ALL 4 HOME TEAMS WIN BIG IN NFL WILD CARD ROUND
For The Record- Joe Kazmar
The home field proved to be a big advantage in last weekend’s opening round of the National Football League’s 2016 playoffs.
All four home teams—Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Green Bay—posted double-digit victories in their respective games last Saturday and Sunday.
And their reward for being victorious is to go into this weekend’s divisional round of the playoffs as underdog visiting teams, assuming the roles of their last week’s victims.
However, I don’t think the home teams will make a clean sweep this weekend. The games should be much closer with an upset or two thrown in for good measure.
Our Houston Texans came out of their wild card game as unruly hosts for the Oakland Raiders, who lost starting and second-string quarterbacks to injury and had to go with untested rookie Connor Cook, who established an NFL record by being the first quarterback in history to make his NFL debut in the playoffs.
The Texans’ No. 1 defense made life miserable for Cook, forcing him to hurry his throws which resulted in three of his passes being intercepted. Cook completed only 18 of 45 passes for 161 yards, a touchdown and three aerials picked off.
Houston, which was favored by four points, glided to a 27-14 win in what Head Coach Bill O’Brien called “our best game of the season.”
The Texans will have to come up with another gem of a game Saturday when they travel to play the 14-2 top-seeded New England Patriots in Foxborough, MA. as a 15½-point underdog.
Houston has managed only a single victory against the Patriots in franchise history, while losing seven other times. They also are 0-4 in Gillette Stadium. O’Brien is 0-2 against Pats’ head coach Bill Belichick, losing 41-28 in the divisional playoffs on Jan. 13, 2013 and 27-0 on Sept. 22 of this season.
The Dallas Cowboys are picked by many to go all the way to the Super Bowl and meet New England. But they had not better count those chickens before they hatch because Green Bay is coming to town Sunday with huge chips on their shoulders.
The Packers are looking to avenge a 30-16 shellacking the Cowboys put on them in October at Lambeau Field. The loss left Green Bay with a 4-6 record and prompted quarterback Aaron Rodgers to proclaim his team would “run the table” and then made good on his boast—so far.
The four-point underdog Pack is running on all cylinders, routing the New York Giants in the second half and winning handily 38-13.
The Seattle Seahawks utilized their “Legion of Doom Minus Earl Thomas III” defense to completely stymie Detroit 26-6 Saturday night as the Lions went the entire season without posting a victory in an outdoor stadium. Worst yet, Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game on the road since 1957.
The ‘Hawks must go on the road to Atlanta where the Falcons have been waiting a long time for a deep playoff run under quarterback Matt Ryan now that they’ve finally got an offense that has been getting the job done the entire stretch of the season.
Atlanta is an early four-point favorite which should get the Seahawks’ attention for this Saturday afternoon match-up.
Perhaps the best game will be at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City where the Chiefs await the red-hot Pittsburgh Steelers, who reeled off their eighth straight victory Sunday over the Miami Dolphins to the tune of 38-12.
Pittsburgh was favored by one point Sunday, probably on the strength of their 43-12 mauling of the Chiefs on Oct. 2. However, by Monday the odds makers reversed themselves and established Kansas City as a 2½-point favorite.
The Steelers feature the three-pronged offensive attack of rock-ribbed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, big play wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, who pounded through the Dolphins defense for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two touchdowns.
All Bell did in his postseason debut was break Hall of Famer Franco Harris’ team record for yards rushing in a playoff game. Harris ran for 158 yards in a Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings 42 years ago.
KWICKIES…The undefeated Baylor Bears moved into the No. 1 position in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Collegiate Basketball Poll for the first time in the school’s program history. NCAA defending champion Villanova lost to Butler last Wednesday opening the door for 15-0 Baylor to move in. The Bears and No. 5 Gonzaga are the only unbeaten Division I teams in the poll.
Gregg Williams, 58, was named defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns where he will take a young defense that finished at or near the bottom in every meaningful category. Williams revived his coaching career after he was banned by the NFL for one season in 2012 for his involvement in New Orleans notorious “Bountygate” scandal. He spent the last three seasons with the LA Rams.
Golfer Justin Thomas held off a late charge by Hideki Matsuyama to win the SBS Tournament of Champions by three strokes at Kapalua, Hawaii. The victory earned Thomas $1,220,000 while Matsuyama pocketed $712,000.
JUST BETWEEN US…According to an article posted Monday on KOGT.com, the Seattle Seahawks have a huge fan base in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Baltic States, Germany and the Czech Republic. The Community of Seahawkers love football, particularly the Seahawks and wanted to send a gift to the injured Earl Thomas. Go to KOGT.com to see the rest of the story.