In a wide open AFC, the wildcard games could be more important than any game this year. No team has looked dominant throughout the season and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if any of the six teams found their way into the Super Bowl. With the Patriots looking like they’re starting to regress and the Chiefs’ history in the playoffs, the winners of this weekend’s games could easily find their way into the AFC Championship.
Colts. Texans. Round 3.
The matchups this year between Indianapolis and Houston have been interesting to say the least. The first game in Week 4 went to overtime. Had it not been for a questionable Frank Reich decision to go for it on fourth down, this game may have ended up being played in Lucas Oil Stadium. The second matchup in Houston showed the Colts emerge as true playoff contenders. They ended the Texans nine-game winning streak with a 24-21 win that started their four-game winning streak to end the season.
The teams now matchup a third time for a chance to play in the divisional round. These teams know each other very well and it should be a competitive game between two teams who beat the odds to make the playoffs. After Week 4, the Texans and Colts were both 1-3 while the Titans and Jaguars were 3-1. The two teams with slow starts have fought their way into the playoffs, but now only one can advance.
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Red Hot Ravens’ Defense Face Suddenly Slumping Chargers’ Offense
The Chargers are 12-4 and still ended up with a wild card spot due to the Chiefs’ superior divisional record. Los Angeles and Philip Rivers looked like they would overtake the Chiefs after taking them down in Week 15. However, since that night in Arrowhead Stadium, the Chargers’ offense has only three offensive touchdowns and seven turnovers. Rivers, who was in the MVP conversation, has just one touchdown and four interceptions. Part of these struggles is due to having to face the Ravens’ defense in Week 16.
The Ravens held the once explosive Chargers offense to just 10 points two weeks ago in Los Angeles. Now, L.A. will have to go to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens’ #2 scoring defense again. Rivers will have to figure out his turnover issues if the Chargers want to get their first playoff win since 2013. The good news for Los Angeles is that they have been better away from Southern California. The Chargers are 8-1 outside of the Stubhub Center and just 4-3 when playing at home.
Will Playoff Experience Matter?
These matchups will both pit a quarterback making their playoff debut against a playoff veteran. Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson both will be playing their first playoff game this weekend while Andrew Luck and Rivers have combined for 15 playoff starts. Both Luck and Rivers have played in an AFC championship as well, but never a Super Bowl.
This experience doesn’t always matter, but last year the AFC had a similar situation. Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles were both making their first playoff appearances and knocked off Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger. However, neither could beat Tom Brady. The two inexperienced quarterbacks will have the advantage of playing at home. It will be interesting to see if the stage is too big for Watson and Jackson.