The Pro Picks: Brock Osweiler gives Texans the edge against Oakland
One month into the 2016 season, the phrase “Brock Osweiler gives the Texans a big edge at quarterback” would have been so unthinkable.
But that once ludicrous comment certainly applies to tomorrow’s AFC wild card showdown between Oakland and Houston.
Osweiler, to be kind, has struggled and was benched in a Dec. 18 game against Jacksonville. When backup Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the season finale at Tennessee, Osweiler was back under center.
Oakland has an even worse problem with starter Derek Carr out with a broken leg and backup Matt McGloin (shoulder) on the sidelines after taking a drubbing in last week’s loss at Denver, That leaves rookie Connor Cook as the starter, the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in a playoff game.
Where Osweiler gains an edge on Cook is experience. He started seven games in Denver last season and the first 14 for the Texans. Cook had a shaky debut in Denver with a second-half interception and fumble. With the added pressure that comes with playoff football, the Raiders first postseason game in 14 years doesn’t look promising.
Houston is a 31/2-point favorite tomorrow and gets our check mark to advance.
In other games:
SEATTLE (-8) over Detroit — Both teams struggled at season’s end, especially the Lions, who lost three straight to blow the NFC North crown. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing with a broken finger and Detroit’s 30th-ranked run game — the team hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since late in the 2013 season — won’t help him much. The weather, with temperatures in the mid-30s and a chance of rain or snow, may also hurt a Lions team that played just one game outdoors since early October. Seattle’s famed 12th man will be a factor as well. Lay the points.
PITTSBURGH (-10) over Miami — At first glance the double-digit spread seems a heavy load for a Pittsburgh team that has won just one playoff game in the past five years. That victory came courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals epic meltdown in last year’s wild card game.
The Steelers had legitimate injury excuses in the past few seasons, but not this year. They are as healthy as any team can be, and offensive stars Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will be well rested after sitting out last week’s game with Cleveland.
The big number suggests that the Fish, after getting manhandled last week by the Patriots, are in for another long afternoon in chilly (temps in the low teens) Pittsburgh.
N.Y. Giants (+41/2) over GREEN BAY — This is a classic matchup of New York’s stifling defense and Green Bay’s and Aaron Rodgers’ red-hot passing game. Those two units should cancel each other out, so the outcome will rest on whether Eli Manning and his talented receiving corps can overpower the Pack’s injury-ravaged secondary. The fact that New York receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis Jr. were partying in Miami with Justin Bieber and Trey Songz this week is troubling, but their coaches don’t seem annoyed.
Points should be hard to come by in the expected frigid conditions — low teens at kickoff, falling into single digits — so side with the better defense. Take the Giants and the points.
Last week: 4-12-0.