Wild Card weekend was everything it was hyped up to be. All four road teams came away with victories for the first time in the 26 years the NFL Playoffs have been configured in its current format. It began with a dominating performance that became tough to watch, but finished up with three extremely entertaining games.
Here’s what we learned from the Wild Card games that can help us next week, or next year.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans
— Chiefs D can force bad plays: Much of this can be attributed to how bad Brian Hoyer was (4 INT), but you have to credit KC for pressuring Houston into mistakes. Tom Brady will be much tougher to force into making those kinds of plays.
— Jeremy Maclin injured: Maclin will be questionable for Saturday’s game, but a one week turnaround from a high ankle sprain is pretty optimistic. Maclin would be a huge loss if he’s unable to go. KC would be forced to dig deep in the passing game.
— Spencer Ware leading the backfield: It was Ware, not Charcandrick West that looked like the lead back on Saturday. Ware out-carried West 16-8, gaining 67 yards and scoring a TD. West had a mere 35 yards on his touches (including a catch).
— It has nothing to do with last weekend, but keep in mind the last time the Patriots and Chiefs faced off. KC embarrassed Tom Brady and co. on MNF, arguably sparking the Pats’ Super Bowl run. This can work one of two ways — the Chiefs know they can play with the Pats, but you better believe The Hoodie will have his team looking for revenge.
Biggest Chiefs takeaway: Their defense is certainly up to the test of playing at an elite level during the postseason on the road. That’ll keep them in the game with Brady and the Pats.
Biggest Texans takeaway: Good lord do they need a quarterback. Houston has weapons and a good defense, so it’s actually an attractive job. RGIII, anyone?
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
— Bengals classless collapse: The Steelers won the game, but this was still more about the Bengals. You have to feel for Jeremy Hill after that fumble, but it’s still unacceptable. Even so, Cincy still could have won if not for more dirty plays followed by classless trash talk.
— Steelers are a legit contender: Pittsburgh is who many of us thought they were. They’re a nightmare No. 6 seed that CAN win in Denver and New England. Of course, we need to monitor the injury situation, which we’ll get to.
— RB doesn’t matter: Whoever the running back is for the Steelers next week, they’re worth targeting in DFS. Fitzgerald Toussaint was the primary guy last week, and a very worth while play with such weak RB’s on the board. This week will be the same.
— Steelers D is sneaky good: Pittsburgh’s defense played fantastic on the road on Saturday. Sure, they’re about to face Peyton Manning in Denver, but Manning has been horrible overall this season. Odds are Pittsburgh can force Manning into a couple turnovers this weekend.
Biggest Steelers takeaway: INJURIES! As mentioned, this team could go to the Super Bowl if they were healthy. But they’ve has bad luck all season and now we need to wait and find out on Big Ben and his top target.
Biggest Bengals takeaway: Enough is enough. Marvin Lewis could have been fired 10 years ago. Not closing this one out has to cost him his job.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings
— Vikings choked: Minnesota did everything they had to in order to win this game. They stopped a Seattle offense that somehow managed to get hot late in the game and drove the ball downfield to set up a FG attempt shorter than an extra point. There’s no excuse for missing that kick. The Vikings just gift wrapped new life to the back-to-back NFL champs.
— Seattle is dangerous: I don’t think any team left in the field is happy that the Seahawks got let off the hook, especially the Panthers. We can chalk Seattle’s bad play last week up to the -6 degree weather, but it’s a safe bet they’ll look a lot more comfortable in Carolina next week.
— Don’t count on Marshawn Lynch: This was a weird story. Lynch was going to play for the first time in weeks, then decide on his own that he was unable to go and didn’t even travel with the team. Maybe Lynch will be on the field next week, but frankly he’s hard to trust at this point. Christine Michael should be the guy against the Panthers. In three of his last four games, Michael has a combined 54 carries for 256 yards.
Biggest Seahawks takeaway: They’re lucky to even be here. A red hot team playing with nothing to lose against a Panthers’ squad that’s never been here before could be a dream recipe for Seattle.
Biggest Vikings takeaway: Nobody wants to hear it now, but the Vikings are on to something. They had a great finish to the season, and essentially did what they had to do to beat the Seahawks in the playoffs. That kick had roughly a 95% chance to go in. A horrible missed kick is sometimes just part of football. They are a huge threat next season if they can continue to build in the right direction.
Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Redskins
— DeSean Jackson needs to remember the football: It feels like at least once a year DeSean will forget to bring the football into the end zone with him. That’s kind of an important part of the game. On a serious note, who knows what direction the game would have gone in had Jackson scored the TD on that play? He’s got to be better than that. Many of us (meaning me) could have used the score there for DFS purposes as well.
— The Packers offense is back: This was all about Aaron Rodgers. Sure, it’s been a tough season without Jordy Nelson, but we didn’t expect things to get as bad as they did. Randall Cobb and Davante Adams (who were expected to produce much more significant numbers during the regular season) finally came through with touchdowns, giving A-Rod the help he’d been looking for.
— James Jones is still the top target: He didn’t find his way into the end zone, but Jones and his now famous hoodie had a very productive game — seven catches for 81 yards. Jones will be Rodgers’ favorite target for as long as the Pack can stay alive in the postseason. Don’t be fooled by Cobb’s good game. It was his first since Week 3.
— RB by committee: The RB position for the Packers has been a mess all season. Eddie Lacy has returned to form at times, only to then disappoint once again. That’s made it tough for James Starks to emerge. Last week we saw a completely even time-share. Lacy and Starks both got 12 carries (Lacy gaining 63 yards to Starks 53 yards), but it was Starks that scored the TD and also grabbed two receptions. They appear to be equals for the time being.
Biggest Packers takeaway: Their offense returned at the perfect time. It didn’t look like we were going to see it when they were down 11-0, but then things clicked. The key will be carrying the momentum to Arizona next week.
Biggest Redskins takeaway: Tough loss, but like the Vikings, they might be onto something. They’ve found their QB in Kirk Cousins, which is far more valuable for the next 10 years than bowing out of the postseason this year. There’s finally something to build on in D.C.