By Mike DeVito
(Check back here tomorrow for Mike’s break down of Miami at Pittsburgh and Giants at Packers.)
Raiders at Texans
Even as a Chiefs fan, it was hard to see a player like Derek Carr get hurt. Not only was he arguably the biggest reason for Oakland’s success this year on the field, he was the heart and soul of the team. But this is the NFL and I guarantee nobody outside of Oakland is feeling sorry for the Raiders.
Quarterback play is going to be the determining factor in this opening wild card game. Brock Osweiler has been given a second chance to lead the Texans offense and prove to everyone that he is the $70 million dollar player Houston was hoping to have at the helm. Even though Oakland has been bad at times on defense, Osweiler will still have to worry about defensive ends Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, who are two of the best pass rushers in the game.
For Oakland, we have heard it all week; a rookie QB making his first start on the road, in the playoffs, against the #1 defense in yards allowed per game. Connor Cook has a really good offensive line to protect him and hopefully get a run game going to slow down the pass rush, but Cook has a major mountain to climb if the Raiders want to leave Houston with a win.
Lions at Seahawks
The two biggest assets for the Seahawks tonight is the league’s 3rd ranked defense and home field advantage. With Michael Bennett back healthy alongside Cliff Avril, Detroit’s offensive line is going to have to be on their A game in order to slow these two down and give Stafford time to make plays. Stafford is going to need all the time he can get because Seattle boasts one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Starting with All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, who can play the run and the pass equally well when you add in Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, the Lions passing game is not going to be a walk in the park. If the Detroit offensive line holds up their end of the bargain it’s going to be up to Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin to get open and do it quickly.
The 12th man is not a joke. I hope that whoever designed CenturyLink Field is getting his fair share of the same accolades the team is getting because that stadium is loud and certainly plays a pivotal role helping the Seahawks defense wreak havoc on opposing offensives. One of the biggest advantages a loud stadium provides a defense is that the opposing offense has to go on a silent count. A silent count makes it a little bit easier for the defensive line to get off the football. One way the Lions can slow the rush down is to run the football the way they have been the past 8 or so weeks of the season. RB Zack Zenner is a tough runner who can shoulder the load when he is called upon. Matthew Mulligan is the best blocking TE over the past decade and has been a major reason for the resurrection of the Lions run offense during the second half of the season. Look for the Lions to rely heavily on their run game to slow down the pass rush, open up some routes in the secondary, and hopefully quiet the 12th man!
Mike DeVito (@MikeDeVito70) is a 9-year NFL veteran, playing with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. He is an alum of the University of Maine, color analyst for Black Bears football on TV and is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm-6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowmaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.