After 17 weeks it’s come down to this. Twelve teams, six from each conference begin the final trek as the NFL playoffs begin this weekend. The Wild Card round will feature eight teams that all hope to further validate their season and keep them on a path that ultimately will lead them to Houston for Super Bowl LI.
Locally, the Texans host the Oakland Raiders to kick off the playoff weekend. This game will be a rematch of the week 11 contest played in Mexico City when the Raiders bested the Titans 27-2 0. Based on recent events, that game seems like it occurred years ago.
The Raiders (12-4) lost their league MVP candidate QB Derek Carr, who broke his leg against the Colts 2 weeks ago. As a result the Raiders enter the playoff as a wild card team instead of a division winner and wind up on the road in Houston. If that wasn’t enough Carr’s backup Matt McGloin was dinged in the regular season finale against Denver and his availability for the playoff game is questionable. If McGloin is unavailable they could be forced to go with rookie Connor Cook for the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002.
Raider head coach Jack Del Rio explains his quarterback dilemma.
“We’ll see how healthy McGloin is and make the decision from there,” Del Rio said. “Obviously he has more experience in our system, a little bit longer, but I thought Connor did a nice job, with the opportunities that he had.”
Regardless to who the Raiders start at quarterback, Del Rio says his team will be ready to play.
“Nothing is easy about this league, it’s always tough. We’ll be ready to roll,” Del Rio continued. “We have a good group of men. We’ll shift into playoff mode. That’s what we talked about, you get what you earn. We wanted to win the division but we didn’t earn that. We earned the playoffs. We won 12 games this year and we earned a spot in the playoffs. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Texans also have made changes at the quarterback position, based on production, but injury has forced the team to backtrack. Tom Savage was elevated to the role of starter during week 15 of the season against Jacksonville. Savage pulled out wins over the Jaguars and Bengals, but suffered a concussion in the regular season finale Tennessee. Brock Osweilder stepped in a moved the team well, going 21-of-40 for 253 yards and a touchdown. The Texans would go on to lose 24-17. While the team waits to see if Savage clears the league’s concussion protocol, O’Brien has made the decision to return to Osweilder.
“I thought Brock did some really good things on Sunday with his teammates,” O’Brien said.
Another plus for the Texans beleaguered offense will be the return of starting running back Lamar Miller. In 14 starts, Miller has led the team with 1,073 yards rushing on a career best 268 carries and scored five touchdowns.
“It’ll be good to have him back. He’s been a very productive player for us this year. So we’re looking forward to getting him back.”
In other Wild Card weekend activity, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) hosts the Miami Dolphins (10-6), the Detroit Lions (9-7) travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks (10-5) and Green Bay (10-6) hosts the New York Giants (11-5).