The NFL regular season is over, and the playoffs are finally here.
But before we get really close to the pointy end of the season, we have to go through the wild card round, where each of the eight teams will have the chance to begin a miracle run to the Super Bowl.
The wild card round is always great fun to watch due to its unpredictability, and they are often the hardest games of the playoffs to pick.
Despite this, we at Zero US Sports have tried our hardest to do so. Here are our picks for the wild card round of the NFL playoffs.
Note: All times are in Australian eastern daylight savings time.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans, Sunday, 10th January, 8:35 AM
The Houston Texans lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in week one, but both teams are as different as could be from that match. Kansas are on a 10 game winning streak and Houston are 7-2 their past 9 games. Defense has punctuated The Texans’ impressive turnaround, not allowing a touchdown in 5 of those 7 wins.
Meanwhile, The Chiefs’ 10 game run features 6 home wins and 4 away ones, with their most impressive outings against Pittsburgh and at Denver. However, those are the only two playoff teams they’ve played in that 10 game streak.
This will be a close match, perhaps the closest of the round, and it will very likely come down to who plays better on the day rather than one teams’ statistical superiority to the other. With that in mind, given that KC are in superior form to Houston, it is hard not to take them.
Tip: Kansas City
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, 10th January, 12:15 PM
The Cincinnati Bengals are missing starting quarterback Andy Dalton, and whilst that is a massive blow for Cinci, DeAngelo Williams has also been ruled out for Pittsburgh, meaning they will now be missing their two best running backs, including Le’Veon Bell.
However, the good money is still definitely on the Steelers’ side. Despite the fact the Bengals have shown they can operate without Andy Dalton, they not only have a horrible recent record in the playoffs (without a win since 1990), but they have also historically been dominated by Pittsburgh, even in their own building – they own a 3-14 record there and lost to them at home as recently as December 14.
Ben Roethlisberger has seen and done it all in the game, and with the weapons at his disposal, even without their two gun running backs, one would think he’d struggle to be overcome by a Dalton-less, toothless Tigers.
Tip: Pittsburgh Steelers
Seattle Seahawks @ Minnesota Vikings, Monday, 11th January, 5:05 AM
The Minnesota Vikings are rolling of late, winning three in a row in impressive style – 38-17 against Chicago, 49-17 against The Giants and most impressive of all, 20-13 at Green Bay. Adrian Peterson is returning to peak form and it seems that right now, no-one wants to face Minnesota.
No-one…except Seattle. If Minny are flying, the Seahawks are flying higher, having won 6 of their last 7, including a 38-7 demolition of the Vikings away from home. In these last seven games, Russell Wilson has completed 71% of passes, and has averaged 8.78 yards per attempt. Put simply, it’s difficult to put against him.
Whilst the weather may play a factor, with the kickoff temperature expected to be at the least -10 Celsius, one wouldn’t expect Minnesotas’ league worst passing game to get it done against Seattle’s’ defense, which has allowed 444 passing yards their past three games.
Tip: Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins, Monday, 11th January, 8:40 AM
If there’s any game to wake yourself up for this week, it’s this one. The Washington Redskins come into the game with home field advantage, a 7-3 past 10 record (to Green Bay’s 4-6) and one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league right now – Kirk Cousins – the second-best passer the past 10 and fifth-highest qbr. Going into this game, Washington would have all the confidence in the world that they can take down a mighty but faltering Packers side.
Whilst Aaron Rodgers and his GB side’s struggles this season have been well documented (28th rated passer, 19th qbr the past 10), this is Aaron Rodgers we’re talking about. Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, five times Pro Bowl and two times MVP. He lives for these moments, and considering the Redskins have not beaten a team that finished above .500, and have a bottom-five defence (28th), there is plenty of reason to believe this is Green Bay’s chance to re-announce themselves as Super Bowl contenders.
Romanticism aside, Washington also have a big chance to deliver fear into the hearts of their enemies by knocking off GB. Their defense will have to play well above themselves to do so, and considering they haven’t done that this year when it counts, the Packers get the edge here – just.
Tip: Green Bay Packers