NFL Wildcard Playoffs Preview: Pittsburgh Steeling Themselves For Victory Over Dolphins

Houston v Oakland | Sunday, January 8, 8.35am (AEDT), NRG Stadium, Houston

A play-off drought will be broken when the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders make a rare appearance in the AFC Wildcard Playoff.

The Raiders are appearing in the NFL post-season for the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl while the Texans are seeking their first play-off triumph since 2012.

The AFC South Champion Texans (9-7, 7-1 home) might be missing premier defensive star JJ Watt, but they still boast one of the NFL’s most dangerous defences offsetting recent quarterback dramas which saw regular signal caller Brock Osweiler relegated to the bench then re-instated after back-up quarterback Tom Savage suffered a concussion. 

The Raiders (12-4, 6-2 away), finished second in the AFC West, fading late after starting quarterback Derek Carr went down with a broken leg.

Back-up quarterback Matt McGloin injured his shoulder in last weekend’s season finale so rookie QB Connor Cook could get the nod.

That’s good news for Jadeveon Clowney (pictured above) and the Texans’ D, who’ll look to exploit the rookie QB’s inexperience should he start on Sunday. 

The Verdict

The fortunes of the Raiders have nose-dived since Carr went down and the superior Texans defence which is ranked first in the NFL in total yards allowed and 11th in points allowed will look to exert their dominance.

Premier Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack (pictured above) will look to square the ledger against the wobbly Osweiler, but the Texans, who have dropped just one of eight at home this season, should do enough to sneak home in this one.

Unibet Odds: Houston 1.54 Oakland 2.55

Tip: Houston

Line tip: Houston -2.5 (1.69)

Seattle v Detroit | Sunday, January 8, 12.15pm (AEDT), CenturyLink Field, Seattle

An intriguing NFC wildcard play-off will see Matthew Stafford’s Detroit Lions (9-7, 3-5 away) take on NFC North Champions Seattle (10-5-1, 7-1 home) and the feared ‘’12th man” at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Taking on the 12th man is a daunting proposition and it’s helped the Seahawks to a 7-1 mark at home and making matters worse for the visiting Lions, they head into Seattle on the back of three straight losses, albeit to play-off calibre teams in Green Bay, Dallas and the NY Giants. 

The Lions are seeking their first playoff victory in almost 26 years and they’re up against a franchise which is a perfect 9-0 at home in the post-season since 2005.

A lot of Detroit’s fortunes rest on the shoulders of quarterback Stafford (pictured below) who has thrown for 4327 yards this season for 24 TD and 10 INT. 

The Verdict

Seattle’s recent form has been erratic, they’ve won three and lost two in their last five and interchanged wins and losses including last weekend’s unconvincing 25-23 win over struggling divisional rivals San Francisco (2-14).

But you can't ignore the impact of the '12th man' and although not at their best, the Seahawks should sneak home here but the Lions with a healthy touchdown start at the line is certainly the value play. 

Unibet Odds: Seattle 1.28 Detroit 3.85

Tip: Seattle

Line tip: Detroit +7.5 (1.96)

Pittsburgh v Miami | Monday, January 9, 5.05am (AEDT), Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

It’s hard to believe but Pittsburgh’s big three of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell (pictured above) and Antonio Brown will take to the field together for the first time in a playoff game.

When healthy and at their best, there’s very few defences who can keep a lid on them and very few offences which can match their offensive production. 

The Miami Dolphins will struggle to match the Steelers' trio on offence with regular quarterback Ryan Tannehill likely to miss the AFC Wildcard Playoff with a knee injury.

Back-up quarterback Matt Moore (pictured below) is poised to get the signal calling duties again in Tannehill’s projected absence.

The Verdict

The Steelers will be looking to avenge their 30-15 defeat to the Dolphins earlier this season, a game where Big Ben was injured but the inspirational Steelers QB is healthy and ready to go this time around.

On the back of Big Ben and the big three, the AFC North Champions should post plenty of points in this one and keep their post-season alive.

Unibet Odds: Pittsburgh 1.21 Miami 4.60

Tip: Pittsburgh

Line tip: Pittsburgh -9.5 (1.85)

Green Bay v NY Giants | Monday, January 9, 8.40am (AEDT), Lambeau Field, Green Bay

Without doubt, the NFC Wildcard Playoff is the game of the weekend pitting two teams on a tear with a combined regular season record of 21-11.

Green Bay (10-6, 6-2 home) took out the NFC North division and have won six straight while the NY Giants, second in the NFC East, have won nine of their past 11.

Aaron Rodgers (pictured above) has the Packers’ offence humming and their high octane offence which has averaged 30.83 PPG during their six-game winning streak, is fourth in overall scoring in the NFL.

Rodgers is enjoying an MVP-type season and has thrown for 4428 yards, 40 TD with just 7 INT. The former Cal star has combined well with wide receiver Jordy Nelson who hauled in 97 receptions for 1257 yards and 14 TD.

Despite losing to the Packers 23-16 in the regular season, the Giants take plenty of confidence into Lambeau knowing in both of their Super Bowl winning seasons in 2008 and 2012, they lost to the Packers in the regular season before turning their tables in their favour in the post-season.

The Verdict

This is the ultimate battle between Green Bay’s offence and the Giants’ defence, with the G-men, in spite of having Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr (pictured above) on offence, poised to rely on their defence which is giving up just 17.8 points per game, second only to the Patriots.

Potential upset here so taking the G-men at the line is the value play, but we’ll roll with Rodgers and the Packers to get the chocolates.

Unibet Odds: Green Bay 1.47 NY Giants 2.75

Tip: Green Bay

Line tip: Detroit +4.5 (1.91)

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