Ok -- two games if you count the hometown Dolphins and their first playoff berth in eight seasons. Folks in the area are really excited about this. I cannot blame them at all.
That said -- we could be in for some surprises. Las Vegas definitely agrees by virtue of some these betting lines this week.
Houston (-4) over Oakland
First let me make a proclamation. The Raiders loss Week 17 in Denver which ultimately cost them a bye week only served into my reasoning as to why Derek Carr should be the MVP of the 2016 NFL season. It was not that they lost. It was how they lost. Oakland couldn't even sustain drives or pick up firt downs. Rudimentary football.
Ok -- now that's out of the way. This is the least intriguing of the four games on this weekend's slate. For one Derek Carr will not be available. Also the second chance of Brock Osweiler is in effect since Macho Man Tom Savage did not pass concussion protocol this week and will miss this week. Osweiler has been downright horrific this season. That is before we bring his $72 million price tag into focus.
I'm trying every which way to convince myself why Oakland should win this game. That is with the knowledge that they will be starting their rookie third string quarterback Connor Cook. The problem is too many people are so dismissive on the Houston Texans that this game is starting to set up as a house money/no one believes in us mantra-ish situation.
It's this simple. Derek Carr is my most valuable quarterback in the NFL for 2016. He is not able to play.
Detroit (+8) over Seattle
For the first time in probably three or four years I am starting to truly question the Seattle Seahawks blueprint as a whole. If we are to keep it one hundred, Seattle for the better part of the last four to six weeks have looked like complete and utter shit. Even my favorite player in the league Russell Wilson has looked -- well human. Some of it attributed to their crappy offensive line. Some of it on Wilson himself.
Even with all of that, Seattle caught some breaks in 2016. Despite not earning a bye week, they played in an NFC West that was otherwise crappy and won it running away. Now they draw the struggling Detroit Lions who since their impressive 9-4 start have limped into the postseason on a three game losing streak.
If I am a Seahawks fan, this is what scares me. The logic that the Detroit Lions is playing with house money. Vegas even sees this as a possibility which is why the Lions, who would in another circumstance be a double digit underdog playing at CenturyLink is only an eight point underdog.
Vegas knows something.
I like Seattle here but I really believe Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions will keep it competitive throughout.
Pittsburgh (-10) over Miami
This is the largest spread of the weekend. Pittsburgh is playing the best football it has played all season. Plus they are healthy at the right time and one of the hottest teams in the league entering the postseason.
Meanwhile the Miami Dolphins make their first appearance in the NFL's second season since 2008. Living in this market for most of my life, these opportunities are far and few especially in a post Dan Marino world.
Miami did beat Pittsburgh in Week 6, 30-15 but that was under different circumstances. Ben Roethlisberger got hurt in that game and that match up was played in hot and humid South Florida. This time around the scenery switches to Heinz Field.
Here is the thing. I can see this game being relatively close for much of it going into the fourth quarter before Pittsburgh puts it away. Miami's only shot really is to keep the Steelers offense off the field and get the ball in Jay Ajayi's hands, who ran for over 200 yards in their October matchup. It is a tall order tough for the Fins though.
Green Bay (-4.5) over NY Giants
This game is a personal investment. First, I am a die hard Giants fan. Secondly, Giants/Packers has turned into a low-key playoff rivalry in the last decade. Both of the New York Giants recent Super Bowl title runs have included a stop in Lambeau Field. The first one ended Brett Favre's Green Bay career in 2008. The other was more impressive in that the Giants beat the then defending Super Bowl champs who were 15-1 that year and pretty much manhandled them from start to finish.
So it is of no surprise that many pundits believe that this matchup has the makings of another Giants upset. Yet I am skeptical. Maybe I am too closely guarded with this specific incarnation of Big Blue. I have to be honest though, I have not been impressed with this Giants team this season. Even with their 11-5 record, their offense especially have been wildly inconsistent. Eli Manning has confused me more in 2016 then the latter. It's also very discomforting that the New York offense is heavily reliant on star receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The Packers are red hot. Aaron Rodgers has made a strong case for MVP. This is what should be most scary by all accounts. Vegas opened the line for this matchup at 7 points and it's already melted down to 4.5. What even scarier is so much money has moved the Giants direction this week that just like the Raiders/Texans matchup I spoke about earlier, this is setting up beautifully for the Packers to flip this in their favor.