By: Joe Cardoso
The AFC has been the New England Patriots and then everyone else after and the road to a Super Bowl always goes through them. Well someone forgot to tell Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs who won home-field advantage and have lights out offense. While those two teams sit at home and rest up the rest of the AFC has work to do and man do we have some outstanding matchups, from the Ravens with the new kid on the block Lamar Jackson to the return of Andrew Luck. Without further ado lets dive right into these games.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) Vs Houston Texans (11-5) Saturday 4:35 pm
Who had the Colts making the playoffs making the playoffs this year? Not too many people but here they are and it’s more than just Luck they have a young defense that attacks and some real threats on offense. And I will go ahead and say it this is the BEST Texans team in franchise history feel different then let’s talk. Too young QB’s going at it and two gentlemen by the names of Watt and Clowney ready to wreck shop. Two AFC South teams go for round 3!
Colts: Don’t call it a comeback! With 39 touchdowns and almost 4,600 yards through the air, Andrew Luck shut up all the doubters and haters and is a legit MVP contender. On Offense, it starts with him and a big help will be Marlon Mack having a big day and opening up the play action to hit T.Y. Hilton and the dangerous Eric Ebron who has been reborn. The guys under pressure are the Indy O-Line who must “slow down” one of the best fronts in football. easy to type hard as hell to do. Not too many people really talk about this defense that ranked 11th in the league just above you guessed it Houston. Darius Leonard is not some shook rookie 163 tackles and one of the main reasons they have a new attitude on that side of the ball. The Texans are high flying and shutting them down is hard but the Houston O-Line sometimes has Seahawk like performances. This is a team with a chip on its shoulder more so than most, we will see if it helps them in any way.
Player(s)To Watch: As I said it the guys up front for the Colts who have to give Luck time to do what he does and create holes for Mack. We will know early how this game will go based on the Texans lack of pressure or them raining down the rath of God on Indy. T.Y. Hilton is the best wideout on the team and a serious deep threat he could open up the entire playbook if he is a factor. I expect them to take some shots early and often the ghost should have improved health as well.
Texans: What else do you need or want Houston? America gets a chance to see Deshaun Watson and his buddy Deandre Hopkins who is a stone cold beast if you don’t know you better ask somebody. Not too many players at the QB position get hit as much as Watson does and he can’t make those silly throws or hold on the ball forever and ever. This is a 3 step drop and lets it fly or tuck and run type of game. A decent run game would go a long way to helping Houston as well but that hasn’t been the case most of the season so we will see. On defense, this is the calling card and what they lean on to get it done. Under the radar comeback by J.J. Watt who is still elite at what he does along with Jadeveon Clowney and the Honey Badger in the secondary. With the chance to make things uncomfortable for Luck and maybe get a turnover or two.
Player(s) To Watch: It is in my opinion simple for Houston the O-Line is the X-factor give Deshaun time to make things happen downfield with Hopkins. And this is the leagues best defense vs the run so if they make it an Andrew Luck drops back 50 times sort of game it will be party time in H-town. And how about Bill O’Brien? Oh, you thought we forgot Bill? Outscored 64-16 in his last two visits to the postseason that seat will be blazing if they go home this early.
Prediction: It comes down to I trust Andrew Luck more than Watson and he will make enough plays to get it done. 34-27 Colts!
Los Angles Chargers (12-4) Vs Baltimore Ravens (10-6) Sunday 1:05 pm
This is my game of the week no disrespect to the Eagles and Bears. The Ravens are the anti-spread, throw it all over the field and the Chargers are the team no one wants to play. Lamar Jackson wasn’t a quarterback remember and Phillip Rivers is over the hill. So many storylines in this game is Melvin Gordan healthy enough? Can Mike Williams keep ballin out and when forced to do so will Jackson make that key big play via the pass? Oh man, my hands are sweating just typing this.
Chargers: WOW, what a season and so un-Charger like with them not having to make a run at the end of the season to sneak into the dance. Phillip Rivers has been hos normal future Hall of Fame self. And the weapons he has are the best he has ever had when you are talking about Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams and old man Antonio Gates. Yes, the Ravens have an outstanding defense but they better be on their hand’s fulls. Another factor is the west coast to east coast trip which will have an effect on this team. Last time they played Rivers turned the ball over and that can’t happen this time. On defense, the Chargers are a bunch of no names for most fans but one name you better know is Derwin James the man is EVERYWHERE! Joey Bosa just in time for the playoffs and he could make Ravens fans sick.
Player(s) To Watch: Mike Williams on offense will create matchups for Allen and also Gordon who is good catching the ball out of the backfield. We have seen flashes of why the former Clemson product was so highly rated. On defense for the Chargers, it is Melvin Ingram needs to bring the pain and make the Ravens runners pay when they run the ball. Another guy who this team had hopes for is Hunter Henry who tore his ACL and has fought his way back anything he can give is house money.
Ravens: Lamar Jackson is turning the game on its head and proving once again that it’s what you do ON the field that matters. He is also showing that maybe teams need to make up their offense around a players skill set instead of trying to force them into a box. He will be the youngest player to ever start an NFL playoff game and having all of Baltimore behind him should help the kid out. I’m a bit of an old-school NFL fan who grew up with that Chuck Knox, Bill Cower, Joe Gibbs ground and pound. The Ravens punch you right in the mouth and dare you to stop it. And it is much more than just Jackson the game plans have been run to almost perfection. But, he will have to make some plays with his arm and use guys like Michael Crabtree along with his tight ends. Don’t underestimate John Harbaugh who is an old vet and will have his team ready to roll. When you hear people talk about Ravens Flock it starts with the defense and this version is good. Old man Terrell Suggs still kicking it and if you don’t love C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle you don’t like football. Another guy who I like in this game is Jimmy Smith who has battled injuries and up to the task.
Player(s) To Watch: Ravens fans its simple Lamar Jackson must keep the mistakes down and keep making dynamic plays and keep Phillip Rivers on the sidelines. On the defensive side take advantage of Rivers gambling nature and force some picks and maybe a fumble or two. Baltimore wants to keep this game low scoring and dirty just the way they like it.
Prediction: I’m taking a chance and rolling with the kid. Home crowd a stout defense to keep the game close if he does what he has been doing they win this one in a battle. Ravens 21-17. If the Baltimore defense doesn’t hold it down this could get ugly with the number of weapons LA brings to the table.
Wild Card weekend is almost here so close you can taste the beer and wings. You can find my NFC picks here What are your thoughts on the games and the AFC? Follow our bog @NutsAndBoltsSP or me @JoeCardoso301 ENJOY IT AMERICA!