What a wild finish the AFC playoff picture turned out to be. There weren’t many pundits who thought the Ravens could even win their division, let alone be the number one seed. Almost next to no one thought the Patriots would fall to the third seed after starting off 8-0. Then there’s the comeback of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who led the the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs and made the offense dangerous. Baltimore and Kansas City will have the week off to heal and watch their conference games. So without any further delay, here are the AFC wildcard weekend picks.
#5 Buffalo Bills v. #4 Houston Texans
Wow what a fun matchup this looks to be. Houston’s offense mirrors well with Buffalo’s defense, with Tre’Davious White v. DeAndre Hopkins as one of, if the not the featured highlight. A week off for DeShaun Watson will pay off, and the defense gets an added boost with J.J. Watt coming back from the injury report.
Say whatever you want about both these teams (especially the Bills not appearing exciting on offense), the best part of this game will be the effort and determination of both teams. Sean McDermott is a great candidate for Coach of the Year, leading the Bills to ten wins in a season for the first time this century. Josh Allen has progressed behind his offensive line, looking more like the shot caller the Bills wanted him to be when they drafted him.
Both teams will have to face a strong running game from the other, though when it comes down to it, it’s who can throw down field and make the plays on the run with more creativity. This leans more towards DeShaun Watson as he proves to exceed, if not become a much different and dangerous player. If Watson takes control of this game early, Buffalo may be in trouble.
JD’s pick: Houston wins 27-23
#6 Tennessee Titans v. #3 New England Patriots.
Well, that was quite a surprise from New England for Week 17. Not only did they lose to a division rival that had nothing to play for, they lost out on a bye week they really needed. New England has to not just play one home game, but probably two road games if they win this saturday, making things harder on an offense that’s looked anemic for at least the last eight weeks. The Patriots have yet to take full advantage of Mohamed Sanu’s receiving skills. This could be the game he breaks out since Tennessee’s pass defense is ranked 24th in the league.
Tennessee on the other hand has turned the heat up on offense, and it hasn’t just been with Ryan Tannehill. Mike Vrabel’s offensive staff has finally figured out how to use rookie receiver A.J. Brown and to plug in Derrick Henry as the starting runningback. The results couldn’t have been better, as the Titans are number three in the league running the ball. The defense has been hit or miss this season, though there’s been consistency against the run (the defense ranks 12th in the league).
There are other non-statistical factors that give the Titans the edge. Mike Vrabel comes directly from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and when the Titans played the Patriots in 2018 (with Marcus Mariota as the starting QB no less), they thumped them. Vrabel was able to take away multiple key pieces for Brady on a consistent basis and knock him around. While the result could be different, New England’s offensive line has struggled a good part of the season, which should give the Titan pass rush optimism.
JD’s Upset Pick of the Week: Tennessee wins 23-21
JD’s overall record the regular season: 56-50