Like most of the adult world, I was far too hungover to fully grasp what was happening in NFL action the past weekend. Thankfully, while I was pumping Gatorade into my system with an IV drip, on the field there were no real surprises. Aaron Rodgers kept kicking ass, the Raiders choked without Derek Carr, and Tony Romo needed only four pass attempts to shift his offseason hype-train in to full runaway mode.
But when all was said and done on the field in Week 17, football fans ended up with an opening slate of playoff games that could make you sicker than a night of celebrating the switch of the calendar. It certainly looks like this year, “Wild Card Weekend” is a misnomer.
The closest spread of the weekend will undoubtedly be the worst game; possibly in the history of the NFL playoffs. The Oakland Raiders will visit the Houston Texans in a battle of quarterbacks that no one expected to start a playoff game, even as recently as last week.
With such a dreadful start to the weekend, it would be impossible for things not to get better as the weekend wears on, but game-to-game, the increases should be marginal. Detroit and Seattle are two of the coldest teams rolling into the playoffs, and while the score could be close – much like their last meeting – the on-field play should leave much to be desired.
Then, the Steelers are expected to run over the Dolphins at home. However, Pittsburgh’s offense hasn’t been the electric unit we’ve expected this season, so there is a possibility this game could still be tight at halftime.
If the quality of play is truly improving as the weekend goes on, then Sunday afternoon should finally get us in the realm of playoff-caliber football. It’s the New York Giants and their smoking hot defense against the Green Bay Packers and their unstoppable offense. Rodgers has thrown for 18 touchdowns and no interceptions over the last seven weeks, while the Giants finished second in the league in scoring defense. But I’m still cautious about getting my hopes up for this one, because an appearance from “Bad Eli” can mean this game will be over fast.
As bad as this slate of games looks, I’ll obviously be spending my entire weekend in front of the TV anyways. So here’s a few stats to get you prepared (excited?) for what will most likely be a “Mild” Card Weekend.
2017 Wild Card Weekend Facts
- Three games this weekend will be rematches from the regular season, which bodes well for the Packers, Dolphins and Raiders. The winner or the season’s prior installment has a 14-7 record on Wild Card weekend over the last decade.
- Usually a few teams have had to scratch and claw down the stretch to squeak in to the dance, but most of this year’s crop backed into the playoffs. The Packers and Steelers are the only teams entering Wild Card Weekend on win streaks of three or more games (the lowest number of teams on such a run since 2011).
- Of the eight teams playing this weekend, FiveThirtyEight only forecasts three have a greater than three percent chance of winning the Super Bowl: Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
- Three teams playing this weekend haven’t won a playoff game in over 14 seasons, including the Lions, who are looking for their first postseason win in over 25 years.
- The duel in Houston is slated to be a special kind of terrible. Connor Cook will make his first career start for the once Super Bowl hopeful Raiders, against the shunned savior of the Texans, Brock Osweiler. The combined 21 regular season starts between the quarterbacks is the lowest in a playoff game since fellow rookies T.J. Yates and Andy Dalton played an unremarkable Wild Card tilt back in 2011.
- Matt Moore and Connor Cook will join the ranks of A.J. McCarron, Ryan Lindley, Joe Webb, Todd Collins, and Kelly Holcomb as quarterbacks to start a Wild Card playoff game this millennium after making three or fewer starts that season. Unsurprisingly, these inexperienced signal callers didn’t fare well, going 0-5 with a combined 54.5 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and nine turnovers.
- Both Houston and Detroit finished as one of the five worst DVOA rated teams to make the playoffs, with the Texans leading the charge at a paltry -21.4 percent and the Lions at -17.4.
- As if Detroit’s chances weren’t already slim, the Seahawks haven’t lost a playoff game at CenturyLink Field since 2004, winning nine-straight since then.
- Fear your team’s lack of a run game will be your downfall? It doesn’t seem to matter much this playoff round. Jonathan Stewart is the only rusher to top 100 yards on the ground on Wild Card Weekend in the last three years.
- Of all the great playoff quarterbacks taking the field this weekend – Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson – it’s Eli Manning who has the best postseason win percentage with an 8-3 record. While he hasn’t made a playoff start since 2011, he won’t be scared of going into a hostile Lambeau Field either: Manning is the only visiting quarterback to ever win multiple playoff games in Green Bay.
- Every home team is favored by more than three points, which seems fair. After road teams won all four Wild Card games last season, we’re due for an over-correction.