It’s a wild, wild weekend for NFL

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Saturday 3:35 CT Oakland Raiders (12-4) at Houston Texans (9-7)

How they got here: The Raiders return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 but they will be playing without their quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr. The Texans will hand the keys of their offense back to quarterback Brock Osweiler after being benched in week 15. Houston boasts the number one defense in the league in yards allowed while Oakland’s offense is the seventh best in the league in scoring.

Matchup to watch: Khalil Mack (OAK DE/OLB) vs. Texans O-Line

Mack will play multiple positions and be in a variety of alignments in Oakland’s 3-4 defense. The Texans offensive line has been solid throughout the year, surrendering just two sacks per game. Mack can take over and dominate any game, but if Houston can slow him down, Brock Osweiler could have some success.

Winner: The Texans are 7-1 at home this season. Houston is also the host of the Super Bowl next month. Texans 26-24.

Saturday 7:15 CT Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

How they got here: Detroit comes into the playoffs losing their last three games by a combined score of 90-51. The Lions own eight fourth quarter comebacks, the most since 1950. Seattle has been inconsistent down the stretch, but easily won the weak NFC West again.

Matchup to watch: Matt Stafford (DET QB) vs. Legion of Boom (SEA Defensive Backs)

The Lions have not won a playoff game in 25 years and if they have any chance Saturday, Stafford will have to take care of the football playing one of the league’s most dangerous defenses.

Winner: With a chance of rain in the forecast, on a cold, January night in Seattle, this has all of the ingredients of another Seahawk beat down. Seahawks 34-24.

 Sunday 12:05 CT Miami Dolphins (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

How they got here: There may not be two hotter teams in the AFC than these two. Miami went 9-2 in their last 11 games to sneak into the sixth seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh won their last seven games and even got to rest their big three of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown last week.

Matchup to watch: Antonio Brown (PIT WR) vs. Dolphins Cornerbacks

Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett will start at cornerback for Miami. Both corners have a size advantage over Brown but they will need to contain his speed and precise route running or they could be in for a long day.

Winner: The Dolphins will be operating with backup quarterback Matt Moore and the Steelers offensive trio will be fresh. Steelers 37-23.

Sunday 3:40 CT New York Giants (11-5) at Green Bay Packers (10-6)

How they got here: Just like the AFC, the NFC will battle their two hottest teams on wildcard weekend on Sunday afternoon. New York comes in winning nine of their past eleven and Green Bay won their last six games, as predicted by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Eli Manning has just as many wins (2-0) as Rodgers (2-2) at Lambeau Field.

Matchup to watch: Aaron Rodgers (GB QB) vs Landon Collins (NYG SS)

Collins was just named to the AP First-Team NFL All-Pro team coming off a breakthrough year. Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the game but he will have to keep the ball away from Collins (5 INT and 13 deflections).

Winner: Eli and the Giants won both of their playoff meetings in Green Bay in 2007 and 2011 but Rodgers finally gets his revenge. This game just might come down to who has the ball last. Packers 33-30.

 

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Brad Thompson is a Contributing Writer for the Chronicle/NCClinked.

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