And then there were 12

AFC playoff preview

And then there were 12

Well it’s that time of year again. In four days, at 4:35 PM, The Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Houston to take on the Texans to begin the NFL playoffs. In the AFC, the Broncos and patriots have first round byes, which leaves the wild card match ups up to the Chiefs-Texans and the Bengals-Steelers.

AFC wild card games

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) @ Houston Texans (9-7) Sat., Jan. 9, 4:35 p.m. ET., ABC

Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Outlook: The Chiefs are currently the hottest team in football winning 10 straight games, most impressively without star running back Jamal Charles (knee) since week 5 and the NFL’s top pass rusher from a season ago Justin Houston (knee) since week 12. The Texans are also heading into the playoffs with a head of steam winning 7 of their last 9 games.On the Offensive side, The Chiefs are a far superior team. The Chiefs rank ninth in total offense, while the Texans rank twenty-second. Kansas City averages 5.5 yards per play, the league average, while Houston averages only 4.9 yards per play, the league’s worst. The reason why the Chiefs are a better team offensively is because they’ve trusted in Alex Smith under center the entire season, even during a five game losing streak. The Texans, on the other hand, have used four different quarterbacks throughout the course of the season, the reason for their offensive imbalance. On the defensive side, these are two of the best teams in the NFL. Both rank in the top seven in total defense and on average give up less than twenty points a game. 

Impact player: J.J. Watt. The man is simply a machine. He is the type of player that his opponents will focus the game plan on. If the Texans are going to have a chance to win, Watt needs to have an incredible game.

The key is going to be the turnover margin. There is going to be a lot of punting in this game because these are also two of the best defensive teams on third down. Whoever can force the most turnovers and get their team in better field position when they have the ball is going to win this game.

My pick: Kansas City Chiefs. Simply because of Kansas City’s prestigious secondary that has twenty-two interceptions on the season (led by Marcus Peters who has eight interceptions), only second to the 15-1 Carolina Panthers.


Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (12-4). Sat., Jan. 9, 8:15 p.m. ET., CBS

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Outlook: The Steelers had many of their playoff hopes come true when the Bills beat the Jets and ruined their chances for a playoff spot. They also landed the Bengals who haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, and who also don’t have Andy Dalton who has been ruled out for Saturday night (thumb). All signs point toward the Bengals losing yet another playoff game, but as Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend.” The Bengals had a banged up secondary toward the end of the season, but now with a healthy Adam Jones and NFL interception leader Reggie Nelson, they look to stop Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown in the Steelers passing attack.

The Steelers will be forced to pass the ball in this game because of injuries to running backs Le’Veon Bell (knee) and DeAngelo Williams (foot) who is currently questionable. This may be a problem for the Steelers because the Bengals are the only team in the NFL to have more interceptions (21) than passing touchdowns given up (18). Not only because of the Bengals’ secondary, but because they have two of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap who combine for 26.5 sacks this season. Offensively, A.J. McCarron has shown vast improvements and hasn’t thrown an interception since the loss to Pittsburgh in week 14. McCarron who won two national championships at Alabama is also no stranger to big games.

Impact player: Antonio Brown. He finished this season in the top two in receptions and receiving yards, and would have finished first in both categories if Roethlisberger would’ve stayed healthy the entire season. If Brown can get through the Bengals secondary, he could possibly cause a poisonous imbalance the Bengals’ defense and it could ultimately lead to their demise.

The key to this game is going to be the team that can control the line of scrimmage. If the Bengals can give A.J. time in the pocket to go through his progression and make proper decisions, and give Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard room to run, then Bengals will have a good chance.

My pick: WHO DEY

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