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NFL Wild Card Weekend: Look for one favorite to go down

Three of the four home teams will win as the playoffs begin.

Green Bay Packers v New Orleans Saints
QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Jordy Nelson lead a potent attack for the Packers.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

With the regular season over and the postseason here, this wide open playoff race could go any way. This weekend’s four games should provide the excitement and drama necessary to set the tone for an outstanding postseason.

I will make my picks along with Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski. May the best man win.

Here’s what you need to know for this weekend:

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans, 4:35 PM ET, ESPN/ABC

This game is without a doubt the poorest quarterback matchup this weekend, with the Raiders starting their third-string QB, Connor Cook. However, there is a lot more to this matchup than the quarterbacks. Oakland finished the season 12-4 and is a very talented team outside of their quarterback. One of those 12 wins came against Houston in Mexico City in Week 12.

People mostly remember that Oakland got the win against Houston, but the Texans were on the wrong side of several calls in that game that should have gone their way, including a called-back DeAndre Hopkins touchdown in the first quarter. Brock Osweiler played one of his better games this season against Oakland in a tough Mexico City environment. He threw for 243 passing yards and a touchdown. Lamar Miller also ran for 104 yards, and the Texans defense held the rushing attack to just 30 yards.

That’s why I’m picking the Texans in this game. They are 7-1 at home this season, are capable of stopping the rushing attack, and it’ll be a lot easier to stop the Raiders passing game with Cook under center as opposed to MVP candidate Derek Carr.

Jeremy’s pick: Texans 24, Raiders 10
Jim’s pick: Houston 13, Raiders 9

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 PM ET, NBC

Detroit is limping into the playoffs having lost their last three games. Granted, those games were against playoff teams but it put them from potentially having a bye to having to head to Seattle, arguably the toughest place to win in the playoffs. Seattle has only dropped one game at home this season and has won its last nine playoff games at home.

However, this isn’t the same Seattle team that we have seen in the last few seasons. They are battle-tested and strong when it comes to January football, but this is arguably the least talented team in the Russell Wilson era. The rushing attack is not as strong, and the absence of safety Earl Thomas weakens the secondary. The Lions are an explosive offense and could be a team that could crack the Seahawks.

This is the only game of the weekend between teams that did not meet in the regular season, so there isn’t any meeting we have to compare. The Seahawks are so unpredictable because they can score oodles of points and beat one of the league’s best (31-24 win vs. Patriots, Week 10) or they can shut down as an offense (9-3 loss vs. Rams, Week 2). However, I think Seattle will win because they play so well at home and Detroit has very little momentum going into the playoffs.

Jeremy’s pick: Seahawks 26, Lions 20
Jim’s pick: Sehawks 19, Lions 10

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 PM ET, CBS

Miami’s win over the Steelers in Week 6 began a six-game win streak that propelled the Dolphins to their first playoff berth since 2008. Pittsburgh is returning to the playoffs, this time as AFC North Champions, and will have the chance to host a playoff game with a healthy Le’Veon Bell.

Bell ran for 1,268 yards despite only playing in 12 games this season. The big difference between this year’s Steelers and last year’s is that this team is healthy. Last year, they were close, but couldn’t quite get the job done in a loss to the Broncos in the Divisional Round. However, the Dolphins also have a very talented running back in Jay Ajayi. He ran for more than 200 yards in their win earlier this season. Both guys are going to have very good games, and it will come down to which defense can get more stops.

The Dolphins will be a very run-heavy team with Matt Moore starting at quarterback, but Pittsburgh has the most dynamic offense in the league with QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown and will be very difficult to stop. Miami’s defense is going to have to make some plays, but I don’t think they will make enough. Pittsburgh’s offense is too good and will take the win at home.

Jeremy’s pick: Steelers 31, Dolphins 17
Jim’s pick: Steelers 33, Dolphins 16

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, 4:40 PM ET, FOX

This is the marquee matchup of the weekend and it is the most unpredictable as well. Aaron Rodgers has led Green Bay to six consecutive victories and Eli Manning has led the Giants to nine wins in their last 11 games.

Manning has a knack of winning in the playoffs. He has won eight of his last nine playoff games and has won at Lambeau Field in the playoffs twice in his career. On top of that, this Giants team is possibly the most talented team he has had. The best receiving corps belongs to the Giants and possibly the best defense. However, can this defense stop Rodgers and the Green Bay offense?

I think the answer is yes. They will at least be able to stop Rodgers more than Green Bay’s defense will be able to stop Manning and the Giants. The Packer defense is banged up, especially in the secondary, where New York shines. I think these teams are very even, which makes this matchup difficult to call, but looking at each position head-to-head, the major difference is that the Giants are much better in the secondary than the Packers, and that will be the deciding factor in this playoff game.

Jeremy’s pick: Giants 21, Packers 17
Jeremy’s pick: Packers 24, Giants 20