AFC Wild Card matchups

Looking at the key players, stats and matchups in the two AFC Wild Card games this weekend.

[ NFC WILD CARD MATCHUPS ]

SATURDAY

OAKLAND RAIDERS (12-4) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7)

The Oakland Raiders know that it’s possible for a wild-card entrant to win the Super Bowl. They did that in 1980, but clearly this is a different time. Still, from 2010-12, wild card teams won the Super Bowl.

The Raiders will be facing a tall task, however, without QB Derek Carr available and going with former third-string quarterback and rookie Connor Cook. Oh, and the Raiders will be going against a Houston Texans defense that finished No. 1 overall in the NFL and No. 2 against the pass.

Expect the Raiders to try to run the ball with their sixth-ranked ground attack, produced behind the pads of Latavius Murray (788 yards, 4.0 average and 12 touchdowns), Jalen Richard (491 yards, 5.9 average and a TD) and DeAndre Washington (467 yards, 5.4 average, two TDs).

The problem is that the Raiders had an explosive passing game with Carr, producing four oft-used receivers that averaged more than 10 yards per catch. Despite beating the Texans 27-20 in Week 11 in Mexico, that came with Carr and now it’s Cook, who will become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to be making his first career start in the preseason.

That puts the onus on Khalil Mack and the Raiders defense to keep the scoring low. That is possible because the Texans ranked 29th in overall offense and 29th in the passing game. QB Brock Osweiler threw for less than 3,000 yards and had one more interception (16) than touchdown passes (15). His role is similar to last year with the Broncos, when he helped earn a Super Bowl ring by relying heavily on a championship defense.

He will likely turn to versatile back Lamar Miller, who had 1,073 yards rushing and 189 receiving, big receiver DeAndre Hopkins (78 catches, 954 yards) and emerging threat C.J. Fiedorowicz at tight end (54 catches, 449 yards).

Mostly, however, it will be on the Texans defense that managed the top billing in the league despite losing one of the top defensive players in J.J. Watt. Jadeveon Clowney has stepped up with his first Pro Bowl season and Whitney Mercilus, who has three sacks in his last four games and had three sacks in last year’s wild card game. Benardrick McKinney, who was the only player in the NFL with 125 tackles and five sacks, will be charged with slowing down Oakland’s running attack.

The first game of the postseason could be a slugfest, likely reliant on defense, rushing attacks and ball security.

The future: If the Texans win, they will travel to Kansas City if the Steelers lose and to New England if the Steelers win. If the Raiders win, they will travel to Kansas City if the Dolphins win and to New England if the Dolphins lose.

  RAIDERS TEXANS
LEADER   6-4
STREAKS 3 of past 4  
COACHES VS. OPP. Jack Del Rio: 9-10 Bill O’Brien: 1-1
COACHES PLAYOFF RECORD Jack Del Rio: 1-2 Bill O’Brien: 0-1
VS. COMMON OPP. Oak: 6-3 (KC 0-2; Ten 1-0; Ind 1-0; Den 1-1; Jax 1-0; SD 2-0)
Hou: 6-3 (KC 1-0; Ten 1-1; Ind 2-0; Den 0-1; Jax 2-0; SD 0-1)
PLAYOFF RECORD 25-18 2-3
LAST WEEK L 24-6 at Denver L 24-17 at Tennessee
LAST GAME 11/21/16: Texans 20 at Raiders 27 (Mexico City). Oakland QB Derek Carr passes for 295 yards & 3 TDs. Raiders WR Amari Cooper has GW TD with 4:43 remaining.
LAST GAME AT SITE 11/17/13: Raiders 28, Texans 23. Oakland QB Matt McGloin passes for 197 yards & 3 TDs. Raiders RB Rashad Jennings rushes for 150 yards & TD.
LAST PLAYOFF ---
REFEREE Ronald Torbert
BROADCAST ESPN/ABC (4:35 PM ET): TBD. SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 81 (Oak), 82 (Hou). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (Oak), 82 (Hou). 
??STAT LEADERS
PASSING Matt McGloin: 8-15-50-0-0-60.4 OR Brock Osweiler: 301-510-2957-15-16-72.2
Connor Cook (R): 14-21-150-1-1-83.4
RUSHING Latavius Murray: 195-788-4.0-12 Lamar Miller: 268-1073-4.0-5
RECEIVING Michael Crabtree: 89-1003-11.3-8 DeAndre Hopkins: 78-954-12.2-4
OFFENSE 373.3 314.7
TAKE/GIVE +16 (T1L) -7
DEFENSE 375.1 301.3 (1L)
SACKS Khalil Mack: 11 Whitney Mercilus: 7.5
INTs Reggie Nelson: 5 Quintin Demps: 6 (T2L)
PR Jalen Richard (R): 9.0 Tyler Ervin (R): 9.7
KR Jalen Richard (R): 23.6 Tyler Ervin (R): 18.8
PUNTING Marquette King: 48.6 (2L) Shane Lechler: 47.5
KICKING Sebastian Janikowski: 124 (37/39 PAT; 29/35 FG) Nick Novak: 127 (22/25 PAT; 35/41 FG)

