The Wild Card results will be decided this weekend, so here’s a look at each of the AFC games and my prediction for the winners.
Buffalo Bills (5) at Houston Texans (4)
4:35 PM EST Saturday
The Bills defense and Texans offense are two units that have put the league on notice. Tre’Davious White highlights this defense, leading the league in interceptions (tied with Stephon Gilmore and Anthony Harris) and is a real contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Star rusher J.J. Watt has been activated in addition. Buffalo’s defensive unit scared quarterbacks into having the third-lowest quarterback rating and knocked-down the third-most passes, so their stingy defense will not allow Deshaun Watson to have his way all the time. However, with Will Fuller likely returning from his injury for this game, the Texans will look to utilize Fuller as much as possible as the Houston offense has a nice spark with Fuller on the field.
“Basically, when we study Buffalo, we’re going to try to do things that we think, we hope, can work against Buffalo. I think that when we play somebody else, we’re to do something we think can work against that defense.” – Bill O’Brien
The offense of Houston can definitely work its way around the Bills defense, especially if Will Fuller is back, but this game will come down to a different matchup.
The Texans defense has been close to the bottom this year, even with it being one of the top in the league for the past few years. Similar to Bill O’Brien, Sean McDermott will look to capitalize on the Houston defense. Josh Allen has been outstanding this season, to say the least. He had career-highs across the board in his second year in the league and his primary target has been breakout receiver John Brown. Brown has continuously smoked cornerbacks and safeties alike with his speed, and with the Texans rotating through corners throughout the season, Houston will not likely have a good answer to Brown’s playmaking ability. The loss of safety Tyrann Mathieu is certainly showing. The Bills should have the edge in this battle with their offense taking advantage of the weak defense of Houston. They have held every opponent to less than 24 points, except the Eagles, and one of their opponents was the 13-3 Ravens.
Matchup to Watch: Tre’Davious White vs Deandre Hopkins
Key Player(s) for Texans: J.J. Watt and Will Fuller if they can return
Key Player(s) for Bills: John Brown
Prediction: 27 – 24 Bills
Tennessee Titans (6) at New England Patriots (3)
8:15 PM EST Saturday
At the beginning of the season, this would have been considered a David versus Goliath matchup, but the tables are beginning to turn. Multiple experts are picking the Titans to win this one, and even saying that Tennessee will score around 30 points.
A general consensus is that the Patriots have lost their edge since the Ravens loss in November. Their defense really hasn’t showing up against premier offenses like the Ravens, Texans, and Chiefs.
The Titans, on the other hand, haven’t been hotter than they are right now in a long time. The trio of Tannehill, who finished first in passer rating, Derrick Henry, who took the 2019 rushing title, and A.J. Brown, who has emerged as the best receiver in 2019’s rookie class, are all huge threats to the Patriots defense.
This matchup will turn to the offenses and whether or not they can use their weapons to their fullest. Stephon Gilmore, a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, may have had a bad game against the Dolphins, but is looking towards the future and how he can improve.
“I’m just doing the same thing I do when I play well. I just move on and focus on my next opponent. That’s what you have to do at the corner position. Whatever the play is, or game, you have to move on and be able to perform the next game.” – Stephon Gilmore
If Gilmore can do to A.J. Brown what he’s done to receivers like Deandre Hopkins, Amari Cooper, and Tyreek Hill, then we will see Tannehill’s primary target erased from the game. So, this brings this game to the running backs. Derrick Henry has been a force on the field (and in fantasy 🙂 ). New England’s front seven can hold up against the chunks of yards Henry gets, but “will they” is the question. On the Patriots side, Rex Burkhead has been the light New England needed with Sony Michel not producing well enough. Michel has been better in the last games of the season, and was good in the playoffs last year, but Burkhead seems to be the way to go. He has been getting big play after big play, and while the Titans do have one of the better defensive lines in the league, the Patriots will look to use White and Burkhead to get big runs and good screens to move down the field. The receivers for New England just did not cut it this year. But, if there’s a time for them to step up, it’s now. N’Keal Harry is who I am looking at. He has not had a bad year, but needs to get open so Brady has a reliable target when Edelman can not.
I have never bet against the Patriots in the playoffs at home (where they have not lost since 2013). I will continue that trend.
Matchup to Watch: Runningbacks vs Defense
Key Player(s) for Patriots: Rex Burkhead and N’Keal Harry
Key Player(s) for Titans: Derrick Henry
Prediction: 24-17 Patriots