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Wild-Card Round Reactions: No Surprises Here

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird, the 2017 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's Senior Soccer Editor and a fantasy football contributor. He is also a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Football Writer of the Year Award.

So what happened during wild-card weekend? Pretty much what everyone thought would happen. The Texans, who had Brock Osweiler under center after he got his starting job back when Tom Savage was ruled out with a concussion, beat the Raiders, who started Connor Cook after he took over for Matt McGloin (shoulder), who took over for Derek Carr (broken leg). The Texans did nothing particularly well, as Osweiler finished with a 6.72 YPA on 168 yards and one touchdown, while Lamar Miller averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. DeAndre Hopkins, who came into the game with one touchdown in his last 11 games, had five catches for a game-high 67 yards and a score. On the other side of the ball, Cook needed 45 attempts to pass for 161 yards (3.58 YPA) in his first career start, while Latavius Murray rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Andre Holmes led the team with 50 receiving yards and a score. “Top” wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree caught four of 17 targets for 43 yards. No one really expected a ton of fantasy production from this game, but it was still probably uglier than many anticipated.

If there was any real surprise it’s that the Texans won by 13 when they were only four-point favorites.

In Saturday’s other game, the Seahawks dominated the Lions, holding Detroit to only 49 rushing yards and 205 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Marvin Jones was the Lions’ best receiver, picking up 84 yards on four catches, but it was running back Zach Zenner who was the most consistent performer, rushing for 34 yards on 11 carries and catching all six of his targets for 54 receiving yards. However, it wasn’t nearly enough against the stout Seahawks defense. On the flip side, Thomas Rawls was absolutely dominant, rushing 27 times for 161 yards, the most in franchise playoff history, and a touchdown. Doug Baldwin was nearly as dominant through the air, catching 11 of 12 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown, though it was Paul Richardson who stole the highlight-time with this ridiculous two-yard touchdown grab:

Richardson, who scored only one touchdown during the regular season, caught just three passes in the game, but there will likely be plenty of people considering him for their teams next week against Falcons.

And if you’re into guys who just win football games, Russell Wilson is that guy, as his 64 wins (including the playoffs) in his first five years is the most in league history, moving ahead of elite quarterbacks like Joe Flacco (63), Ben Roethlisberger (59), Matt Ryan (57) and Tom Brady (57).

The non-surprises continued Sunday, as Le'Veon Bell, playing in the first playoff game of his career, rushed for a franchise-record 167 yards and two touchdowns. The big question coming into the weekend was whether DFS players would pay up for Bell ($10,300 on DraftKings and FanDuel), and while he certainly proved why he deserved that salary level, teammate Antonio Brown ($9,400 on DK, $9,100 on FD) helped pay the bills, catching five of nine targets for 124 yards and two touchdowns, which came on plays of 50 and 62 yards. Oh, and they both came in the first quarter. The Steelers dominated most of Sunday's game, so it's understandable that Brown didn't get a ton of targets, but at least he put up his big effort before the game got out of hand.

Bell’s first touchdown came on a one-yard run, though it was preceded by a play that looked to be a 26-yard touchdown but a replay showed he was down at the one. Bell’s one-yard score meant that every touchdown he scored this season came from seven yards or fewer, and while his second TD of the game was an eight-yarder, it’s pretty interesting that none of his scores this year (he had seven rushing and two receiving in the regular season) were long plays. He may not have elite, breakaway speed, but the Steelers obviously trust him in close.

As an aside, me and four buddies play in a DraftKings league each NFL week, $10 entry, winner takes all. Three of us decided to roll with Bell, giving us a great opportunity to see if fading Bell was the right call or not. So what happened? The winning score was 134.06, which was achieved by a team without Bell...and one with him, which means the answer we're left with was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Yes, nine unique players and they finished with the exact same score down to two decimals.

And finally, the game everyone hoped would bring some drama to the weekend ended up with little, unless you want to talk about the media’s overreaction to a boat trip taken by a few Giants a week ago (don’t worry, I’m not going any further on that ridiculous “story.”) The Packers came in as 5.5-point favorites and left as 25-point winners thanks to a vintage Aaron Rodgers performance that saw him throw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Randall Cobb, who returned from an ankle injury after missing the last two games of the regular season. The first half was fairly close, though a last-second Hail Mary put the Packers up 14-6 and they outscored the Giants 24-7 in the final two quarters, including 14-0 in the fourth to book their trip to Dallas. Rodgers also became the fourth quarterback ever to throw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions in a playoff game, joining (of course) Alex Smith (2013), Kurt Warner (2009) and Peyton Manning (2003).

The big news for the Packers is that top wideout Jordy Nelson was forced out with a rib injury, and his availability for next week is very much in question. Cobb was able to step up and fill the void with Davante Adams, who actually led the team with eight catches on 12 targets for 125 yards and a score. Both wideouts have plenty of upside, though Nelson is without a doubt Rodgers’ first option. Geronimo Allison picked it up while Cobb was sidelined, though he was used minimally Sunday with Nelson out.

Looking to next week, the Packers-Cowboys game could have plenty of fantasy fireworks. The two teams met back in Week 6 in Green Bay, with running back Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 157 yards while quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 247 yards and three scores in a 30-16 victory. Dez Bryant did not play in that game, though Eddie Lacy did, which makes it difficult to extrapolate much in terms of projecting what will happen.

Staying in the NFC, the Seahawks will travel to face the Falcons, two teams that also faced off in Week 6, with the Seahawks taking that one 26-24 in Seattle. Christine Michael, who actually led the Packers in rushing yards Sunday, led the Seahawks on that day, racking up 64 yards and two touchdowns while Thomas Rawls was out injured. Quarterback Matt Ryan had his usual high-scoring game, throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns, including one to Julio Jones as part of his seven-catch, 139-yard effort. Ryan also threw scores to Levine Toilolo and Mohamed Sanu, who have combined for three TDs since that game.

The AFC has one game that should be close, as the Steelers travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, who Pittsburgh hosted back in Week 4. The Steelers absolutely roasted the Chiefs 40-14, with both KC touchdowns coming in the fourth quarter, including one with four seconds left. Roethlisberger threw for five touchdowns (Antonio Brown twice, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Markus Wheaton, Jesse James) while Bell had 144 yards on 18 carries and 34 receiving yards on five catches. The Chiefs certainly got better defensively as the season wore on (Justin Houston’s eventual return helped considerably), and while the Chiefs are favored, it’s only by a point (which means they're not really expected to win).

The likely biggest favorites next weekend are the Patriots at home against the Texans. Houston’s defense is elite, but there are few reasons to think Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won’t be able to figure it out. The two teams met earlier this season but it was during Brady’s four-game suspension, so it’s tough to learn much from that game. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-0 win with Jacoby Brissett under center. And while Brady’s availability certainly changes things, would anyone be surprised if the score was the same?