TEAMS MEET for 1st time in postseason. Hou. leads all-time series 6-4. Oak. defeated Hou. 27-20 in Week 11 in game played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

RAIDERS

Making 1st playoff appearance since 2002 season. Aim for 1st playoff win since 1/19/03 (vs. Ten. in AFC Championship). Won 12 games for 1st time since 2000…Club had 7 players selected to 2017 Pro Bowl: QB DEREK CARR (2nd), WR AMARI COOPER (2nd), C RODNEY HUDSON (1st), DE KHALIL MACK (2nd), S REGGIE NELSON (2nd), G KELECHI OSEMELE (1st), T DONALD PENN (2nd)…QB MATT MC GLOIN passed for 3 TDs & 105.9 rating in only start vs. Hou. (11/17/13). Has 5 pass TDs vs. 3 INTs in 5 career road starts. Rookie QB CONNOR COOK passed for 150 yards & TD in NFL debut in Week 17…RB LATAVIUS MURRAY ranked 5th in NFL with 12 rush TDs, most by Raider since 1990. Had 92 scrimmage yards (33 rush, 59 rec.) in last meeting. Rookie RB JALEN RICHARD had rec. TD in last meeting. Ranked 5th among NFL rookies with 491 rush yards…WR Cooper is 1 of 3 players in NFL history with 70+ receptions, 1,000 rec. yards & 5 TD catches in each of 1st 2 seasons. Had rec. TD in last meeting. Ranked 3rd in AFC with 1,153 rec. yards, most by Raider since JERRY RICE (1,211) in 2002. In 8 career postseason games, WR MICHAEL CRABTREE has 516 rec. yards & 4 rec. TDs. Led team with career-high 89 catches & tied for 4th in AFC with 8 rec. TDs in 2016…DE Mack has 10 sacks, 11 TFL, 5 FFs, 3 FRs & INT-TD in past 11. Is 1st Raider with 10+ sacks in back-to-back seasons since 2005-06 (DERRICK BURGESS). Leads NFL with 26 sacks since 2015. S Nelson had sack in last postseason game (1/9/16 WC with Cin.). Is active leader with 35 INTs since 2007. LB MALCOLM SMITH was named Super Bowl XLVIII MVP with Sea. after recording 69-yard INT-TD & FR vs. Den. LB BRUCE IRVIN has 1.5 sacks in past 3 postseason games (with Sea.). Smith & Irvin have each appeared in 2 of past 3 Super Bowls (XLVIII, XLIX). 

TEXANS

Won consecutive AFC South titles for 2nd time in franchise history (2011-12). Are 2-1 at home in postseason… QB BROCK OSWEILER earned SB ring with Den. last season. Is 6-1 as starter at home in 2016. Completed 35 of 51 passes (68.6 pct.) for 308 yards in only career start vs. Oak. (12/13/15 with Den.)…RB LAMAR MILLER has 4 rush TDs in his past 3 vs. Oak. Ranked 6th in AFC with 1,073 rush yards. Has 7th most rush yards in single season in franchise history. RB ALFRED BLUE rushed for 99 yards in last playoff game (1/9/16 WC vs. KC)…WR DE ANDRE HOPKINS is 1 of 9 in NFL history with 50+ catches & 800+ rec. yards in each of 1st 4 seasons. Has most receptions (317) by player in 1st 4 career seasons in franchise history. Led team with 78 catches & 954 rec. yards. TE C.J. FIEDOROWICZ had 54 catches in 2016, tied for 4th most by TE in Texans’ history. WR-PR WILL FULLER ranked 3rd among NFL rookies with 635 rec. yards. Was 1 of 2 NFL rookies with rec. TD (2) & PR-TD (1) this season…DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY was named to 1st career Pro Bowl. Ranked 2nd among AFC DEs with 16 TFL. Had career-high 6 sacks. Has 4 TFL, 3 sacks & FF in his past 3. LB BRIAN CUSHING is franchise leader with 648 tackles. Had 13 tackles & INT in last postseason game (1/9/16 WC). S QUINTIN DEMPS led team & tied for 2nd in NFL with 6 INTs. Aims for 5th in row with INT. LB BENARDRICK MC KINNEY was only NFL player with 125+ tackles (129) & 5+ sacks (5) in 2016. LB WHITNEY MERCILUS had franchise postseason record 3 sacks in last postseason game (1/9/16 WC). Has 3 sacks in past 4. Led team with 7.5 sacks. CB A.J. BOUYE led team with 16 PD.

