Here is a look at Saturday’s opening round of the NFL playoffs, including the broadcasting TV network for each contest. You can also livestream these games on the Yahoo Sports App.
All times are Eastern.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, 4:35 p.m., ABC
Because Deshaun Watson was a star at Clemson and had a seamless transition to being a fantastic quarterback in the NFL, it seems he has been playing longer than he has.
This is just Year 3 for the Texans quarterback. Watson led his Texans to a second straight AFC South championship and Houston will face the Buffalo Bills in the first game of the 2019 season’s NFL playoffs.
We’re way, way too early into Watson’s career to talk about legacies. But they’re built on playoff games, and you never know how many you’ll have. Watson is very good, but young quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have blown past him to become the darlings of the league.
Narratives change with playoff runs, though it will be a big challenge for Watson on Saturday.
The Bills are very good on defense, and Watson knows that firsthand. The Bills have plenty of young stars. Buffalo was second in the NFL in points allowed and third in yards allowed. Their best player is probably cornerback Tre’Davious White, and his matchup against Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be fascinating.
On Oct. 14, 2018, the Bills made life tough for Watson. They sacked him seven times. Watson had 177 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Texans won because Nathan Peterman — in the game for an injured Josh Allen — threw a late pick-six.
Teams change a lot from season to season, so maybe there’s not a lot to take from that game. But the Bills are still well aware that they need to slow down Watson to win.
“He presents a lot of different problems,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “His throwing ability, along with his escape ability as well. There are times you watch him on tape where it looks like people have him hemmed up and somehow, some way he gets out of it and on the run he makes some very accurate throws.
“He’s really the straw that stirs the drink for their offense. You’ve got to find a way to contain him. If not, it can be a long day, he just can hurt you in so many different ways.”
Watson had a good season, but his numbers were mostly similar to last season with a few more interceptions and slight downticks in other categories. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the breakout some anticipated. But with an iconic playoff performance or two it will seem like a big breakout season.
It’s not only a big game for Watson, but for Allen too. Allen, who came along well in his second season quarterbacking the Bills, is making his first postseason appearance.
The Bills are still starving for playoff success. They broke a long playoff drought two seasons ago, but lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was their first playoff game since losing to the Titans in the “Music City Miracle” game the end of the 1999 season. The Bills still haven’t won a playoff game since 1995.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m., CBS
It’s hard to imagine the Patriots without Tom Brady. No other player has had this much success over this much time with one franchise.
But it will happen at some point. Brady can become a free agent after this season. The final year on his deal already automatically voided and he can’t be franchise or transition tagged by the Patriots. If Brady wants to play somewhere else in 2020, there’s nothing stopping him.
While it still seems impossible to believe Brady would play somewhere else, it frames Saturday night’s wild-card game against the Titans in a different way.
Win or lose, this is very likely to be the last Patriots’ home game this season. And it’s at least possible that would make it Brady’s last home game with New England.
Think of the Brady era in New England this way: Gillette Stadium is now 18 seasons old, hosting its first NFL game in 2002. At the start of next season, there will be 11 NFL stadiums opened since Gillette’s first game. Brady has been the Patriots’ quarterback since the building opened, with others filling in only for his 2008 ACL injury or 2016 suspension.
It still seems the most likely scenario is that Brady is the Patriots’ quarterback in 2020, maybe because any other scenario is too difficult to envision. Retirement doesn’t seem to be imminent for Brady, even as he finishes up his age-42 season, though Brady doesn’t talk much about his future at all. That adds to the mystery.
We just don’t know what might happen, and that’s what makes this home playoff game unique. There hasn’t been any level of uncertainty about Brady’s future before. Even if it’s a long shot that Brady goes elsewhere, the chance is higher than ever before.
That the Patriots are playing at all this weekend is a shock. They haven’t played on wild-card weekend since the end of the 2009 season. They were set for yet another first-round bye when the Miami Dolphins pulled off one of the top upsets of the season in Week 17, knocking the Patriots back to the No. 3 seed. It looked like a sign that the dynasty is entering its final days.
Of course, we’ve heard that before. The Patriots are limping into the playoffs but they’re still capable of making a run because they have Bill Belichick, Brady and a good defense. The Titans have been good since Ryan Tannehill took over at quarterback and will be a popular upset pick. But write off New England at your own risk.
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