(Reuters) – Veteran quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will headline the NFL’s wild card weekend, while young upstarts such as the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen and Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson look to make their mark in the post-season.
The New England Patriots’ Brady has landed in unfamiliar territory, with the team headed into its first wild card round in a decade after an embarrassing loss against the Miami Dolphins in their final regular-season game.
The six-time Super Bowl winners will face off on Saturday at home against the Tennessee Titans, whose star running back Derrick Henry led the league in regular season rushing yards and is sure to challenge the Pats’ stout defense.
The Houston Texans added spark to their defensive lineup this week with the activation of J.J. Watt, the towering five-time Pro Bowler who had been sidelined since October with a pectoral muscle injury.
“That home field advantage is extremely important and we’re looking forward to having a loud crowd to help us out,” the 30-year-old defensive end told reporters ahead of his team’s contest against the Bills on Saturday.
The Bills’ strong defense could spell trouble for the Texans’ starting quarterback Watson, who was plagued by injuries during the regular season.
The New Orleans Saints will host the Minnesota Vikings in the first of the two NFC games on Sunday, with the 13-win and three-loss team relegated to wildcard competition thanks to the San Francisco 49ers Week 17 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks.
The pair feature in the weekend’s most lopsided matchup, with Brees’ New Orleans squad the favorites over the 10-6 Vikings.
The Philadelphia Eagles hold the dubious distinction of being the only home team headed into the weekend as underdogs, clinching a decidedly lackluster NFC East with a 9-7 record.
They will host the Seattle Seahawks, who called upon fan-favorite running back Marshawn Lynch to help patch up its injury-rattled offense.
The Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs await the winners of the AFC wild card rounds, while the Green Bay Packers and 49ers prepare to host the winners of the NFC wild card games.
Reporting By Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar