Three of the four AFC teams playing this weekend encountered issues at the quarterback position, encountering multiple injuries in the final weeks of the regular season.
For Miami, Matt Moore has started as QB in the final three weeks, leading the Dolphins to end the season 10-6 following Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury in Week 14 against Arizona. Although Tannehill returned to practice after recovering from ACL and MCL sprains, Moore was named the starter for Sunday’s game given his impressive performance to end the regular season.
Oakland’s quarterback Derek Carr demonstrated his talents in key victories against Baltimore and Denver, leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record and their first playoff appearance since 2002. Unfortunately, Carr broke his fibula during a Christmas Eve victory against the Colts, likely ending his season early.
Matt McGloin replaced Carr that game and started for the seventh time of his NFL career last Sunday, yet a late hit from Broncos defensive end Jared Crick forced McGloin to exit the game at the end of the first half.
Rookie Connor Cook took over with the Raiders down 17-0 and completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards in a 24-6 loss. In a postgame interview, McGloin stated that he plans on being fully recovered to take on the Texans. Despite a strong start to the season headed by Carr, uncertainty at the quarterback position and poor performances by McGloin and Cook signal trouble for the Raiders as they face Houston.
As for Houston, offensive coordinator George Godsey opted to start Tom Savage against the Bengals on Christmas Eve after starting Brock Osweiler for the first 14 games. Savage threw for 176 yards and clinched the division with a 12-10 victory. This past Sunday, Savage started again versus the Titans but suffered a possible concussion in the first quarter.
Houston Head Coach Bill O’Brien announced Tuesday afternoon that Osweiler will start over Savage this week, given Osweiler’s uncharacteristically impressive demonstration on Sunday and Savage’s questionable health.
Red Hot Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger, 34-year-old Steelers quarterback, hopes to lengthen his 13th season in the NFL as he leads his team on its ninth postseason run since his arrival. Throughout his career in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger has remained fairly consistent statistically. The 2016 season started shakily with the Steelers at 4-5 after unexpected losses to Philadelphia and Miami.
Following Week 10’s 35-30 loss to the Cowboys, Pittsburgh has built a seven-game winning streak relying on a stellar offensive performance. The momentum draws from cohesion between Roethlisberger and the duo of receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. In a postgame interview, Roethlisberger said, “This game is about when you can get hot and play your best football.”
Steelers fans hope that the power from the Pittsburgh offense displayed at the end of this season along with Roethlisberger’s postseason experience extends the team’s winning streak.
Winners and Losers
The Steelers’ cohesion and momentum, combined with Tannehill’s injury, will likely lead Pittsburgh to a victory if the fatal errors from Week 6 — including two Roethlisberger interceptions and allowing Miami running back Jay Ajayi to rush for 204 yards — are avoided. Prediction: Steelers 28, Dolphins 17.
When Oakland and Houston met in Week 11 in Mexico City, the competition was close. An officiating error in the first quarter changed what would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass from Osweiler to Hopkins into a 24-yard run, leading to a Houston field goal. The Houston defense held the Oakland offense to just 120 yards in the first three quarters. Two long touchdown passes from Carr in the fourth quarter pushed the Raiders to a victory. The absence of Carr and along with Osweiler’s recent success leads me to anticipate a Houston victory.
Prediction: Texans 24, Raiders 16.
The Pittsburgh offense is dangerous, with five members selected to this year’s Pro Bowl. The Steelers have repeatedly demonstrated their talent, especially in the final weeks of the regular season and are destined to appear in this year’s Super Bowl.
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