A year ago the NFL Wild Card Weekend was just that with a quartet of road victories, this year it was the opposite, four home wins by an average of 19 points. What comes next though is the best weekend of the year for pro football, and three outstanding matchups in the divisional round.
Wild Card Weekend opened in Houston as the AFC South Division champion Houston Texans defeated the hobbled Oakland Raiders 27-14. The Texans went back to Brock Osweiler at quarterback. He was okay completing 14-of-25, but with no turnovers. The Raiders were stuck with rookie third-stringer Connor Cook, and he was not okay. In fact, he was historically bad—though he certainly cannot be blamed for all of it, 18-of-45 with three picks. The Texans advanced to meet the New England Patriots on Saturday night, a game that would rival Super Bowl III as the greatest upset of all time if the Texans actually won.
The Seattle Seahawks remained perfect in the Pete Carroll era at home in the playoffs in front of the ‘12s’ as they defeated the Detroit Lions 26-6. The Lions extend their record playoff, losing streak to nine as they dropped the final four games of their season. It was a tight game until late. A pair of late scores provided the margin. Russell Wilson was brilliant completing 23-of-30 with two touchdowns, and Thomas Rawls added 161 and a score on the ground. The Seahawks advanced to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday afternoon and they hope to close down the Georgia Dome.
The Pittsburgh Steelers capitalized on critical errors to defeat the Miami Dolphins 30-12. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns, the yardage providing a new Steelers postseason record. Ben Roethlisberger connected twice on short pass/long run touchdowns with Antonio Brown, 50 and 62 yards, in the first quarter. Matt Moore played admirably for the Dolphins at quarterback 29-for-36 through the air, but his two crucial fumbles and bad interception sealed their fate. The Steelers advanced to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead.
The opening weekend closed with a seventh straight win by the Green Bay Packers, 38-13 over the New York Giants. Aaron Rodgers passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns, now with an astounding 22-0 TD/INT ratio during this streak. A Hail Mary at the end of the first half to Randall Cobb put Green Bay up 14-6 and planted the seeds of doubt for New York. Rodgers and Cobb combined for two more scores in the second half as the Packers blew open a tight game with the final 24 points.
Jordy Nelson suffered two broken ribs on a second quarter hit and is now questionable as the Packers go to Dallas to face the Cowboys in Sunday’s late game.
Though all four home teams are favored this weekend, three narrowly, history suggests at least one road team will break through.