NFL expert Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) runs the rule over Saturday night’s wildcard games.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans | Saturday 21:35 | Sky Sports 1
First game in the post season and for the first time in the modern era a rookie quarterback will make his first start in a play-off game.
You have to feel for the Raiders here. A first appearance in play-off football in over a decade and it could well have been a deep run but for a broken leg for star quarterback Derek Carr just two weeks ago.
The journeyman Matt McGloin took over in Week 17 only to suffer a concussion and so Oakland is left with fourth round pick, Connor Cook under centre.
The good news for Cook is that he sits behind an outstanding offensive line that is probably only second to Dallas in the NFL. The bad news is he faces a stellar Texans defence, which despite losing JJ Watt early on in the season, finished as the number one ranked unit in football.
Cook is in for a long night. However, all hope is not lost for Jack Del Rio’s men. Houston may have a dominant defence but they have quarterback issues of their own.
For some unknown reason the Texans handed Brock Osweiller a four-year $72m dollar contract after he managed to cover Peyton Manning last season in Denver. The best defence of the 2015 season happened to be his back-up in Mile High and his flaws were obvious. They have been demonstrated on a regular basis in 2016.
Osweiller has been so bad that he was benched just two weeks ago and is only starting on Saturday because of injury to his replacement.
We are unlikely to get an offensive masterclas. In fact, it’s hard to see how Oakland score many points at all.
When I went through my post season predictions, I had this down as a 17-10 or 21-13 kind of win for Houston and so I will happily take both Houston to cover the -3.5 spread 10/11 Skybet) and also Under 37 Points at 20/21 with Paddy Power.
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks | Sunday 01:15 | Sky Sports 1
Now this should be a much better game for those of you able to stay up. Seattle does not lose at home in the play-offs – they’re 10-1 since 2000 and undefeated since Pete Carroll took over.
Detroit had a fairly dreadful end to the season. Matt Stafford and his dislocated finger just did not perform very well and they had the NFC North title snatched from their grasp by a last-day defeat at home to Green Bay.
One bright spot during those last couple of games was the emergence of Zach Zenner at running back. Detroit really need him as he is the only bright spark in a running game that ranked 31 overall and is missing the pass catching ability of Theo Riddick.
Seattle has a big miss of its own with the injury to Earl Thomas who is the heartbeat of a defensive unit that just knows how to get it done when it really matters.
These guys just play with a swagger in huge prime time games. Avril and Bennett will generate pressure all night and the Seahawks linebackers will harrass Stafford all night.
Don’t forget that crowd either – the noise they create may seem peripheral but no stadium sees more false start penalties on the road team.
Seattle’s offence has not really lit it up this year. They have been chopping and changing at running back all year and since his return from injury, Thomas Rawls has yet to really impress.
Despite a fairly weak offensive line, Russell Wilson has been able to carry the team over the line many times. The re-emergence of Jimmy Graham at tight end has given opposing defences some different looks and problems to deal with.
Here’s a game that Seattle should win comfortably but once again looks anything but high-scoring. The value must be in the Points Total – I like Seattle 23-13 and Under 43.5 Points at 39/40 with 888 looks value.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans – Houston Texans -3.5 (10/11 Skybet)
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans – Under 37.5 points (20/21 Paddy Power)
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks – Under 43.5 points (39/40 888)
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