NFL Playoff Preview: AFC Wild Card Round
Playoff Preview: AFC Wild Card Round
This week we kick off the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs, despite having a superior record, will have to travel to Houston to take on the winner of the putrid AFC South. This should be a tough defensive matchup which could really go either way. Both offenses will be supremely overmatched by the defenses. No matter what happens, we will likely be more critical of the subpar quarterbacks than heap praise on the defenses. Please, no comments from the Alex Smith apologists. He is impressively average. You can have that and nothing more.
We also have an intriguing AFC North showdown between the division champion Bengals and the wild card winning Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the Bengals tremendous season and the fact that the Steelers are beat up and snuck in the backdoor of the playoffs, people believe in the Steelers much more than the Bengals. Now you can say it’s because Andy Dalton is probably out, but let’s be honest, how much confidence is Dalton instilling into the general public in the playoffs? This could very well be the year the Bengals finally take that next step, but for most, they’ll have to prove it before they earn any faith.
Now let’s break down each matchup and see who really has the edge.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans
Saturday, January 9, 2016 4:20 pm ESPN/ABC
The quarterbacks in this game are wildly unimpressive. However, Smith has a huge edge over Brian Hoyer. Smith is extremely average and lacks any big play ability, nevertheless, the Texans would kill for an average quarterback. It’s been one nightmare after another for head coach Bill O’Brien. They’ve had all the pieces but the QB for the most part. Smith is efficient and probably won’t lose a game for you. He’s just not going to win you anything either. They can win a playoff game with him but can also be shutdown.
Both teams are missing their star running backs. Both Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster have long been lost for the season, Charles with an ACL and Foster with an Achilles’. Both teams will also deploy a committee attack. The Chiefs’ RBs are far superior. Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk just don’t compare to Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. The drop off from Foster was far more significant than the drop off from Charles. Knile Davis can’t even get on the field and he’d probably be the Texans best back.
While Jeremy Maclin is vastly underrated and Travis Kelce has tremendous upside, DeAndre Hopkins is simply a monster. Personally, if I was ranking wideouts right now, I’d have him at No. 2 in the league. The Texans also have a sneaky good supporting cast with Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts and Jaelen Strong. This is far from a slam dunk though. The Chiefs have some talented speedsters of their own, if only Smith could throw a deep ball.
These are two excellent defenses. They are extremely closely matched. The Texans have a better secondary, while the Chiefs clearly have better linebackers. Both teams have playmakers and elite pass-rushers. Still, for me, this comes down to the best defensive player in the NFL. J.J. Watt gives the Texans a very slight edge. The fact that we have no idea how healthy Justin Houston is doesn’t help the Chiefs case either.
Kansas City: 24
Texans: DeAndre Hopkins
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, January 9, 2016 8:15 pm CBS
This is an extremely lopsided matchup of quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champ and has been to the big game three times. A.J. McCarron has two NFL wins and has started three games. Big Ben is a future Hall of Famer and McCarron hopes to have a starting job one day. We really don’t need to go any deeper than that.
A few months ago, this would have been a layup for Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers. However, the Bengals ended his season for the second straight year. Even heading into last week, DeAngelo Williams may have had the leg up on Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Nonetheless, he injured his foot last week and is very questionable for this game. If he is active, who knows how healthy he’ll be. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman are on deck for Pitt. It’s hard to have a ton of confidence in that crew now.
Very few teams have a better group of pass-catchers than A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones. However, one of those teams is the Steelers. Antonio Brown is the best in the business and now he’s making a run at the all-time best receivers. Behind Brown they also have Martavis Bryant who could be a top option on a ton of teams and Markus Wheaton at the WR3. Even Heath Miller has a reliable set of hands and a big body. Big Ben only enhances their advantage.
The Steelers secondary is an abomination. They have a very talented, but young front seven, however, that pass defense is a nightmare. The Bengals also have a talented young front seven. With that said, their secondary is very strong also and deep. I just want to say how impressed I am with the way Pacman Jones has turned around his life and his career. Plenty of people will just call him a thug, but he should be commended for changing himself and his life. He has developed into that first-round pick out of West Virginia that he always had the potential to be and that he showed flashes of in Tennessee. It’s hard not to be proud of him, unless of course you don’t view athletes as humans and just assume all NFL and NBA players are thugs incapable of change, flaws and human emotion.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Bengals: A.J. Green