Wild Card Weekend: Coolest football weekend of the year, man.
When I was a kid, Championship Sunday was my favorite. Yet, after watching enough blowouts in the '80s, this weekend morphed into the best. Yes, I like this more than the Divisional Round because a) it kicks off the playoff season; and b) it's a weekend in which a dozen teams are still in the championship hunt.
The recently retired Tom Coughlin earned his first Super Bowl title with a wild-card team in 2007. Another two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, Tom Flores, earned his first Lombardi Trophy as a wild card with the 1980 Oakland Raiders -- although he didn't receive the love Coughlin has been showered with this week. Will any of the non-division winners take the Super Bowl 50 crown?
See below. And, as always, share your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place. Houston is the place where the fun gets started, so we begin there ...
Elliot Harrison went 8-8 on his predictions for Week 17, giving him a record of 151-105 so far this season. How will he fare on Wild Card Weekend? His picks are below.
On that note, the Vikings must work to establish the run in the first half -- even if it is not working. Stay committed to getting one-on-ones outside. I'd love to see Norv Turner dial up a play action to hit a nine route down the sideline. Why not go deep early and send the Seahawks a message that their top-ranked scoring defense will have to play the whole field? At some point, Stefon Diggs or Mike Wallace must beat single coverage. If not, Kyle Rudolph had better be more involved than he was in Green Bay last week. The tight end had the same number of catches as the expected temperature Sunday. #zero #SEAvsMIN
Meanwhile, Cousins has been lights-out at home. Since that dud performance in Week 1 versus Miami, the resilient signal caller has gone 6-1 at FedExField, with 15 touchdowns and zero picks. His passer rating in those games? 123.7. And on the season, he led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.8. That boy good. Whichever team can run the football more effectively will have a tremendous advantage. Dear Alfred Morris, 100 yards at five yards per tote for the second straight week would be a surprising -- and wonderful -- development. #GBvsWAS
There has been much banter regarding the Texans being the caboose, the weak link, the overused pun of the playoff field. Whatever. Let's celebrate the fact that Bill O'Brien has gotten to this point despite the fact that he got a grand total of 163 rushing yards this season from one of the best all-around backs in the game ( Arian Foster, who logged just four games due to injuries). Once again, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, Chris Polk and Akeem Hunt (Who? An undrafted rookie from Purdue ...) will be relied upon to provide balance for Brian Hoyer. They gained 160 yards against the Jags' defense in Week 17. Uh, this ain't Jacksonville they're facing. The Chiefs have allowed a scant 13.5 points per game over the last 12. And since their Week 9 bye, the Texans have yielded ... 13.5 points per game. Can you say "defensive slugfest"? Thinking Hoyer turns it over, spotting Kansas City six points. #KCvsHOU
Meanwhile, the general consensus seems to be that the Bengals are weaker sans Andy Dalton, making Pittsburgh lock city to many folks. How people are so quick to dismiss AJ McCarron is a bit weird. He has performed viably in his three starts, winning two. Sure, the two victories came against the 49ers and Ravens, but what's the guy supposed to do -- lobby the schedule makers to abruptly switch things up so he can play the Patriots and Seahawks and prove his worth? Come on. Sure, the two interceptions during the loss to Pittsburgh in Week 14 hurt. You try playing a division rival after you get, oh, maybe five percent of the snaps in practice that week. For the record, I think a relatively healthy DeAngelo Williams would spell a win for Pittsburgh, but not because McCarron wets himself in a big game. If no Williams, it's Fitzgerald Toussaint's baby. And if that's the case, I'm less confident in the pick here. I mean, look, I have it as a one-point game as is ... (UPDATE: The Steelers ruled DeAngelo Williams out with a foot injury on Friday.) #PITvsCIN