Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Who's playing? More like who's not

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2015 file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver. For as many similarities as there are between Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack as the two edge defenders taken in the top five of the 2014 draft, there are the stark differences as well. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File) NY154

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2015 file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver. For as many similarities as there are between Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack as the two edge defenders taken in the top five of the 2014 draft, there are the stark differences as well. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File) NY154

The tale of the season's first two NFL playoff games is all about the headline names who won't be taking their Pro Bowl talents to the line of scrimmage in Houston and Seattle.

Today, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (back surgery) won't be chasing down Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (broken leg), and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (broken leg) won't be blitzing Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, an injured star who will play, albeit with a 1-3 record since dislocating his right middle finger.

Here's a look at today's wild-card playoff games and who we think will win them.

Oakland Raiders (12-4) at Houston Texans (9-7), 4:35 p.m., ESPN and ABC.

The Texans have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. The Raiders counter with the clubhouse leader for the defensive player of the year award, Khalil Mack.

Given the available quarterbacks, this game has all the makings of an offensive slog.

In Derek Carr's absence, Raiders rookie Connor Cook is set to become the first NFL quarterback to make the first start of his career in the postseason. With Houston's late-season starter, Tom Savage, in the concussion protocol, its $72 million quarterback, Brock Osweiler, will come back from the bench — where he was sent in Week 15 along with his 16 interceptions against 14 touchdowns.

The Texans will saturate the pocket with unhealthy amounts of the Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney (16 tackles for a loss). Combine that with the return of 1,073-yard rusher Lamar Miller (ankle), plus a 7-1 home record this season, and Houston should like its chances.

The Raiders defense will struggle to get off the field. Oakland's offense has only 13 first downs in its 15 post-Carr drives — a sure way for the Raiders to wear out their defense from overexposure. They will need their sixth-ranked rushing game to buy time if they are to survive the franchise's first postseason game in 14 years.

Line: Texans by 4. Pick: Texans.

Detroit Lions (9-7) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1), 8:15 p.m., NBC.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has never lost a playoff game at home. But then, he has never been asked to do so without the Pro Bowl services of safety Earl Thomas and running back Marshawn Lynch, who retired after last season.

In Wilson's 10th postseason home game in five years, he will have to compensate for his team's suddenly vulnerable pass defense and 25th-ranked rushing offense if the Seahawks, the NFC West champions, are to advance.

Wilson has the requisite accuracy (64.7 percent completion rate) to pick apart the Lions' secondary; Detroit's opponents completed 72.7 percent of their passes, an NFL season record. As shaky as Seattle's offensive line has been, it won't capitulate to a Detroit pass rush that has 26 sacks, the second fewest in the league.

The Lions have lost three consecutive games since Matthew Stafford dislocated his finger, tumbling from the NFC North leaders to the last wild-card team.

Stafford's ability to throw will determine if the Lions win a playoff game for the first time since 1991, and one on the road for the first time since 1957.

Line: Seahawks by 8. Pick: Seahawks.

Who's playing? More like who's not 01/07/17 [Last modified: Friday, January 6, 2017 11:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs bring back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete

    Bucs

    Just 12 days before the NFL makes its final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn.

    Andrew DePaola is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January.  [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. My AP preseason All-America ballot

    Blogs

    Now that the AP's preseason All-America team has been released, I'll share what I submitted.

  3. 'Hard Knocks' star Bullough facing numbers game

    Bucs

    Bucs undrafted rookie linebacker Riley Bullough is perhaps the surprise star of HBO's "Hard Knocks" and has been productive in two preseason games, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Tuesday that he's caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster.

    Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Riley Bullough is caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Two FSU Seminoles, two Florida Gators honored as AP preseason All-Americans

    Blogs

    Florida State safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden were both named AP first-team, preseason All-Americans on Tuesday.

  5. 'Hard Knocks' effect: Jameis Winston jersey sales surging

    Bucs

    Two weeks into the national publicity of HBO's "Hard Knocks," Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well, as he made the biggest leap in this week's jersey report from Dick's Sporting Goods.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's No. 3 jerseys are selling well. [Getty Images]