Cocos Corner Gone Wild
Wild Card Round
Saturday 4:15 Est
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
In the first matchup to kick off the 2019 playoffs the Buffalo Bills will travel to Houston to visit the Texans. This matchup is the most interesting one for me because on paper the Texans should be able to win. It just feels like its too premature for the Bills to even be close to the road to February let alone actually competing in it, but while studying them you can see why they are a talented team deserving of this opportunity. They continue to grow year by year as the young core players continue to get better and become impact players in the NFL. These 2 teams met last year in 2018 in Week 6 in a 20-13 victory for the Texans where the defenses were at their best, and a pick 6 being the difference for the Texans. The Bills defense were all over Texans QB Deshuan Watson all day long gaining 7 sacks and 15 pressures from my count, with very solid coverage in the secondary, giving up just 142 passing yards. One matchup that was intriguing then and will be this weekend is Bills young but very good CB Tre’Davius White shadowing the great Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins. White shadowed Hopkins for most of the game and I expect the same this weekend. Out of the 5 catches for 63 yards that Hopkins had, he caught 2 passes for 27 yards and a TD in which White was the covering him man to man. The TD was an impressive catch by Hopkins who ran a fade route from the slot in which Watson threw in back shoulder form with a lot of zip to it, and Hopkins with his incredible hands and body control adjusts to it making an above the head catch falling backwards and in for the TD. White was tight in coverage and nothing he can do about it. Fast forward to this weekend and White who has continued to improve just gets better with his man coverage basically mirroring WRs very well, with his quickness and hip fluidity to keep up, and speed to close if there is any gain in seperation. If the Bills can duplicate the pass rush they had last season versus a still weak Houston offensive line it would make White and the Bills secondary jobs much easier. But if the Texans are able to pass protect White will be a key factor in trying to stop one of the NFL’s most lethal weapons named Nuk.
Saturday 8:15 est
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
In this matchup is another young and up and coming team in the Titans going up against the defending champions the New England Patriots. The Titans are a football team that has won games in large part because of their ability to control the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. But offensively its where it all starts as the Titans offensive line is arguably the top 3 in the league providing exceptional pass protection but more importantly the ability to move the defense in run blocking assignments. RB Derrick Henry is a massive downhill runner that once he gets going downhill it's more taxing on the defense as the game goes on but if there is a team capable of stopping him its the Patriots front 7. This group vs the Titans run game is the key matchup for me in this game. Henry led the league in rushing but the scheme and the great blocking was a key factor. Henry is strictly a 2 down RB that excels mostly in a gap scheme, where there is a variety of pulls and sift blocks by the TEs and WRs. There are plays where the Titans assign TEs and WRs to come in motion and as soon as the ball is hiked they hit a gap, mostly the A and B gaps helping pave running lanes like a traditional fullback would. Mix that with the front 5 ability to sustain blocks and pull up to the next level and they create plenty of space for Henry to get downhill. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck and company have always done a good job slowing Henry down with some of their run defense concepts, specifically having linebackers meet in the gaps as they crash into blockers and I expect the same things this weekend. It will be a physical matchup as the Patriots down linemen in their 3-4 scheme will be key to getting off blocks and not letting Henry get started down hill. Patriots nose tackle Danny Shelton will be a key player in helping stop the Titans run game if the Patriots want to win this game. Hey played a key role in these 2 teams matchup in 2018 taking on several blockers allowing the linebackers to make stops, and also contributing in 2 tackles for loss. This battle will be an interesting one to watch.
Sunday 1:05 est
Minnesota VIkings at New Orleans Saints
The Vikings have an opportunity to knock off the Saints for the 2nd time in three years. This is another matchup with the beef up front for both teams having to play a key role in who wins this game. The most intriguing matchup will be the Vikings edge rushers versus the excellent offensive tackles for the Saints. DEs Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter are not only excellent pass rushers but are very important players in the Vikings run defense, and will need to both be on their A game this weekend. Saints Tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk have been amongst the best duo in the NFL also being key contributors to the saints success. The Hunter vs Ramczyk matchup will be the most intriguing as Hunter has the ability to take over a game just as much as Ramczyk has the ability to control a game. The Saints use his athleticism in space quite often in the run game as he can get downfield getting blocks paving way for the RB. In 3 games I have watched of the Saints offense I did not see a sack or pressure given up by Ramczyk, but this may be his toughest matchup yet against the well rounded abilities of Danielle Hunter who had 11.5 sacks this season with 70 tackles, 15 for loss at the left end position. Hunter has a unique blend of quickness, speed, and strength making him effective in all his responsibilities especially as a strong side defensive end who is responsible for stopping the run as his number one goal. His ability to rush the passer is a big time bonus for the Vikings as he combines his physical traits with excellent pass rushing techniques, to put pressure on the QB. These matchups on both sides will be fun to see who makes more plays in route to a victory this weekend.
Sunday 4:15 est
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
In the last matchup of Wild Card Weekend, the Seahawks head to Philadelphia where the very hot QB Carson Wentz awaits them. In this matchup I decided to focus on the 2 QBs who are the most important players, not only because of the position, but because they are arguably the 2 QBs in the NFL that are single handedly carrying their teams to the playoffs. Now I am not trying to take away from the rest of the players on each team because football is the definition of team sport, but there were various times throughout the season that these QBs took over games. The Eagles beef up front specifically is one of the best units in the NFL but there were periods where even they had some inconsistencies. In Week 12 this season, the Seattle defense had arguably their most efficient game defensively getting 3 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 2 interceptions, in route to a 17-9 victory. The Eagles pass catchers had roughly about 4 drops something that was a trend for them overall this season. But Wentz has been the most consistent player for them despite the injuries and lack of good play around him. He is one of the most impressive athletes at the QB position that I have evaluated with the insane combination of strength, quickness, and mobility to move in and out of the pocket when facing pressure. His lower body strength is comparable to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger which allows them to escape sacks and tackles to extend plays. Wentz arm strength is also elite in my position as he has shown he can make throws from all platforms, whether he is falling or from one side of the field to the other. Combine those physical traits with a full skill set of improving accuracy and decision making while quickly processing the information in front of him and you have a QB that can reach greatness if he’s not there already. Russel Wilson as well had arguably his best season to date and is firmly in the discussion for the MVP of the league. The theory around Russ in the beginning of his career was that he was a product of a good team around him both defensively with a solid run game. But evaluating him the last couple of years you can argue that he has carried the Seahawks as their defense has been weaker in different situations and the mind boggling lack of protection his dealt with consistently over the last couple of years. Hes another QB that despite his size has great physical strength with mobility to extend plays in and out of the pocket. What I specifically like about Russ is his knack for knowing when to scramble and when to stay behind the line of scrimmage and deliver a pass. Rarely you see him get caught being indecisive in that aspect of his game. His arm strength as well is impressive for his small frame and accuracy both standing and moving has improved over time as well. With all that being said I will make a prediction for this game. The Seahawks beef still struggle to consistently pass protect and with the Eagles front 7, that will pose a challenge for Wilson. Combine that with the Eagles being the hottest team going into the playoffs and I think the Eagles will avenge their Week 12 loss with a solid strong win, and continue their momentum into the next round.
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