So Odell, Biebs and I were in South Beach the other day chillin’. I says, “Biebs, who you got? Packers or Giants?” He says, “Don’t know, y’all. Let’s see how this night ends.”
Ah, good times. Good times.
The NFL playoffs are upon us. Lambeau Field will play host to the fourth and final wild-card game of the weekend. Aaron Rodgers will be your maître d and busboy because this guy sure knows how to run a table.
But first, after 17 weeks and 256 regular-season games, let us present the weekend appetizer. It’s a particularly unattractive broccoli dish with no cheese, no steamed butter and no notable quarterbacks inside Houston’s NRG Stadium.
Connor Cook vs. Brock Osweiler!
Osweiler, the host, is the $72 million man who went from inexperienced starter to struggling starter to benched starter to starter only because backup Tom Savage has a concussion.
Cook, Oakland’s rookie fourth-round pick from Michigan State, is expected to become the first player in NFL history to have his NFL starting debut be a playoff game.
And watching it all will be poor Bill Musgrave, Oakland’s offensive coordinator. The football injury gods certainly have double-billed Capt. Muskie.
He was offensive coordinator in 2012 when the Vikings made the playoffs, went to Green Bay and had to start Joe Webb at quarterback. The Vikings lost as Joe also made history as the first quarterback in NFL history to have his first pass of the season come during the playoffs.
Here’s a closer look at all the playoff teams this year:
1. DALLAS (13-3, Won NFC East)
Road to Houston: Keep winning and the Cowboys will never have to leave Texas.
Potential roadblock: If Detroit loses at Seattle, the neophyte Cowboys will play host to either a Giants team that has beaten them twice or a Packers team that will be riding an NFC-best seven-game win streak.
Strength/concern: The NFL’s best offensive has Dallas averaging playoff highs in yards rushing per carry (4.8) and per game (149.8). … The Cowboys will open against Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning or Aaron Rodgers.
2. ATLANTA (11-5, Won NFC South)
Road to Houston: Would host NFC title game with win and a predictably unpredictable upset at Dallas.
Potential roadblock: The likely opener against Seattle (3-4-1 on the road) is still scary. Matt Ryan is the MVP frontrunner, but he’s also 1-4 in playoff games.
Strength/concern: Ryan attempted 534 passes and averaged 9.3 yards per attempt. That’s never been done before. … No playoff team is allowing more points per game (25.4).
3. Seattle (10-5-1, Won NFC West)
Road to Houston: Raise record to 8-1 at home against slumping Lions, win at Atlanta and play host to NFC title game if Cowboys lose.
Potential roadblock: Seattle went 0-2-1 with 14 points in games at Los Angeles, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
Strength/concern: Streak of defensive scoring titles ended at four, but Seattle still finished third (18.3). … Since Earl Thomas was injured, Seattle is 2-2 and surrendering 24.5 points per game.
4. GREEN BAY (10-6, Won NFC North)
Road to Houston: Plan on avoiding another Eli upset at Lambeau (see: ’07, ’11) and winning two on the road.
Potential roadblock: The only way Lambeau Field plays host to the NFC title game is if the Packers and Lions both win two.
Strength/concern: Aaron Rodgers has returned to form and has a 98.2 postseason passer rating, fifth-best in NFL history. … With 13 takeaways and zero giveaways the past four games, the Packers are overdue for a visit from the turnover gods.
5. N.Y. Giants (10-6, Second NFC East)
Road to Houston: Nine wild-card teams have won a Super Bowl. Eli and the Giants have done it twice.
Potential roadblock: The Giants are averaging 19.4 points per game. Or put it this way: The Vikings averaged 20.4.
Strength/concern: The Giants led the NFC in points allowed (17.8) and have the best defensive passer rating (75.8) among all playoff teams. … The offense is converting only 35.6 percent of its third downs, worst among NFC playoff teams.
6. DETROIT (9-7, Second NFC North)
Road to Houston: Try to stay close enough in the fourth quarter to unleash Matthew Stafford’s magic.
Potential roadblock: Must win three straight road games after consecutive losses to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers.
Strength/concern: Stafford posted an NFL-record nine wins after trailing in the fourth quarter. … Detroit is 0-5 vs. playoff teams and has a league-worst 106.5 defensive passer rating.
1. New England (14-2, Won AFC East)
Road to Houston: Rest for a week, crush Houston, Oakland or Miami and use home-field advantage against Pittsburgh.
Potential roadblock: Overconfidence against Brock Osweiler, Connor Cook/Matt McGloin or Matt Moore/Ryan Tannehill. Or Ben Roethlisberger extends too many plays.
Strength/concern: Tom Brady and the No. 1-ranked scoring defense (15.6) are in rhythm, having won seven straight by an average of 16.1 points. … Believe it or not, their only losses are at home.
2. KANSAS CITY (12-4, Won AFC Wast)
Road to Houston: Went 6-2 at home and have a week for injured pass rusher Justin Houston to get healthy.
Potential roadblock: Looking at the likelihood of drawing Pittsburgh in the divisional round. They lost 43-14 at Pittsburgh in Week 4.
Strength/concern: The Chiefs posted a league-high 33 takeaways this season while tying the Raiders for best turnover margin (plus-16). … Opponents are converting 43.2 percent of third downs, worst among all playoff teams except Detroit (45.5).
3. Pittsburgh (11-5, Won AFC North)
Road to Houston: With Roethlisberger and Brady as the AFC’s only elite QBs, an AFC title game showdown at Foxboro seems likely.
Potential roadblock: Yes, Pittsburgh avoids New England in the second round. But Oakland’s QB situation means No. 4 Houston actually has the easier first step.
Strength/concern: The league’s true triplets are Roethlisberger and the league’s best back, Le’Veon Bell, and receiver, Antonio Brown. … Miami has the second-best third-down defense (36.2) among playoff teams.
4. HOUSTON (9-7, Won AFC South)
Road to Houston: To become the first team to play the Super Bowl in its own stadium, the Texans likely need to win at Foxboro in the second round. Last time they were there, they lost 27-0 with Brady suspended.
Potential roadblock: Although Oakland’s QB situation is a mess, the Raiders do come in with a defense and special teams that have 30 takeaways, second-best in the league.
Strength/concern: Houston has an 84.3 defensive passer rating, second-best among AFC playoff teams. … However, now led by Osweiler, Houston also has a 73.3 passer rating. Houston also is minus-7 in turnover ratio, the worst among playoff teams.
5. Oakland (12-4, Second AFC West)
Road to Houston: Have Connor Cook and Matt McGloin win three straight games at Houston, probably Foxboro and probably Pittsburgh.
Potential roadblock: With Derek Carr out for the year and McGloin injured, Cook is expected to become the first quarterback in NFL history to make his starting debut in a playoff game.
Strength/concern: Kahlil Mack and the defense should be able to get after Osweiler, the former starter who’s back in the lineup only because Tom Savage suffered a concussion. … Cook has thrown only 21 passes, all coming last week.
6. Miami (10-6, Second AFC East)
Road to Houston: Win at Pittsburgh, Foxboro and KC, Houston or Oakland. Their best game of the year was a 30-15 win at Pittsburgh in October.
Potential roadblock: Have backup Matt Moore (2-1) and/or a rusty Ryan Tannehill pull off the aforementioned trifecta.
Strength/concern: Resilient group that won nine of 10 games after a 1-4 start. … Offense is converting only 36.7 percent of its third downs, second-worst among playoff teams.