It’s Wild Card weekend, the best weekend in the NFL. All four games are intriguing and all four could go either way. Here’s our three key preview for all four games.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Houston Texans (9-7)
Three Keys for the Chiefs
1. Pass Pro Will Be the Difference: Getting JJ Watt blocked will be priority number one. The Chiefs will use a variety of protections and get the backs and tight ends involved in an effort to account for Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
2. Pound Em! The Chiefs need to run the football and give Houston a heavy dose of Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Pounding the ball will slow the Texans pass rush down and it’ll enable the Chiefs to be more balanced.
3. Alex Smith Must Play Well: Alex Smith takes care of the ball better than any other quarterback in these playoffs. He has never thrown an interception in three playoff games. He needs to protect the football and make some big plays in the passing game.
Three Keys for the Texans
1. Get Consistent Pressure on Smith: The Texans need to get consistent pressure on Alex Smith and get the Chiefs into long down situations. Keep Smith in the pocket and force him to hold the ball.
2. Run at Hali and Houston: You want to slow down a great pass rusher? Run at him. That’s what the Texans need to do. They need to run at Tamba Hali and Justin Houston and cool them off. Houston needs to stay in short yardage and medium down situations.
3. Move DeAndre Hopkins Around: Look for the Texans to move DeAndre Hopkins around and try to generate match ups away from Marcus Peters. Peters has the length to match up with Hopkins and he can run with him. The Texans have to get Hopkins open and down the field. Get him away from Peters.
Prediction: Chiefs 24 Texans 17: The Chiefs have won ten in a row. That’s not by accident. They are a good football team. I think this will be a tight game but I like the Chiefs in what should be a good game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Three Keys for the Steelers
1. Generate a Run Game for Balance: Replacing DeAngelo Williams will be tough. The Steelers don’t need much of a ground game today. They just need enough to give them some balance offensively. They will go as Big Ben goes and he hasn’t played well against Cincy this season. Take some pressure off of him by running the football.
2. Offensive Tackles Must Win In Pass Pro: The Steelers need tackles Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert to hold up against Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. If Dunlap and Johnson get consistent edge pressure on Roethlisberger, the Steelers are in trouble.
3. The Front Seven Needs to Play Well: The Steelers front seven needs to get consistent pressure on AJ McCarron and throw him off his spot. Make him uncomfortable.
Three Keys for the Bengals
1. Jeremy Hill Needs to Carry the Load: The Bengals need to run the football if they want to win this game. Jeremy Hill has to be a factor in this game. He needs to get 20 touches.
2. Throw the Ball on 1st Down: The Bengals need AJ McCarron to get comfortable early. Throw the ball on first down! Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson needs to help the young quarterback off by getting him into a rhythm early.
3. Get to Roethlisberger Early and Often: The Steelers want to throw the ball early and often. The Bengals need to get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger and get him off his spot. They cannot allow him to extend plays. Keep him in the pocket.
Prediction: Steelers 28 Bengals 24: I think the Steelers will make some big plays in the passing game and they’ll get enough stops to punch their ticket to Denver.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Three Keys for the Seahawks
1. Come Out Slinging: The Seahawks are now a passing team so put the ball in Russ Wilson’s hands and let him chuck it.
2. Get the Ball to Lockett: Tyler Lockett will the X factor today for the Seahawks. Seattle has to move him around in their formations and get him the ball in a variety of ways.
3. Block Linval Joseph: Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph can be tough to block one on one. Seattle’s guards need to be able to handle Joseph or it’ll be a long day in the trenches for the Seahawks.
Three Keys for the Vikings
1. Keep Wilson in the Pocket: The Vikings have to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket. They can’t allow him to break contain and extend plays.
2. Get the Ball Out Quick: The Vikings will have a hard time running the ball against the Seahawks so they’ll need to use quick screens to get the ball out quick.
3. Bridgewater Needs to Play Well: The Vimkings needs Teddy Bridgewater to play well. He doesn’t have to match Wilson but he can’t turn the ball over and he needs to make some big plays in the passing game.
Prediction: Seahawks 30 Vikings 17: The cold will effect both teams but I still see Seattle rolling in this one. They are playing good football and they are the better team.
Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Washington Redskins (9-7)
Three Keys for the Packers
1. Receivers Must Seperate Against Man Coverage: Packers receivers have had problems getting open all season long. Well, they need to get open in this game otherwise the Packers will lose again. Look for Green Bay to stack receivers more so that they can get a free release.
2. Eddie Lacy Needs to be a Factor: The Packers need Eddie Lacy to be a factor in this game. Green Bay must pound the rock and go after this suspect Washington defense.
3. Get Consistent Pressure on Cousins: The Packers need to get consistent pressure on Kirk Cousins. They cannot allow him to hang in the pocket, get comfortable and get the ball out on time.
Three Keys for the Redskins
1. Keep Rodgers in the Pocket: Aaron Rodgers can make plays outside the pocket as well as any quarterback in the league. The Redskins can’t over penetrate with pass rush. They have to keep Rodgers in the pocket.
2. Move Jordan Reed Around and Get Him Open: The Redskins do a great job of moving tight end Jordan Reed around and getting him open. The Redskins will need to find ways to get Reed open and get him the ball. They must isolate him against Green Bay’s safeties.
3. Play as Much Man to Man As Possible: Green Bay’s receivers have struggled to get off of man to man or press coverage. The Redskins to need to play more man and force Rodgers to hold the ball in the pocket.
Prediction: Redskins 23 Packers 14: The Packers should win this game based on talent but seeing that they can’t score points, I’m taking the Redskins in this one.