Four of the NFL’s best quarterbacks will face off this Sunday in the league’s two Divisional Round games. Young studs Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson will take the field in the AFC matchup, while Super Bowl winners Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson will go in the NFC game.
|Houston Texans||+10||+325||O 51|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-10||-435||U 51|
One of the greatest clutch college players, Watson’s professional legacy was the complete opposite through his first six quarters of playoff action. The superstar quarterback turned the corner in a comeback victory over Buffalo last week, with one incredible play after another in the second half and overtime against an elite defense. He’s capable of keeping Houston in any game.
DESHAUN’S SIGNATURE MOMENT.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 5, 2020
Watson should have confidence in his return to Kansas City, where he led Houston to a 31-24 victory over the Chiefs in October. The Texans put up 192 rushing yards, outgained Kansas City 472-309, and enjoyed a 39:48-20:12 time-of-possession advantage to prevail as a 3.5-point underdog.
The Chiefs will have five starters Sunday who missed the last meeting because of injury, and they certainly improved their level of play down the stretch. Kansas City enters on a six-game winning streak, went 5-0-1 against the spread, and outscored opponents by a 16.3-pont margin during that stretch. Mahomes should dissect the league’s 29th-ranked pass defense (Houston allows 266.4 passing yards per game). Kansas City’s defense has been surprisingly stout of late, and they get after opposing quarterbacks with a ferocious pass rush.
However, Houston remains capable of exploiting a soft Kansas City run defense with Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, and Watson. The Texans should get back Will Fuller, who was a gametime scratch last week, and the offense is more effective when the talented wideout serves as a counterpart to DeAndre Hopkins (they’re 13-3 when both are on the field).
Kansas City may prove best, but I am not giving more than a touchdown to Watson.
NFL free pick: Texans +10
|Seattle Seahawks||+4||+180||Over 47|
|Green Bay Packers||-4||-225||Under 47|
Green Bay runs hot and cold but never turns in two bad performances in a row. After a dominant defensive effort against Minnesota in Week 16, the Packers allowed Detroit to run roughshod over them (171 rushing yards) and had to rally to clinch a first-round playoff bye.
Seattle, which lost a number of players to injury late in the season, got nothing going on the ground in last week’s Wild Card win. Marshawn Lynch and Travis Homer rushed for a combined 19 yards on 17 carries. But Wilson carried them, like so many previous occasions. He threw for 325 yards, and DK Metcalf delivered a career-best performance, with seven receptions for 160 yards. Green Bay doesn’t have the run defense of Philadelphia, but Seattle is also missing key parts on the offensive line.
The ultimate amount of disrespect from DK Metcalf waving bye to Eagles fans ✌️😭 pic.twitter.com/80H58vQ3xg
— Kyle ⚾️ (@KyleNYY) January 6, 2020
Tackle Duane Brown and guard Mike Iupati are likely out, center Joey Hunt has been limited by a fibula injury, and tackle George Fant is dealing with a groin injury. Seattle was undisciplined last week, when it was penalized 11 times for 114 yards last week, and Green Bay’s defense can take advantage of the patchwork offensive line. Free agent acquisitions Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith have combined for 25 1/2 sacks, and linebacker Blake Martinez has been all over the field recently, including an important fourth-quarter interception against Detroit. Unlike Philadelphia, Green Bay has decent cornerbacks, Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.
Green Bay has not failed to cover consecutive games this season, with a 5-0 ATS mark after an ATS loss, and running back Aaron Jones provides them with more offensive balance than Seattle. I expect Rodgers to rebound after a sluggish performance against Detroit, and Green Bay’s defense will have the upper hand in a comfortable Packers win.