The playoffs kick off as the field of 12 is narrowed to eight with none of the four matchups looking overly easy to pick
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
Saturday, 4:35pm ET/9.35pm GMT
What the Bills need to do to win: Whether you prefer detailed analytics or more simple stats, the Bills had one of the leagues best defenses this year. Buffalo finished the regular season ranked in the top-10 in total defense (third according to NFL.com, sixth according to Football Outsiders), rushing defense and passing defense. If they want to advance to the divisional round, theyll need to limit Texans QB Deshaun Watson from completing any long-yardage chunk plays early in the game. If Buffalo enter halftime leading or trailing by fewer than 10 points, it will have a good chance to win the game.
What the Texans need to do to win: Watson is one of the best big-play quarterbacks in the NFL and he has multiple explosive receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills) to score even if the offense isnt in rhythm. When facing Buffalo, scoring on chunk plays is a strong way to place pressure on the Bills methodical offense. The Bills specialize in slow-paced, physical games, so Houston would do well to try and take a big early lead and force Buffalo into an uncomfortable pace.
Key Player: Carlos Hyde, Texans. There will be plenty of focus on the Texans high-flying offense, but Buffalos stingy pass defense is equipped to limit Watson and his star receivers. If Hyde, who quietly rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, can exploit Buffalos front seven, then Houston will be in better position to execute the kinds of big plays it takes to beat the Bills.
Prediction: Bills 20-14 Texans
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
Saturday, 8.15 pm ET/1.15am GMT (Sunday)
What the Titans need to do to win: Rushing champion Derrick Henry rushed for over 100 yards in five of his last six games (896 total yards, 6.45 yards per carry) to help propel the Titans to the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons. As the season grows longer, Henry seems to get stronger: he clinched the 2019 rushing title with his splendid final third of the season after logging 585 of 1,059 yards in his final four games in 2018. Even with the Patriots stout front seven and revered run defense, Henry is one of the toughest running backs in the league to stop because of his size and pure strength. If Henry succeeds early, that should allow quarterback Ryan Tannehill more time to try and exploit the fierce New England defense.
What the Patriots need to do to win:Get their offense in sync. Tom Brady and the New England attack still managed 12 wins in 2019, but their Week 17 loss to Miami was a rocky, mistake-filled performance on offense that plunged them into the No 3 seed. If Brady can establish a better rhythm with rookie wide receiver NKeal Harry and rely a bit less on Julian Edelman, the Patriots offense can better support a defense that helped pace the 12-win season.
Key player: Titans WR AJ Brown. New England have one of the leagues best secondary anchored by star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but Brown has logged over 100 yards receiving in four of his last six games and scored five touchdowns in that timeframe. If he or Henry breaks a big play early, the Titans may be able to control tempo against New Englands struggling offense.
Prediction: Titans 13-24 Patriots