SUNDAY

MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-6) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-5)

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins have battled to a 13-13 series deadlock, but another injury to a quarterback could once again tilt the outcome in this game.

The Dolphins are expected to be without QB Ryan Tannehill, putting backup Matt Moore in the spotlight. Moore is a quality backup, having thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions in his last three games for an impressive 105.6 rating, but it also helps that he has a 1,000-yard running back (Jay Ajayi) and 1,000-yard receiver (Jarvis Landry) to help take the pressure off.

Ajayi has three games this year with more than 200 yards, one three of players in NFL history to do that in a single season, and has a healthy 4.9-yard average. One of those 200-yard games came the last time the Dolphins met the Steelers, when he went for 204 and two TDs. He also has 39 carries of 10 or more yards this year, third-most in the NFL.

Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. both have 288 catches in their first three seasons, the most in NFL history over that span, and they are also the only players in the NFL with 80 or more catches in each of their first three seasons.

The Steelers have their own set of playmakers. The trio of QB Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown is arguably the best trio of quarterback, running back and receiver in the NFL these days.

Roethlisberger has nearly 4,000 yards passing, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, a 95.4 passer rating and has only been sacked 17 times. He’s also the 10th quarterback in NFL history with 300 touchdown passes in a career (301).

Bell has had an amazing season as a dual-threat workhorse. He has 1,268 yards rushing and a 4.9-yard average and added 616 yards receiving. His average of 157 scrimmage yards (rushing and receiving) per game led the NFL and is third-highest in NFL history.

Brown finished the season with 1,284 yards receiving, a 12.1-yard average and 12 touchdowns. His 106 catches and 12 touchdowns both are second in the league, and his 481 catches in the past four seasons are the most of any player in a four-year span in NFL history.

While Saturday’s AFC matchup could be a defensive struggle, the Steelers and Dolphins on Sunday could be a festival of points and big plays.

The future: If the Dolphins win, they will travel to New England. If the Steelers win, they will travel to Kansas City.

  DOLPHINS STEELERS
LEADER Series tied: 13-13  
STREAKS Past 2  
COACHES VS. OPP. Adam Gase: 1-0 Mike Tomlin: 3-2
COACHES PLAYOFF RECORD Adam Gase: 0-0 Mike Tomlin: 6-5
VS. COMMON OPP. Mia: 5-4 (Cin 0-1; NYJ 2-0; NE 0-2; Bal 0-1; Cle 1-0; Buf 2-0)
Pit: 7-2 (Cin 2-0; NYJ 1-0; NE 0-1; Bal 1-1; Cle 2-0; Buf 1-0)
PLAYOFF RECORD 20-20 34-23
LAST WEEK L 35-14 vs. New England W 27-24 (OT) vs. Cleveland
LAST GAME 10/16/16: Steelers 15 at Dolphins 30. Miami RB Jay Ajayi rushes for 204 yards & 2 TDs. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill passes for 252 yards.
LAST GAME AT SITE 12/8/13: Dolphins 34, Steelers 28. Miami QB Ryan Tannehill passes for 200 yards & 3 TDs. Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas rushes for 105 yards & TD.
LAST PLAYOFF 1/6/85: Steelers 28 at Dolphins 45. Miami QB Dan Marino passes for 421 yards & 4 TDs for 135.4 rating. Dolphins WR Mark Duper has 5 catches for 148 yards & 2 TDs.
REFEREE Craig Wrolstad
BROADCAST CBS (1:05 PM ET): TBD. SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 81 (Mia), 82 (Pit). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (Mia), 82 (Pit).
STAT LEADERS
PASSING Matt Moore: 55-87-721-8-3-105.6 OR Ben Roethlisberger: 328-509-3819-29-13-95.4
Ryan Tannehill: 261-389-2995-19-12-93.5
RUSHING Jay Ajayi: 260-1272-4.9-8 Le’Veon Bell: 261-1268-4.9-7
RECEIVING Jarvis Landry: 94-1136-12.1-4 Antonio Brown: 106 (2L)-1284-12.1-12 (T2L)
OFFENSE 332.8 372.6
TAKE/GIVE 2 5
DEFENSE 382.6 342.6
SACKS Cameron Wake: 11.5 James Harrison: 5
INTs Tony Lippett: 4 Artie Burns (R), Ryan Shazier: 3
PR Jakeem Grant (R): 8.3 Antonio Brown: 9.3
KR Jakeem Grant (R): 23.1 Fitzgerald Toussaint: 21.4
PUNTING Matt Darr: 44.3 Jordan Berry: 45.6
KICKING Andrew Franks: 89 (41/42 PAT; 16/21 FG) Chris Boswell: 99 (36/36 PAT; 21/25 FG)

TEAMS MEET for 4th time in postseason with Mia. leading series 2-1. Dolphins defeated Steelers 45-28 in AFC Championship on 1/6/85. Pit. leads all-time regular-season series 12-11. Mia. won Week 6 meeting 30-15.

