Divisional Round Studs & Duds

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With the NFL’s 8 best teams in play, it should come as no surprise that the Studs column for Divisional Weekend is chock full of solid performances.  On the other side of the coin, when the NFL’s best players poop in their big boy pants, it causes owners to become especially salty.  Hopefully, the tide was in your favor this week, but in any event, enjoy the NFL while it’s here.  There are only 3 games left this season,  4 if you count the Pro Bowl, which I do not.

Studs
Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers @ DAL
356 passing yards, 2 TDs, INT, 16 rushing yards
The head honcho at cheese headquarters should make guarantees and bold claims more often.  Whether he’s telling us to R-E-L-A-X or promising that the Packers will run the table, Aaron Rodgers has backed it up.

Matt Ryan vs SEA
-338 passing yards, 3 TDs
Matt Ryan was magnificent against the vaunted Seattle secondary.  The MVP candidate completed passes to 8 different receivers, easily guiding his team to the NFC Championship Game.  Luckily for NFL fans, it looks like the league MVP discussion could be settled on the field in the Georgia Dome next week. (All due respect to Mr. Bundchen)

Dak Prescott vs GB
302 passing yards, 3 TDs, INT, 13 rushing yards
The only losing QB to make the studs segment, Rayne Dakota Prescott, earned it.  He became the first rookie to throw 3 TD passes in a playoff game.  If you’re Dallas, you couldn’t have asked for a better game.

Running Backs

Dion Lewis vs HOU
-13 carries, 41 rushing yards, TD, 2 receptions, 23 receiving yards, TD, 98-yard kick return TD
It became clear early in this contest that Belichick’s game plan against Houston was to unleash Dion Lewis.  The smallish RB was kept in reserve for most of the season so that he would be fresh for just such an occasion and boy, does he look good.

Ty Montgomery @ DAL
-11 carries, 47 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 6 receptions, 34 receiving yards
While Rodgers is receiving his share of the credit for the Packers’ incredible run, Montgomery is the unsung hero for this team.  Coming into the year as the 4/5 WR, Montgomery has stepped up as the team’s primary RB over the last 2 months.

Devonta Freeman vs SEA
-14 carries, 45 rushing yards, TD, 4 receptions, 80 receiving yards
Seattle really missed Earl Thomas in this game as Freeman repeatedly got loose in the secondary as a receiver.  Owners will appreciate his 1 TD but it easily could’ve been 2, as the Falcons final drive came to rest on the goal line.

Ezekiel Elliott vs GB
-22 carries, 125 rushing yards, 1 reception, -2 receiving yards
It’s amazing that a rookie can have a season with 1,600 rushing yards and have 125 yards on the ground in his first ever playoff game and we can be left a little disappointed.  It’s a testament to the monster that Dallas has unleashed on the league.

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Le’Veon Bell @ KC
-30 carries, 170 rushing yards, 2 receptions, -4 receiving yards
Bell broke his own postseason rushing record by 3 yards in his second consecutive monster performance.  Is it too much to ask for a TD though?

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant vs GB
9 receptions, 132 receiving yards, 2 TDs, 12 targets
Halfway through the second quarter, when Dallas was down, I thought Dak had better get the ball to Bryant or there will be hell to pay on the sidelines.  Sure enough, the X-factor was fed regularly in the second half and delivered a stud worthy performance.

Julian Edelman vs HOU
-8 receptions, 137 receiving yards, 13 targets
No Gronk. No Mitchell. No Problem.

Doug Baldwin @ ATL
-5 receptions, 80 receiving yards, TD, 9 targets
Possibly overshadowed by the human highlight reel that is Paul Richardson, the veteran Baldwin did just enough to earn a spot as a stud.

Julio Jones vs SEA
-6 receptions, 67 receiving yards, TD, 8 targets
If you’re using Julio Jones in the NFL Playoff Challenge chances are this was a x2 multiplier week for you.  So… let’s pretend this was 134 yards and 2 TDs.

Antonio Brown @ KC
-6 receptions, 108 receiving yards, 11 targets
In a game with ice storms in the forecast and where the Steelers failed to score a single offensive TD, AB owners will have to settle for a ho-hum 100-yard game.

Tight Ends

Jason Witten vs GB
6 receptions, 59 receiving yards, TD, 9 targets
The TD certainly helps this stat line, but hey, he’s a TE, it comes with the territory.  It sounds like the 14-year vet will return in 2017 to play out the final year of his contract.  Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the all-time great TE.

Jared Cook @ DAL
6 receptions, 104 receiving yards, TD, 11 targets
We saw the full spectrum of Jared Cook on Sunday.  On one play, he completely alligator-armed a pass and on the very next play, he made a spectacular 35-yard grab to set up the winning field goal.  Do not overreact to this when 2017 drafts roll around.  After all, remember Jeff Janis?

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Kickers

Chris Boswell @ KC
-6/6 FGs, 18 points
I know, I know.  A kicker in the Studs section?  But Boswell earned it.  He was on the road, outdoors, and in one of the NFL’s most hostile venues.  Additionally, he was the only Steeler to score.  After the game, a reporter offered him a spot in the “Killer B’s”, which he politely declined as he probably didn’t want to become a meme overnight.

Duds
Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger @ KC
-224 passing yards, INT
He won a playoff game on the road so I can’t be too hard on him, but c’mon Ben!  Throw at least one TD to AB or Bell.

Brock Osweiler @ NE
198 passing yards, TD, 3 INTs, 18 rushing yards
I have no idea what Rick Smith and the Texans are going to do next season, but horrific QB has eliminated Houston from the playoffs two years in a row.  And no, I’m not going to give Brock credit for beating Connor Cook.

Running Backs

LeGarrette Blount vs HOU
-8 carries, 31 rushing yards
The life of a Belichick RB.

Thomas Rawls @ ATL
-11 carries, 34 rushing yards
When C.J. Prosise was ruled out for this game, it looked like a pretty good spot for the Rawls Royce.  Unfortunately, he was never able to get in gear as the Seahawks played from behind for the entire second half.

Wide Receivers

Will Fuller V @ NE
3 receptions, 16 receiving yards, 6 targets
In Will Fuller’s first two games as a pro, he averaged 105.5 yards/game.  In the 16 games since, his average is a practice squad worthy 29.8.

Jeremy Maclin vs PIT
-2 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 4 targets
What happened to Jeremy Maclin?  He was an afterthought in this game.  Even Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth seemed to forget about him.

Tyreek Hill vs PIT
-4 receptions, 27 receiving yards, 6 targets, 3 carries, 18 rushing yards
Tyreek Hill serves as a great gadget player and spark plug when you need a big play.  But when he’s the only thing that’s working for the Kansas City offense, it becomes easy to game plan for him.  The Steelers kept Hill bottled up.

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Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett vs HOU
-1 reception, 4 receiving yards, 4 targets
You’d think without Rob Gronkowski and Malcolm Mitchell, that the 6’6 Bennett would be counted upon to produce.  Nope.
It’s a scary proposition going forward for NFL Playoff Challenge competitors to pick a TE for the conference championships.  Your options, by the way, are: Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Jesse James, Austin Hooper, Richard Rodgers and Levine Toilolo.  Good luck.

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