Best one-on-one matchups to watch over Wild Card weekend
Ready for NFL Wild Card action? Pro Football Focus highlights the key one-on-one matchup to watch in every game.
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
After suffering a groin injury in Week 17, it looks as if cornerback A.J. Bouye is set to play in the Houston’s AFC Wild Card matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Bouye adds a major lift to the Texans’ secondary, surrendering just a 73.1 passer rating on targets thrown into his coverage this season (13th-best mark among NFL CBs). He’ll often be tasked with slowing Raiders second-year receiver Amari Cooper; this season, Cooper has recorded the eighth-most receiving yards (1,154) among WRs, with 38.8 percent of those yards coming after contact.
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson has again put together an impressive season, proving to be the league’s second-most-accurate quarterback under pressure (behind only Sam Bradford). What’s more, when Wilson targets his receivers deep downfield (20-plus yards from the line of scrimmage), he’s been the sixth-most-accurate QB, connecting for 36 completions and seven touchdowns on such throws. On Saturday, Lions CB Darius Slay will attempt to limit Wilson’s production through the air; this season, Slay has broken up eight passes into his coverage (among the top 20 CBs, despite missing three complete games) on 64 attempts.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
When the Dolphins and Steelers last faced in Week 6 (in Miami), running back Jay Ajayi recorded his first of three games this year with 200-plus rushing yards, and his only outing with multiple rushing touchdowns. 148 of those yards came after contact, with three missed tackles forced. Missing from that game, however, was Steelers LB Ryan Shazier. Since Week 9, Shazier is tied with Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny for the seventh-highest run-stop percentage among all NFL ILBs.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
DE Olivier Vernon — one of New York’s big-money free-agent acquisitions this past offseason — has thus far been an upgrade among the Giants’ defensive line, recording more QB pressures (86) than any other 4-3 defensive end this season (albeit on 26 more pass-rushing snaps than the next-closest player). Without Jason Pierre-Paul suiting up, Vernon’s impact will be even more important on Sunday, as he’ll need to disrupt Aaron Rodgers in the pocket. Likely slowing Vernon, however, will be Packers LT David Bakhtiari. For the 2016 regular season, Bakhtiari recorded the second-highest pass-blocking efficiency mark among all NFL offensive tackles.