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Home teams emerge victorious as playoffs begin on Wildcard Saturday

The quest for the Lombardi Trophy is now in full swing as Saturday kicked off the playoff festivities and brought us one step closer to crowning a new champion in Super Bowl LI

The 2016 NFL Playoffs kicked off with wildcard action in Houston and Seattle.

Defense was the key to a Houston Texans (10-7) victory, defeating the Raiders 27-14, who were playing without star quarterback Derek Carr. The tone of the game was set by DE/LB Jadeveon Clowney and LB Whitney Mercilus. Clowney would tip an errant pass to himself and secure an interception early in the game that led to a Texans score from Lamar Miller, while Mercilus was all over the field, finishing the game with seven total tackles and two sacks.

Houston QB Brock Osweiler had a modest game, throwing for 168 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 15 yards and another score. Lamar Miller tallied 73 yards on the ground and his aforementioned touchdown, while receiver DeAndre Hopkins finished with nine receptions for 67 yards and a score.

Meanwhile, it was a disappointing end for the surprising Raiders (12-5) as the absence of Carr was apparent throughout the contest. In their first playoff appearance since 2002, third-string backup Connor Cook and the Oakland offense just couldn’t get things going from the onset. Cook would finish the day 18 for 45, 161 yards, 1 touchdown and three picks. Star receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree were virtually non-factors as the sole recipient of a TD through the air would be Andre Holmes, who also led all receivers with 50 yards. Tailback Latavius Murray contributed Oakland’s only other score of the game, obtaining only 39 yards on the ground.

In the late game, Matthew Stafford and the Lions were unable to pull out one of their come-from-behind victories, losing 26-6 to the Seahawks (11-5-1) in Seattle. The home team’s defense remained as stout as ever, not surrendering a single touchdown, only allowing two Detroit field goals. Russell Wilson contributed 224 yards in the air and two touchdowns. Running back Thomas Rawls was a huge factor as well, totaling 161 yards on the ground and a score. Doug Baldwin, Wilson’s favorite target, lead all receivers with 104 yards and a touchdown, and Paul Richardson would dazzle the crowd with his three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.

For Detroit (9-8), tonight marks their ninth straight playoff loss. Stafford, to his credit threw zero picks to the Legion of Boom, 18 for 32 and 205 yards. Much like the earlier AFC matchup, the Lions offense were essentially an non-factor, despite a couple of questionable calls (or non-calls) in Seattle’s favor. Marvin Jones led the Detroit receiving corps with 81 yards, while as a team, Detroit only gained 49 total yards rushing. This loss follows last year’s early exit from the playoffs at Dallas.

Houston awaits the outcome of the Dolphins-Steelers playoff game tomorrow afternoon. Should Miami win, Houston would head to Kansas City (12-4) next weekend, while a Pittsburgh (11-5) victory would pit the Texans against the top seeded Patriots (14-2) at Foxboro. Seattle, being locked in third place, are set to head to Atlanta for a rematch from earlier this season against the #2 Falcons (11-5) next Saturday afternoon.

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