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2016-17 AFC Playoff Analysis: Wild Card and Beyond

[lead align=”default”]The settled 2016-17 AFC playoff picture might just all be noise until teams get to Foxboro.[/lead]

Without question, the New England Patriots remain the favorites to come out of the AFC and advance to Super Bowl LI. At 14-2, they have all the pieces in place to make a big run. However, anything can happen in the playoffs, and there are a couple teams that could make things interesting.

2016-17 AFC Playoff Games: Oakland at Houston

A few weeks ago, this game looked like a Raiders blowout. Now, who can be sure? Derek Carr, the Raiders’ successful quarterback, went down with an injury. This was followed by their backup quarterback, Matt McGloin, also getting hurt.

In most ordinary situations, such a team would be completely screwed, even at 12-4. Not so, given their opponent: home team Houston, the AFC South champions, are 9-7 and have no quarterback, either. Tom Savage came on when Brock Osweiler was benched a few weeks ago, but he too was injured. Osweiler himself is available, but if Houston’s depending on him, they’re in trouble. The Texans would probably rather have the younger, more athletic Nicolas Cage under center.

It probably won’t take a lot of points to win this game. Oakland might end up favored, anyway, because they’re better overall, but this could go either way.

2016-17 AFC Playoff Games: Miami at Pittsburgh

Much will be made of Miami going north to play in a cold-weather city for a playoff game. More should be made of them going to face this particular Steelers team, one that was 4-5 and ran the table.

With the talent they have offensively, including Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh will be a solid favorite. Miami starts Matt Moore here with Ryan Tannehill still out with injury. This will be Moore’s first playoff game.

If Miami somehow gets out of Pittsburgh with a win, they get to travel to Foxboro. Not really much of a prize.

2016-17 AFC Playoff Games: Future

Assuming Pittsburgh wins, they are going to Kansas City no matter what else happens. Steelers and Chiefs has the potential to be a very close game, but perhaps Kansas City can make their first AFC title game in 23 years. The Steelers have been there and done that recently, so it won’t be easy. Meanwhile, the Oakland-Houston winner goes to New England, and with no competent quarterback on either side, you can guess how that will go.

If, for whatever reason, Miami comes out of Pittsburgh with a win, they are going to New England. There, they will most likely lose. This leaves the winner of the Oakland-Houston game to tackle Kansas City. In their current statuses, it’s hard to like either one. Oakland at least has familiarity with the Chiefs, but not their full compliment of players.

In essence, any Divisional matchup will heavily favor the Patriots, while Kansas City looks good in their own scenarios, but with a slightly harder road. And then they, too, must go to New England.

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