The 2015 NFL regular season concluded last night which means the playoffs are officially under way, beginning with a 4 game slate this weekend.
January 9, 4:35 PM: #5 Kansas City Chiefs @ #4 Houston Texans (+3)
Both Kansas City (1-5) and Houston (1-4) got off to terrible starts and were all but dead in the water this season before turning the corner and becoming two of the hottest teams in the NFL. The Chiefs, who won at Houston to begin the season, survived the loss of Jamaal Charles and rattled off 10 straight wins to close the year. The Texans, who lost star running back Arian Foster, took advantage of a disastrous Colts season to capture the AFC South title and earn a home playoff game. A key factor in this game will be which team can establish the running game in order to keep pass rush off balanced. I think Houston will be able to make more big plays with DeAndre Hopkins and Nate Washington on offense and J.J. Watt on defense, and that will be the difference as Hoyer outduels Alex Smith. Texans win this one 17-13.
January 9, 8:15 PM: #6 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #3 Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5)
These two teams traded road wins in their divisional matchups this season as the Steelers head to Cincinnati on Saturday for the rubber match. Geno Atkins and the strong Bengals defense will try to slow down Roethlisberger and his trio of deep threat receivers. A major factor in this matchup will be the status of quarterback Andy Dalton, who has missed the last few weeks due to injury but could play this weekend. However, even with backup A.J. McCarron, I think Cincy still has a great shot to win this game. The Steelers defense is not great, and they haven’t been playing particularly well recently with a loss to Baltimore and an unimpressive win against Cleveland. I think deep threat A.J. Green and red zone weapon Tyler Eifert will have big games for Cincy and the defense will be able to limit Antonio Brown to some extent. Bengals win the rubber match 34-23.
January 10, 1:05 PM: #6 Seattle Seahawks @ #3 Minnesota Vikings (+5.5)
The third game on the wild card weekend schedule features yet another rematch, as rushing champ Adrian Peterson and the NFC North champion Vikings try to avenge a blowout loss against two-time defending NFC champion Seattle. After a slow start, the Seahawks are arguably the hottest team in the NFC right now and on top of that expect to have running back Marshawn Lynch back from injury. Although the Vikings have been playing well, I think they have a tough draw here as Seattle’s defense is playing in championship form again and Russell Wilson has been on absolute fire. I do think Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will have his team better prepared for the rematch on Sunday, but Seattle ultimately advances to the next round 26-20.
January 10, 4:40 PM: #5 Green Bay Packers @ #4 Washington Redskins (-1)
What if I told you that former backup QB Kirk Cousins would have a better season than defending NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers? Well, after throwing 29 TDs against 11 INT and leading the NFL in completion percentage, Cousins has done just that as Rodgers and the Green Bay offense fell apart in the second half of the season. Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and Eddie Lacy have all been huge disappointments for Green Bay this year. Meanwhile, the Redskins offense is healthy and playing well behind deep threat DeSean Jackson and red zone weapon Jordan Reed to complement a running attack featuring Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, and Chris Thompson. Green Bay has simply not looked good since their 6-0 start and the Redskins are playing great football right now. Washington win 28-17.
That wraps up the 2015 Wild Card Weekend Preview and Predictions. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments down below and let me know what you think!