NFL Wild Card Weekend
Who here likes Dave & Buster’s?
I can’t say that I’m really a fan, but I’ve been dragged there on a number of occasions for various going-away parties, box socials, birthday gatherings and the like. I can sip on a drink and keep my Ms. Pac-Man (shutup, I’m old) skills sharp.
However, I always get annoyed when I’m there during the early evening hours because children are running around everywhere. Call me a jerk, but shouldn’t they be hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese’s? And I know why they’re there. It’s because their raging alcoholic mothers and fathers figure they can feed their addiction and let their rugrats get some entertainment all in one place.
It’s just good parenting.
But then, once the clock strikes 10 p.m., things get better because D&B expels all the children from the facility and lets the grownups enjoy some drunken peace and quiet.
That’s exactly how I feel about the start of the NFL playoffs. All the kiddies and riff-raff have been sent home and the adults can finally settle things on the field without Blake Bortles giving teams free wins.
It’s the best time of the year, even though I’m getting depressed because I can see the end of the season at the end of the tunnel.
However, all playoff games aren’t equal and I’m here to preview what’s coming on Wild Card Weekend and let you know if each game is worth your time.
So, let’s gets started.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
RAIDERS AT TEXANS, 4:35 p.m. ET
I’ve made my negative feelings for the Texans well known in this space over the season. Simply put: I can’t stand them. I’ve never seen a team get the least out of considerable talent since I started watching the game as a child. Not only were they rewarded with a playoff spot courtesy of playing in the Olive Garden of NFL divisions, they even get to host a playoff game.
And only Houston could get their opening-day quarterback back in the lineup for the playoffs and have that be a step back. But here we are. Brock Osweiler will be back under center and you would think that would be enough to guarantee their quiet exit from the postseason, but nooooooo.
That’s because the Raiders, the poor, poor, Raiders, got hosed like no other team in recent memory. Things were going great, with entertaining wins coming every week and it seemed the Silver and Black had a strong grip on their first playoff appearance since 2002 and on one of the top two seeds in the AFC.
Then, with one hit around Derek Carr’s legs from Trent Cole, half of that ended. The Raiders are in the postseason, but lost the division crown and their first-round bye. And instead of an MVP candidate taking snaps, they’ve got rookie Connor Cook getting the start on Saturday.
This is just depressing. I feel your pain, Raider Nation. I. Feel. Your. Pain.
Should I watch?: Only for the novelty of this being the first playoff game. I’ll definitely watch every second of it. But for the casual fan, you can skip it. This will be 60 minutes of batted-down passes and offenses getting 4 yards and 3rd-and-7. The announcers will struggle to make this seem interesting to the audience, but they’ll fail.
Who will win: The Texans, dammit. Just because they’re at home.
LIONS AT SEAHAWKS, 8:15 p.m. ET
Let’s see here. On one side, we’ve got the Lions, a team that’s lost three straight and only beat one team that finished with a winning record this season. Super Bowl teams usually reach the postseason playing their worst football … said nobody ever.
What’s more, quarterback Matthew Stafford is nursing a finger injury on his throwing hand. Lovely, that should be just great for a team that’s counting on their QBs to make plays.
Meanwhile, Seattle is a team that defies description. Are they the team that took down the presumptive Lombardi Trophy favorite Patriots at home? Or are they the goofs who scored just 5 points in a loss to Tampa? Who the hell can tell at this point?
“The playoffs are something we’re used to around here now,” defensive end Michael Bennett told the Associated Press.
If they don’t fix things, they’re going to get used to early playoff exits, despite their unbeaten playoff record at home.
Should I watch?: Yes, you should. This game will get ugly at times. Running games won’t work well and Russell Wilson will spend most of the day running for his life. But it’s Seattle and games up there can suddenly turn exciting. And if Seattle is ever going to lose a home playoff game, this is the year it could happen.
Who will win: Despite what I just said, the Seahawks will still win. You don’t beat Seattle at the Clink in January.
DOLPHINS AT STEELERS, 1:05 p.m. ET
I’ll say it: I agree with Terry Bradshaw. Mike Tomlin isn’t a great coach. Now, let me be clear about this. I’m not saying he stinks. I’m not saying he’s average. I’m saying he’s not great.
He’s good. And there’s nothing wrong with being good. You’re just not great. Isn’t that a fair criticism of a man who has directed the Steelers to just one playoff win in the past five seasons?
Anyway, that being said, Pittsburgh is right where it wants to be, having run off seven wins in a row.
“This game is about when you can get hot, when you can play your best football,” Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said to the Associated Press. “It’s important to play your best football late in the season when it matters the most.”
My response to that is …. DOI!!! Sorry, I jest.
The Steelers got worked when they paid a visit to Miami earlier this season with running back Jay Ajayi running for 204 yards. Stopping Ajayi will be paramount on Sunday.
Should I watch?: My short answer is yes. However, on paper, one would think this won’t be that competitive. After all, the Steelers have Roethlisberger making the 18th playoff start of his career, while the Dolphins’ Matt Moore will be making his first start in the postseason. But Moore is an experienced veteran and most likely won’t be THAT fazed by the moment. My doubt about this game is the doubt that plagues every non-Pittsburgh fan. The Steelers are extra-annoying to watch during home games. The fans, that dumb Styx song, the outraged screaming over every penalty against Pittsburgh, the whole nine yards.
Who will win: The Steelers. It’ll be somewhat close, but they’ve got it.
GIANTS AT PACKERS, 4:40 p.m. ET
Do the Giants have the Packers’ number in the playoffs? Maybe. Big Blue owns postseason wins at Lambeau Field in 2007 and 2011 after losing to them in the regular season in those years.
Here’s an interesting stat: Eli Manning has as many playoff wins at Lambeau as Aaron Rodgers. Ouch.
But forget about all that. I’m serious. Every season is different and every roster is different. I don’t buy that something that happened in 2011 has any barring on what happens on Sunday.
The Packers’ offense is red-hot as they finished fourth in the league in scoring and have ripped off four straight games of 30-plus points. They’re exactly in that sweet spot that every team aspires to heading into the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Giants finished 11-5, have a really solid defense, and yet I can’t sit here and say they’re a great team. I don’t think anybody can.
Should I watch?: Of course. It’s the last game of the weekend and it’s a good way to burn some time before the Golden Globes, if you’re into that sort of thing.
While will win: Hmmmm. I’m sticking with my theme that the past doesn’t matter. The Packers will take this one.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.