There’s a lot going on in Sunday’s games, but even I’ll admit that the big story today is the QB matchups. In the first game, we get a showdown between two of the game’s brightest young stars, who, in their ability, poise, and leadership, remind me a lot of the veteran QBs, both Superb Owl winners, who will face off in the second game.
There are questions surrounding some of the teams in action today as to who will be available. Injuries will likely play a huge part in determining the victors in these contests. As a team, you can only do what you can with the players you have, and any player playing hurt can only give as much as their body will allow.
Here’s what I expect to happen:
Houston at KC
The lead-up to this game pretty much encapsulates a lot of what I despise about the sycophantic, boot-licking, access-driven media that covers the league. To have them tell it, Houston, fresh off their triumph last week, head to Kansas City to match their explosive offence against KC’s much-improved defence.
Houston was dominated by Buffalo in the first half of last week’s Wild Card game. Then, inexplicably, Buffalo went conservative in the second half, and they blew it. All credit to Houston for taking advantage, but that’s what happened. And as for KC’s suddenly-great defence? I keep hearing and reading about how great they played in the last five-or-six games, but the ones doing the praising keep quoting stats, but conveniently neglect to mention that those numbers are severely skewed by the three points each KC gave up to Denver and Chicago, pretty much the bottom of the offensive barrel.
That’s not to say that this won’t be an entertaining game. It should be. How much so depends on who’s healthy.
Houston beat KC in Week 6 mostly by running the ball effectively with Carlos Hyde and keeping KC’s offence off the field. Since then, Duke Johnson has emerged as an effective change-of-pace back, and pass-catcher. On paper, Houston is deep at the receiving positions. With the brilliant Deshaun Watson running the show, Houston is more than capable of scoring loads of points. KC’s offence has talent at some positions, but overall isn’t upper-echelon like Buffalo, and are down a starting S and possibly a DT.
Of course, KC is no slouch on offence either. They have a decent running attack, lots of speed at wideout, and Travis Kelce, with the great Patrick Mahomes behind Center. Houston’s defence isn’t great, so KC should be able to score lots of points in this one as well. Houston welcomed JJ Watt back to action last week, and he made his presence felt, seemingly getting stronger as the contest wore on. Houston will need Watt to be in top form, as the more time Mahomes has, the more damage he can do getting the ball deep to his fast WRs.
So, who do I like? That’s where the “who’s playing” part comes in. KC has a couple of injuries on defence, but are mostly healthy and they’re rested from their bye. Travis Kelce is hurt, and he’s a huge part of their offence, but he’s not everything. Houston has a very banged-up secondary, and their defence played a tough game last week. On offence, Kenny Stills and the perpetually-injured Will Fuller are hobbled, along with Houston’s top two TEs. When you add it all up, it’s too much to ask Houston’s walking wounded to go into KC and win again.
Seattle at Green Bay
This isn’t a complicated pick for me.
Seattle has Russell Wilson and a couple of really good WRs on offence. They also have an offensive line that has three starters hurt, and though none has been ruled Out yet, even if they do play, they’ll be at less than 100%. Seattle’s defence isn’t terrible, but it’s middling at best.
Green Bay is rested and relatively healthy. Their defence is the best it’s been in years. Their pass rush is good. On offence, they have some good receivers, plus Davante Adams, who has game-changing ability. Their running game is better than it’s been in a while, led by Aaron Jones. And they have Aaron Rodgers, who still has the arm, is still mobile, and is hungry for success after years of futility under phoning-it-in Mike McCarthy (Congratulations, Dallas, BTW).
I would never write off any team QBed by Russell Wilson. Having said that, this is Green Bay’s game to win or lose.
Winner: Green Bay