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NFL Playoffs Preview

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The teams are set and the games are officially scheduled, the NFL playoffs are here. Here’s a look at the four games this weekend:

Oakland Raiders vs Houston Texans

It seemed as if this might be the year for the Raiders to make a run in the playoffs. They have the pieces in Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack, but since Carr broke his leg two weeks ago, it seems much less likely. This game has a chance to be really messy. Not only will the Raiders not have Carr, but it looks like Oakland will be starting Connor Cook since backup Matt McGloin suffered a shoulder injury this past weekend. The Texans will also not be able to play the quarterback they want. Tom Savage replaced Brock Osweiler as the Texans’ starting quarterback in Week 15 after a very disappointing season by Osweiler, but now Savage may not be able to play due to a concussion.

With Carr, the Raiders would be clear favorites in this game but now the game is a big question mark. Both teams have playmaking wide receivers. The Raiders have Cooper and the Texans have DeAndre Hopkins. The problem is that the Osweiler has been bad all season, with a 72.2 passer rating, and the Raiders are playing someone who has never started an NFL game in Cook. This game will likely come down to the running game. The edge here goes to the Raiders. Raiders’ running back Latavius Murray has been very good this season, running for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns on 195 carries. Texans’ running back Lamar Miller has also been good, running for 1073 yards and five touchdowns on 268 caries. However, Miller has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and even if Miller does play, it won’t be at 100 percent.

Prediction: Raiders 24-17

Detroit Lions vs Seattle Seahawks

The Lions had a chance to avoid having to go to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs but could not defeat the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 to win the division. This game features two teams that have struggled in the weeks leading up to the playoffs. The Lions went on a three game losing streak to end the season and lose the NFC North Division Title and the Seahawks have lost three of their last six games.

This game does not look very favorable for the Lions. Seattle boasts the third best defense in the NFL, allowing only 18.3 points per game. The Lions offense has looked poor, scoring only 17 per game in their last three games. Detroit’s quarterback Matthew Stafford has a hand injury he has been playing through and Sunday night against the Packers was the perfect chance to bounce back. The Packers secondary has been one of the worst in football and barely had enough players to field a defense after the game. Yet, Stafford only had a quarterback rating of 76.3.

Seattle’s biggest weakness, running the ball and run-blocking, matchup well against the Lions. The Lions have a poor run defense and if Seattle can establish the run, quarterback Russell Wilson should have no trouble finding open receivers.

Prediction: Seahawks 31-21

Miami Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers

This has a chance to be the least competitive game. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the hottest team in the NFL right now. Pittsburgh has won seven straight games and is playing great football on both offense and defense. Despite only playing 12 games, running back Le’Veon Bell ran for 1268 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 95.4 this year. To go along with a very good offense, the Steelers have the 10th ranked defense, allowing 20.4 points per game.

The Miami Dolphins will be in the same boat at the Raiders and Texans in that their starting quarterback is injured. Ryan Tannehill hurt his knee three weeks ago and backup Matt Moore has played in his place. The Dolphins played the Steelers earlier in the year with Tannehill and won 30-15. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards that game.

If Ajayi can have another performance like that, the Dolphins obviously can win, but the Steelers are playing their best football all year right now. Also, without Tannehill, the Steelers can load the box to limit Ajayi

Prediction: Steelers 38 - 17

New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Packers can run the table and that is exactly what they did. Green Bay finished the season on a six game winning streak and Aaron Rodgers may have won the NFL MVP because of his play during that six game stretch. Rodgers had a passer rating of over 100 in all but one of his last seven games.

However, the New York Giants’ defense might be the best defense in football right now. The Giants have playmaking passing threats that could be very troublesome for the Packers depleted secondary. Giants’ wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard could have big games.

The Packers are peaking at the right time and with Rodgers playing like he is right now, it’s going to be tough for the Giants to outscore the Packers.

Prediction: Packers 28-24

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