Dolphins @ Steelers:
6th seed in the AFC this year, Miami seemed unlikely to reach the playoffs this year after going 1-4 in their first 5 games. However, after a huge win in Week 6 against none other than Pittsburgh themselves, they seemed a completely different team. Jay Ajayi has seemed unstoppable throughout this season and has matured into one of the league’s finest running backs throughout the season; it would require a heroic stand by Pittsburgh’s front seven to neutralise him. However, if they manage it could be their ticket to the next round of the playoffs. If Tannehill and Landry can connect and provide Ajayi with support, then we will see the dolphins make some big plays I have no doubt.
Pittsburgh however have weapons of their own to command and will pose problems to the Miami defence who are no strangers to high scoring games. The Steelers boast one of the best wide receivers in this round with Antonio Brown who showed he was not afraid to fight for his team in his incredible touchdown where he breaks the plane to clinch the AFC North. Also with the return of Le’veon Bell, who simply dominated against Baltimore, Pittsburgh’s offensive seems a force to be reckoned with this Sunday. Ben Roesthlisberger will surely come out desperate to regain bragging rights from Kiko Alonso’s defence so we are sure to see a repeat of the fierce, well-fought game we saw earlier in the season.
Raiders @ Texans:
This was a particularly strong season for the Oakland Raiders seeing them emerge 2nd in the AFC West just beaten at the post by the Kansas Chiefs. They end this season on an impressive 12-4 record which is a fair representation of their incredible run of form they have achieved being led by Derek Carr at QB. But can they mount a challenge without their MVP contender to drive them down the field? He was carried from their game vs the Colts mouthing the words “it’s broken” and pointing to his leg and has since been indefinitely confined to the side-lines. A sight that surely brought a tear to every Raiders fans’ eyes. Can they prove to everyone that they are more than just a one-man team? Well do not forget the players who Carr has been throwing too this season as wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree create a splitting headache for almost any defence the league can throw at them. They are sure to make life easier for Carr’s replacement, who has dauntingly large shoes to fill.
The Houston Texans this year enter the playoffs with a seriously lacking record of just 9-7. They topped the AFC South this year and no one can argue with the dominating defence they display as they top the NFL in least yards conceded. Even without their three-time defensive player of the year JJ Watt they have continued to be problematic for lots of teams they have faced holding teams to an average of only 20.5 points per game. They have changed their defensive line up a whole 14 times this season yet their defence has been solid and immovable which is a real testament to their philosophy and depth. But their offence? Weak. To say they have struggled with Osweiler at the helm is an understatement, and with Tom Savage out with concussion it looks very likely he will start at quarter back in this game. DeAndre Hopkins has been worked to the bone this season in attempt to provide for Houston’s offence so make sure not count him out as he is more than capable of producing big plays and placing his team on his back.
Overall whether this game is exciting and makes good viewing comes down to the two quarterbacks. Can Carr’s shoes be filled appropriately by McGloin or Cook? Or can Osweiler make a last-ditch effort to save his and the Texans’ reputation?
By Aidan Lees