Line: Hou +3.0 O/U 40.0
Alex Smith v. Brian Hoyer. If you have to miss one game this weekend, this is it. Side note: if you have to miss one game this weekend than you aren’t doing it right. This is the playoffs man! Sure, we don’t exactly have Aikman against Young, and Vegas isn’t projecting fireworks as evident with the low total of 40 points, but that’s not going to stop The Machine from kicking off Wildcard Weekend tailgate-style: grill, cooler and fire pit!!
This is a rematch from Week 1, where the Chiefs beat the Texans 27-20, and it wasn’t that close. You know, the game that Brian Hoyer started after winning the training camp battle only to get benched half way through in favor of Ryan Mallett. The same Ryan Mallett whom the Texans later released when they realized he was Ryan Mallett. What a difference 16 weeks can make.
Andy Reid should get consideration for coach of the year. After starting the season 1-5 and losing their franchise offensive cornerstone in Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs rattled off ten consecutive wins. Yes, they feasted on bottom-feeders, beating Oakland (twice), San Diego (twice), Baltimore, and Cleveland, but a 10-win streak is impressive in Madden, let alone the NFL. So, despite the fact that KC is the better team (slightly), why isn’t that streak going to make it to 11? Because the NFL is a game of match-ups, and the Texans are a difficult match-up for the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Texans will be able to take away either Jeremy Maclin or Travis Kelce (or both) while keeping the Chiefs behind sticks in down-and-distance. That’s where JJ Watt will go to work and leave his mark on this game. I’m expecting one of those dominate performances from the All-Pro.
On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs had no answers for DeAndre Hopkins, who destroyed their secondary to the tune of 9/98/2. Hopkins pretty much feasted on every secondary this year, despite average (that’s being generous) quarterback play. Without an elite shutdown corner, look for Hopkins to post gaudy reception and yardage numbers.
As a final note, there was a bit of bad blood between these two teams in their Week 1 showdown. On the first play from scrimmage, Travis Kelce went to the knees of JJ Watt. Watt took exception to the play, and I’m sure didn’t forget about it. So while we might not be in store for fireworks on the scoreboard, the game might be extra chippy on the field.
I like the Texans as a home dog to win this game outright.
Prediction: Houston 23, Kansas City 19
Line: Cin +3.0 O/U 45.5
The poor Bungals just can’t get it right. Heading into the playoffs last year Andy Dalton was healthy while all of his offensive skill players were hurt. This year everyone is healthy except the Ginger Warlock! That leaves Cincinnati entrusting AJ McCarron to become the first quarterback since Boomer Esiason (whom is 54 years old mind you) to win a playoff game. Ouch.
For whatever the first game lacks in big plays, this one should pick up the slack. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game and AJ Green isn’t too far behind. The Steelers create and exploit mismatches with Martavis Bryant and Marcus Wheaton. The Bengals counter with Giovani Bernard out of the backfield and Tyler Eifert in the red zone. Both offenses will find success moving the ball in this one.
Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly instilled a ton of confidence lately; inexplicably dropping a Week 16 game to the Ravens, limping by the lifeless Browns last week while needing help from the Bills (you’re welcome) to sneak into the playoffs. However, that is all regular season fodder at this point. Big Ben’s experience in making deep playoff runs will be the difference in this one.
If the Steelers secondary can hold it together and not blow too many coverages (something they tend to do) then I like their chances of getting after McCarron and creating some turnovers. This will game will be close, with the Steelers pulling away at the end.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 23