DOLPHINS

Have 20-20 (.500) all-time postseason record. 1st postseason appearance since 2008 season…Club had 2 players selected to 2017 Pro Bowl: DT NDAMUKONG SUH (5th) & DE CAMERON WAKE (5th)…QB RYAN TANNEHILL aims for 3rd consecutive game vs. Pit. with 95+ rating. QB MATT MOORE passed for 8 TDs vs. 3 INTs for 106.5 rating in past 3 starts. Has 469 pass yards (234.5 per game) with 6 TDs in 2 road starts in 2016…RB JAY AJAYI is 1 of 4 players in NFL history with 3 games of 200+ rush yards in single season, joining EARL CAMPBELL (4 in 1980), O.J. SIMPSON (3 in 1973) & TIKI BARBER (3 in 2005). Rushed for 204 yards & 2 TDs in last meeting, 3rd most rush yards by any player vs. Pit. since 1960. Ranked 4th in NFL with 1,272 rush yards. Had 39 rushes of 10+ yards, 3rd most in NFL. RB KENYAN DRAKE is 1st rookie in team history with 2+ rush TDs (2) & KR-TD…WR JARVIS LANDRY led team with 94 catches & 1,136 rec. yards. Since entering league in 2014, has 288 catches, tied for most by player in 1st 3 seasons in NFL history (ODELL BECKHAM JR.). Joins Beckham as 1 of 2 players in NFL history with 80+ catches in each of 1st 3 seasons. Is 6th player in team history with consecutive 1,000-yard rec. seasons. WR KENNY STILLS led team with career-high 9 TD catches. Aims for 5th in row with rec. TD. Had 8 TD catches of 20+ yards, tied for most in NFL…DE Wake has 10.5 sacks, 4 FFs & INT in past 11. Tied for 3rd in NFL with 5 FFs & ranked 3rd in AFC with 11.5 sacks. Has 2 sacks & FF in past 3 vs. Pit. In 2 career postseason games with Det., DT Suh has 2.5 sacks & 2 TFL. Since 2010, ranks 2nd among NFL DTs with 94 TFL & 3rd with 47 sacks. LB KIKO ALONSO led team with 115 tackles. CB BYRON MAXWELL started for Sea. in Super Bowls XLVIII & XLIX. In past 4 postseason games, has 15 tackles, INT & FF. Was only NFL player with 4+ FFs (4) & 2+ INTs (2) in 2016. 

STEELERS

Have 34-23 all-time postseason record, tied with Dallas (34) for most total playoff wins all-time. Rank 5th all-time in postseason win pct. (.596). Have won 7 division titles since 2002, 5th most in NFL…Club had 5 players selected to 2017 Pro Bowl: RB LE’VEON BELL (2nd), WR ANTONIO BROWN (5th), G DAVID DE CASTRO (2nd), C MAURKICE POUNCEY (5th) & QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER (5th)…QB Roethlisberger is 10th QB in NFL history with 300+ pass TDs (301). Ranked 6th in NFL with 29 pass TDs. Has 11-6 (.647) career postseason record & is tied for 7th in postseason winning pct. by starting QB (min. 15 starts). Is 1 of 12 QBs in NFL history with multiple Super Bowl wins…RB Bell has rushed for 835 yards (139.2 per game) & 6 TDs in his past 6. Led NFL with 157.0 scrimmage yards per game avg., 3rd highest in NFL history. Ranked 3rd in NFL with 1,884 scrimmage yards (1,268 rush, 616 rec.) & 5th in rush yards (1,268). RB DE ANGELO WILLIAMS had rush TD & rec. TD last week...WR Brown ranked 2nd in NFL with 106 catches & tied for 2nd with 12 TD catches. His 481 receptions in past 4 seasons are most of any 4-year span in NFL history. Is 1 of 2 in NFL history (MARVIN HARRISON) with 4 consecutive 100-catch seasons. Has 5 career seasons with 1,000+ rec. yards, 2nd most in team history. Aims for 3rd consecutive postseason game with 100+ rec. yards…LB JAMES HARRISON is franchise leader with 81.5 sacks. Aims for 3rd consecutive postseason game with sack. Has 9 TFL & 6 sacks in past 8 postseason games. LB LAWRENCE TIMMONS has 4 career seasons with 100+ tackles, 2+ sacks & 2+ INTs, most in franchise history. LB RYAN SHAZIER set career-highs with 3 INTs & 3 FFs. Was only NFL player with 3+ sacks (3.5), 3+ INTs (3) & 3+ FFs (3) in 2016. CB ARTIE BURNS tied for 1st among NFL rookies with 3 INTs. 

 


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