The first round of the AFC’s 2016/2017 playoffs is over. The Houston Texans defeated the Oakland Raiders 23-14 while the Pittsburgh Steelers blew out the Miami Dolphins 30-12.
This sets up the following two divisional playoff matchups:
Saturday, January 14th
8:15 PM EST on CBS: #4 Houston Texans at #1 New England Patriots
The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-0 back in week 3 at Foxborough and both teams have gone through transformations, as we summarized here. The Texans have to hope that QB Brock Osweiler can string together a second-straight solid game. Osweiler posted a 90.1 passer rating in the wild card round against the Raiders, but has failed to put together back-to-back 90+ passer rating games in a row this year.
Additionally, Osweiler has failed to surpass a 60% completion rate since week 13. The Texans only hope is for Osweiler to protect the football- he avoided throwing an interception in back-to-back games for the first time all year- and for the Houston defense to stifle the Patriots offense.
Patriots QB Tom Brady has been lights out against the Texans in recent years, aggregating 97 completions of 146 attempts (66.4%), 1,237 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and 1 interception in four games over the past five seasons. The Texans have one of the weaker run defenses in the league, so the Patriots will have multiple ways to move the football.
Sunday, January 15th
1:05 PM EST on NBC: #3 Pittsburgh Steelers at #2 Kansas City Chiefs
The Steelers defeated the Chiefs 43-14 back in week 4 at Kansas City, but that game was a long time ago. It was Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell’s first game back from suspension and he picked up 178 yards on 23 touches, while Steelers WR Antonio Brown collected 4 receptions for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. QB Ben Roethlisberger almost pitched a perfect game with 300 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, along with a 152.5 passer rating.
The Chiefs struggled, as QB Alex Smith only picked up 287 yards on 50 passing attempts. RB Spencer Ware collected 96 yards on 14 touches and WR Jeremy Maclin had one of his most productive games with 78 receiving yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers will be without star DL Cameron Heyward and the Chiefs should have star ED Justin Houston. Since that week 4 game, the Chiefs have gone 10-2, while the Steelers are in the midst of an 8-game winning streak. The Divisional Round game looks to be far more promising than the week 4 showdown.