2-game lead in the division, the Detroit Lions watched the NFC North slowly slip away, finally losing their grasp on it with a 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the regular season finale. Matthew Stafford had a nice game, completing 26 of 41 for 347 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, but 95 of those yards came with the Pack were up 31-17 with less than 2 minutes to play. The steaks weren’t that high for Detroit, as a win would’ve meant a Wild Card date with the Giants, but still…
Yes, there wasn’t much on the line, but the Seattle Seahawks barely squeaked past the San Francisco 49ers last week, 25-23, as SF QB Colin Kaepernick was unstoppable in the 1st quarter, completing 9 of 9 passes for 120 yards as the Niners jumped out to a 14-3 lead. But the Seattle defense settled down, and Kaepernick managed to go 8 of 13 for 95 yards the rest of the way. The Seahawks did have another intramural dustup, however, as Jarran Reed got DQ’ed for throwing a punch in the 4th quarter, and then he and teammate Frank Clark began to jaw at each other. The Seattle D is not as fearsome as it once was, and they’ve been positively meh since losing safety Earl Thomas, giving up 24.5 ppg, after allowing 17.6 in the previous 12 games. That, combined with the continued mediocrity from their O-line simply puts too much pressure on QB Russell Wilson. Seattle should get past the Lions, but from there on out it gets very dicey.
New York Giants (11-5) vs Green Bay Packers (10-6)
4:40pm ET on FOX
What do the Eagles, Cardinals, and Broncos all have in common? They all failed to make the playoffs despite outscoring their opponents by a greater margin than did the New York Giants. The Giants wrapped up their regular season with a 19-10 win over the Washington Redskins, as the Giants D twice intercepted Kirk Cousins, and sacked him 4 times for a loss of 41 yards total. Washington had a chance to win it with 6 seconds on the clock, and 94 yards from victory, when Cousins found Jordan Reed over the middle for 5 yards, only for Reed to lose the handle, and Giants CB Trevin Wade scooped it up and ran 11 yards into the end zone with no time left on the clock. The Giants are likely to be without Jason Pierre-Paul, who had surgery in early December. As stated repeatedly, however, as long as Odell Beckham Jr is healthy, anything can happen, especially with the doubly-blessed Eli Manning at QB.
Without a doubt, the hottest, potentially most dangerous team in the NFC is the Green Bay Packers, who won their last 6 games in a row to come from 2 games back and claim the NFC North. As he has for the past six weeks, Aaron Rodgers led the charge on the final game against Detroit completing 27 of 39 for 300 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, and picking up another 42 yards on 10 carries. During the winning streak, Rodgers has completed 142 of 200 (71%) for 1,667 yards, 15 touchdowns and 0 interceptions – that’s not too shabby. Green Bay’s D has been a little shaky the last three weeks, giving up a total 76 points to the Bears, Vikings and Lions, and they’ve given up the second-most passing yards in the league this year, 269.25 per game – OBJ must be licking his chops.
The Giants’ secondary has the NFL’s fourth-most interceptions, but Aaron Rodgers no longer throws interceptions, so that won’t be an issue. Green Bay at home (forecast for kickoff is 10 degrees), with the Giants’ front 7 depleted, and Rodgers playing this well? It’s hard to bet against them.
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