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When it comes to playoff football the conventional thinking is that you wont get very far without a capable defense and solid run game. Why? Because the playoffs are in January and often the weather is less than pleasant. This weekend the weather will keep with tradition and will present challenges at three out of the four games. So if you are planning on making wagers, or if you are just into some "elemental" football, read on.
Colts @ Cheifs (3:35 PM Saturday) - East coast cities get the bad rap when it comes to winter weather, but Kansas City tends to hold its own in January. Snow will be on the menu Saturday as a large storm system moves across the mid-section of the country. While the bulk of the heavy snowfall looks to be before the game, almost all of the forecasts are still showing snow falling come kick-off and through at least part of the game. Later portions of the game may be more affected by a light sleet/freezing rain mixture. The temperature will be hovering right around the freezing mark all afternoon with a windchill in the mid 20's.
Simulated radar forecast for 4PM in Kansas City (red circle)Weathermodels.com
Clearly these are less than ideal conditions for two teams who rely heavily on their offense. If the storm system does not progress as quickly as forecast heavy snow is not out of the question for the beginning of the game. If you are planning to bet the over/under you will want to pay attention.
Cowboys @ Rams (7:15 PM Saturday) - The potential problem with this game won't be rain during the game, but rather before the game. Saturday looks like a pretty soggy day in Southern California which will make for a wet field come game time. Impacts will be less than what we see in Kansas City, but don't be suprised if difficult footing cuts some plays short.
Chargers @ Patriots (12:05 PM Sunday) - Skies should relatively clear in Foxboro on Sunday but it will be cold, especially for the team from LA. Temperatures will be in the mid-20's all game with the windchill in the upper teens. Its not the most brutal conditions we've ever seen in Foxboro but it won't be comfortable. If this game comes down to field goals watch out.
If you have any more weather questions about this weekend's games you can find me on Twitter @stephenuzick.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.