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Raiders rookie QB will make NFL history vs. Texans in AFC wild-card





Two weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders were heading for the playoffs with MVP candidate Derek Carr at quarterback.

Now they're down to rookie third-string quarterback Connor Cook as they prepare for their first post-season game since the 2002 season with a wild-card matchup against the Houston Texans on Saturday.

Cook was named the starter this week after Carr broke his leg on Dec. 24 and backup Matt McGloin injured his shoulder on Sunday. Cook, who made his NFL debut last week, will be the first quarterback in NFL history to make his first start in a playoff game.

But the Raiders (12-4) aren't feeling sorry for themselves.

"You do the best you can regardless of the circumstances," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. "To me it's a great opportunity. You have these great opportunities in life to be at your best, and you get these great challenges.

Rookie leads way

Cook was a fourth-round pick after a four-year career at Michigan State where he threw for 9,194 yards with 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

He expects to be a bit nervous early on Saturday, but believes his big-game experience with the Spartans will help him calm down quickly.

"You always have the nerves leading up to the game and once you get out there you have a couple snaps and you get hit, get knocked down then all of that stuff kind of goes away and you start to play ball," he said.

The Texans (9-7) also had a quarterback shakeup this week and Brock Osweiler returns to the starting lineup after being benched two weeks ago.

Tom Savage started Houston's last two regular-season games, but is out this week after suffering a concussion on Sunday.

Osweiler seeks redemption 

Osweiler is looking to redeem himself and help Houston to its first playoff win since the 2012 season after failing to live up to expectations in his first season after signing a $72 million US contract.

Under his guidance Houston's passing game has been one of the worst in the league and he's thrown more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (15).

The Texans liked the way he performed after taking over when Savage went down on Sunday and expect him to build off that against the Raiders.

"There's nothing different from a regular-season game to a playoff game," Osweiler said.

"The stakes are higher, obviously ... but it's just a normal football game. I've had great success in this league playing football, so I'm very confident. I'm very confident in my teammates and I know we'll be ready to go."

Seahawks host Lions in NFC

Only a few weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions were fighting for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a coveted bye that makes getting to the Super Bowl so much easier.

Stumbles by both teams over the final few weeks have led to the Seahawks hosting the Lions in the NFC wild-card game on Saturday night. 

Both teams will look back on the final few weeks with a certain level of regret.

Detroit (9-7) faced a gauntlet schedule, closing with three playoff teams — Giants, Cowboys, Packers — and lost all three to give away the NFC North title and its shot of hosting a playoff game.

Seattle may view its stumble as more costly. The Seahawks (10-5-1) lost control of the No. 2 seed when they lost at home to Arizona in Week 16 and with it the chance to be resting.

'A true restart'

"History kind of shows you that it's a true restart," Detroit QB Matthew Stafford said. "We're looking at data and who's won it and how, and all that kind of stuff. I'm sure there's been teams that have gotten hot and gone and won it, but there are teams that have not had the finish that they wanted and still gone on to be really successful."

There is a lot in favour for the Seahawks playing at home against a Detroit franchise that last won a playoff road game in 1957.

Seattle is 5-0 in the playoffs at home since 2010 and has won at least one game in each post-season appearance under Carroll. Since 2012, the Seahawks are 7-3 overall in the playoffs.

All that experience and success doesn't take into account the statistical differences. The Seahawks finished the regular season better than Detroit in every major statistical category offensively and defensively.

But the Lions have shown resiliency all season, recovering from a 1-3 start and winning an NFL-record eight times when trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime.


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