by Tom Russo and Jason Li
**Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with the NFL in any way and this article simply contains the opinions of select students.
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Saturday at 4:35
Neither team will have a reliable signal-caller in this game, as the Raiders will start rookie 4th round pick Connor Cook and the Texans will start disappointment of the year Brock Osweiler. The only difference here is Osweiler comes in with playoff experience, starting for the Broncos last year, but he has underperformed this season. Cook will make his first career start. You’d be better off flipping a coin.
Running Back: Texans
Lamar Miller has been the unheralded hero of the Texans season. Miller had the quietest 1,000 yard season of any RB, and is a huge reason the Texans are in the playoffs after an underwhelming season through the air. Latavius Murray has been solid, but his inconsistency gives Miller the edge.
Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are coming off 1,000 yard season, while no Texan reached 1,000 yards. While they had Derek Carr before, these two are supremely talented and will give Connor Cook reliable weapons to go to in his first career start.
Even without J.J. Watt, this Texans defense has still been a top tier unit. Jadeveon Clowney finally emerged, and has formed a dangerous tandem with Whitney Mercilus. The Texans have also been turnover machines this year, as illustrated by safety Quintin Demps, who was tied for second in the league with 6 interceptions.
Tom: Houston 17- Oakland 10
J: Houston 14- Oakland 10
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday at 8:15
Quarterback: Slight Edge to Seahawks
Russell Wilson played a remarkably solid season, throwing for over 4,000 yards, and despite multiple leg injuries, still rushed for over 200 yards. With Wilson healthy, the Lions will have to deal with that rushing aspect of his game, an intangible that Matthew Stafford does not bring to the table. However, Stafford is a gunslinger who can make any throw anywhere on the field, and so long as he has a clean pocket, he could match Wilson, but the intangibles give the edge to Wilson.
Running Back: Seahawks
Both teams have been plagued by injuries at the running back this season, with the Lions losing their leading rusher, Theo Riddick for the season. While Zach Zenner Has performed admirably in his stead, he cannot match a healthy Thomas Rawls. With Rawls back, the Seahawks have a powerful downhill runner who can do a pretty good Marshawn Lynch impersonation.
Both teams feature one 1,000 yard receiver, Golden Tate for the Lions and Doug Baldwin for the Seahawks, a big red zone threat, Anquan Boldin for the Lions and Jimmy Graham for the Seahawks, and a speedster to stretch defenses vertically, Marvin Jones for the Lions and Jermaine Kearse for the Seahawks. Good luck finding much of an edge for either team here, as both are good groups, but neither is truly great.
Even without Earl Thomas, this is still a championship caliber defense. With all-pro studs at every level, Detroit will be in for a long week. What other team can boast the level of talent that comes with, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor?
Tom: Seattle 24- Detroit 17
J: Seattle 21- Detroit 10
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday at 1:05
With Tannehill out, the Miami Dolphins are starting Matt Moore. Moore lacks experience, and simply isn’t good. His pitiful performance against the Patriots defense makes me doubt the Dolphins passing game in the playoffs. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or “Big Ben” has a ton of experience and has made throwing TDs look easy. He has lobbed TD passes to Coates, Rogers, and Brown all year long.
Running back: Steelers
Steelers RB Le’veon Bell is currently #3 in rushing yards in the NFL. He did this while missing his first 4 weeks due to suspension. Bell is a complete beast, and while Jay Ajayi also had a good year, his performance in the last few weeks, simply said, hasn’t been as explosive. He had two 200 yard rushing games in a row and has been on a slow decline.
Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown is a monster. He has been putting up crazy numbers all year long and you can find him in the corner of the end zone for most of the game. Ben also has Rogers and Coates who have been decent this year.
Dolphins lack targets to throw too. Moore has Jarvis Landry, but Landry hasn’t put up the numbers people thought he would. Other than Landry there is few targets to throw to.
The Dolphins defense was ranked in the top 10 for most of the season. While a lot of teams can get yards on the Dolphins, scoring TDs is much harder. The Steelers defense has struggled. The secondary gets exposed almost every game. Their defense simply cannot stop the pass at all. The only way the Steelers win games is based off their explosive offense.
Tom: Pittsburgh 28- Miami 13
J: Pittsburgh 21- Miami 13
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Sunday at 4:40
While Eli Manning has a habit of exploding in the playoffs, this matchup goes to Aaron Rodgers. Manning threw 16 interceptions this season against 26 touchdowns. Rodgers threw for 40 touchdowns, against only 7 interceptions. Rodgers also finished in the top 5 in passing yardage this year, while Manning was not. Advantage: A-Rodg.
Running Back: Even
Both teams are pass happy offenses that rarely go to the running game. Paul Perkins is emerging as an effective go-to back for the Giants, while converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery has shown flashes of greatness for the Packers. Either could explode for big days, or just has easily disappear from the offensive game plan.
Conversely, these are two of the most talented receiving corps in football. On one side, the electric trio of Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz. On the other side is the consistently great trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams. Both groups tear secondaries apart for a living, and it’s tough to decide on which is truly the better one.
The Giants defense has been superb in the last 6 games. With only one team scoring more than 20 points against them, especially when a lot was on the line. The giants defense held the cowboys to one TD and the Lions to 6 points. Simply put the Giants are amazing, maybe even championship caliber, so Aaron Rodgers will have his work cut out for him.
Tom: Giants 24- Packers 21
J: Giants 24- Packer 21