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NFL Pro Football 2015-16 Wild Card Picks

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Fearless Rick's NFL Wild Card Picks - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | January 9

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Saturday, January 9

4:35 pm Kansas City Chiefs (-3 1/2, 40) at Houston Texans - Having won ten straight games, the Chiefs come into Houston for a wild card game as favorites, although Houston, after a spotty, 2-4, start, was one of the better teams in the second half of the season, winning eight of their last 11 games and their last three straight.

The Texans whipped up on AFC South foes, Tennessee and Jacksonville for the final two wins of the season, after taking down the Colts, 16-10, in week 15.

Houston topped Tennessee, 34-6, and walloped the Jaguars, 30-6, to close out the season. Their final win saw the return of Brian Hoyer as the starting QB. Brandon weeded filled in well in his two-week absence, winning both starts.

The Texans should not be taken lightly, because they came together, especially on defense, allowing just 22 points over the last three games.

If Houston is to win, they have the advantage of home field and an oppressive defense, led by JJ Watt, because their offense simply isn't one of the best in the league. In fact, they ranked 21st (tied with the Falcons), at 21.2 points per game, and, since they'll be facing the league's third-stingiest defense in Kansas City (17.9 ppg. allowed), they'll need to be on their game.

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Kansas City had one of the strangest seasons in NFL history, winning their opener - incidentally, a 27-20 win over these very same Houston Texans, in Houston - and then losing the next five straight. Beginning with a giveaway, 31-24 loss at Denver, and three weeks later losing AFC rushing star Jamaal Charles for the season, the prospects for the post-season in KC appeared less than dim. However, they rallied around QB Alex Smith and a well-coached defense to capture the next ten straight, finishing the season a solid 11-5.

Kansas City held seven foes to 14 points or fewer, all of them resulting in victories, and the Houston offense is probably not one that worries their defenders.

While the Chiefs may not be the most potent offense around, they are opportunistic, and the feeling is that they will keep this one close and punch home a final, convincing score, or, simply overwhelm Houston on both sides of the ball.

This game figures to be the lowest-scoring affair of the weekend, and the Chiefs - with the longest current winning streak in the league - should move onto the next round.

Prediction: Chiefs 20 Texans 10

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8:15 pm Pittsburgh Steelers (-2 1/2, 46) at Cincinnati Bengals - The Steelers plodded along all season to post a 10-6 record, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild card, whereas the Bengals cruised to an 8-0 start and rode their big lead in the AFC North to the division title, though the final four weeks were without starting QB Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati wrapped up the division crown in week 16, when the Baltimore Ravens upset the Steelers and provided a two-game bulge in the standings.

The Bengals closed out the season with a 24-16 win over the Ravens, and will be at home for this wild card meeting, where, ironically, the Steelers pasted them in week 14, with a 33-20 victory.

Earlier in the season, the Bengals topped the Steelers, 16-10, in Pittsburgh. In the first game, their win, Andy Dalton was the quarterback and Ben Roethlisberger was behind center for Pittsburgh. In the Cincinnati loss later in the season, AJ McCarron was running the show, and Roethlisberger had a big day throwing the ball.

The Steelers are slight favorites if for only the fact that Dalton remains sidelined and McCarron the starter, though with four weeks under his belt, the former Alabama national championship QB has proven he can play with the big boys on a consistent basis and won't make costly mistakes for the Bengals.

What worries Pittsburgh is the lack of quality at running back. DeAngelo Williams suffered a foot injury against the Browns last week and is listed as day-to-day. The general feeling is that Williams - who has been the main back for the Steelers this season - will be sitting this one out, and the rushing duties fall to Fitz Toussaint and Jordan Todman.

The absence of a running game could prove troublesome for the Steelers, because, as adroit and capable as Roethlisberger is, he still cannot do it alone. The Bengals will have to pressure him all evening, and try to take away all-pro wideout Antonio Brown.

If the Bengals - who allowed an AFC-low 17.4 points per game - can make the Steelers one-dimensional, the offense should be able to produce at least a few scores. Pittsburgh allowed 19.9 points per game, ranked 11th in the league, but they will tire if the offense doesn't click.

Getting points at home, as division champions, only strengthens the case for the Bengals. They will finally get the win they need to advance in the playoffs.

Prediction: Bengals 24 Steelers 18

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2015, 2016, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.



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