With only four NFL games happening this weekend, I’ve scaled the top ten match-ups back to the top five. This morning, we’ll take a look at the individual battles you need to keep an eye on during wild card weekend 2016.
1. Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson v. the Seattle Seahawks run defense
I covered this match-up when Peterson faced the Seahawks in Week 13, thinking it would go well for the league’s leading rusher. It, um, didn’t and I freely admit that I stand corrected. That said, it seems impossible for Pete Carroll’s team to hold Peterson to fewer than 20 yards again. Do I think Seattle will ultimately win this game? Of course. Do I think watching A.D. will be a heck of a lot more fun this time? You betcha.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown v. the Cincinnati Bengals secondary
This is the kind of match-up that epitomizes postseason football. Brown is arguably the best receiver in the league and Cincy’s secondary has held him twice already this year. In two games against the Bengals, Brown had just 13 more yards and 4 more receptions than he averaged in single games the rest of the season. This AFC North battle ought to be a good one.
3. Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt v. Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith
When the Texans and the Chiefs played one another in Week 1, Watt clocked two sacks and four quarterback hurries. These were both different teams way back then (you know, a whole four-ish months ago) and I’m looking forward to seeing if Watt can do the same kind of damage at Arrowhead this weekend. A lot will depend on whether or not RT Jah Reid, who was out last week, can do his job protecting Smith.
4. Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed v. Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews
Matthews has had a horrible season by his standards (or, really, by anyone’s standards), allowing over 70% of the passes thrown near him and giving up over 10 yards per reception. Reed, on the other hand, has put-up staggering numbers for the past month, catching 29 of 31 passes and reaching the end zone five times. Matthews is still the best option the faltering Pack have to (try to) cover Reed, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can get it together in time for playoff football.
5. Minnesota Vikings WR Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs v. the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom
The LoB is back. This could spell trouble for Wallace and Diggs on Sunday afternoon. Although I don’t think the Vikings will have as much trouble running the ball as they did during their last meeting with the Seahawks, they might have to turn to the air if things go south on the ground. If Richard Sherman and Co. have anything to say about it, though, Minnesota’s two top receivers (who, let’s face facts, aren’t exactly elite) will be shut down. I’m intrigued to see how prepared Wallace and Diggs are to manage this surging secondary.