The NFL Playoffs divisional round is about to kick off, beginning with the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson heading down south to face the high powered offense of the Atlanta Falcons. Later, the Houston Texans with Brock Osweiler will head into the gauntlet that is facing the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
Out of the four games in both the AFC and NFC, the Texans visiting Foxboro seems like the most straightforward and easiest to predict. Osweiler is the starting quarterback for the Texans, but just the statistical comparison between quarterbacks makes it seem like this is going to be a very one-sided affair. Osweiler threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season, and didn’t look like someone who is improving in the win against the Oakland Raiders in the Wild Card round. Meanwhile, Tom Brady might not win the MVP, but he threw for 3554 yards this season, with 28 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Whether it’s the system surrounding him or Brady himself, he’s putting up the best numbers of his career.
And there’s also the matter of the Texans recent history against the Patriots, especially on the road. The Patriots have won seven of their eight games against Houston over the years, including a playoff game four years ago. Most importantly, the Patriots beat Houston 27-0 this season in the same stadium back in September. Brady still wasn’t playing due to a suspension. It didn’t matter. Osweiler was awful, throwing an interception and averaging 4.8 yards per pass attempt.
The only way for the Texans to make this one a close game is stopping the Patriots running game, which relies solely on LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 18 touchdowns this season, along with 1161 yards. Houston have a good defense, but mostly against the pass, and there are holes in their rush defense. Without even a tad of slowing down the Patriots, the Texans don’t have a shot of keeping up. Osweiler beating New England in Denver last year has nothing to do with this game.
The game before has a higher potential of providing us with drama. The Seahawks and the Falcons played an excellent playoff game in Atlanta four years ago. The Falcons missed the playoffs each year since. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the Seahawks have been historically good defensively, winning one Super Bowl and losing another as it came down to one bad call on the goalline.
The Falcons had the best offense in the NFL this season, averaging 33.8 points per game, the only team above 30. Matt Ryan was MVP’ish in his ability, and maybe key to the team’s success was the ability to make it about more than just Julio Jones. Yes, he still lead the team in receiving yards, Ryan has a lot of other targets to throw the ball to, before we mention the terrific running game with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
And speaking of running game, Thomas Rawls of the Seahawks could be the most important person on the field. He ran for over 160 yards in the dominant win over the Detroit Lions in Seattle. Yes, officials always go with the Seahawks in that stadium, an advantage they won’t have in Georgia. However, if the Seahawks can establish the run, this makes things a lot easier for Wilson, who won’t have to worry about escaping sacks all the time. The Falcons have to be concerned about that aspect, having given up 4.5 yards per carry on the ground during the season. A big game for Rawls might be something their offense won’t be able to keep up with.