Colts 45, Chiefs 44
Memo to future self: next year, when selecting fantasy playoff rosters, go with the teams playing indoors. With no elements to shake things up, the Colts and Chiefs engaged in an 89-point shootout that buoyed any fantasy roster containing Andrew Luck (29-45-443-4 passing, 7-45 rushing, plus a fumble recovery for a touchdown as well) and TY Hilton (13-224-2), as well as the more surprising duo of Alex Smith (30-46-378-4 passing, 8-57 rushing) and Dwayne Bowe (8-150-1). Donald Brown (11-55-1 rushing, 4-47-1 receiving) wasn’t bad either, but with 11 touchdowns scored there was bound to be some spillover. Perhaps most surprising is that all this scoring happened with regular-season fantasy MVP Jamaal Charles (3-18) out with a concussion. Knile Davis (18-67-1, 7-33-1) proved to be a valuable handcuff, something to keep in mind next August, but he too left with an injury—part of the reason the Chiefs were reluctant to run the ball with backups and thus gave Indy a chance to come back from 28 points down.
FILE AWAY FOR NEXT YEAR: Despite three interceptions, Luck’s performance may be enough to convince Pep Hamilton that throwing the ball isn’t necessarily evil. Hilton bumped his stock significantly, but don’t overlook a supporting cast that could include LaVon Brazill (4-54), Da’Rick Rogers (1-46), and Griff Whalen (2-26). It will most definitely include Coby Fleener (5-46-1), though Dwayne Allen will also be back from injury. Bowe again proved himself a go-to receiver, with Dexter McCluster (7-52) the primary alternative—especially after Donnie Avery (1-79-1) left with an injury.
Saints 26, Eagles 24
Like clockwork, Drew Brees (20-30-250-1) was worse on the road than at home—yet the Saints still snapped Sean Payton’s road playoff curse as well as any outdoor curse by outlasting the Eagles in Philadelphia. True to Saints form, there was no big statistical winner—not even Jimmy Graham (3-44)—as five different players compiled rushing stats and nine different Saints caught passes. Perhaps the most surprising contribution came from Mark Ingram (18-97-1 rushing, 3-17 receiving), who ably filled the void left by Pierre Thomas’ injury absence. Nick Foles (23-33-195-2) wasn’t bad, just not quite good enough; the same can be said for the contributions from LeSean McCoy (21-77-1 rushing, 4-15 receiving) and DeSean Jackson (3-53).
FILE AWAY FOR NEXT YEAR: Riley Cooper (6-68-1) looks like a legit wingman to Jackson, especially with Jeremy Maclin slated for free agency and Foles having an entire offseason to master Chip Kelly’s offense. Zach Ertz (3-22-1) should assume a larger role as well, especially if Brent Celek (2-16) continues to battle the injury bug. With Thomas out you would have assumed Darren Sproles (4-29 rushing, 4-31 receiving) would have a larger role, but his production was matched by Khiry Robinson (8-45 rushing). Receiving numbers were equally fractured; let Marques Colston’s (2-16) stat line serve as a reminder that this offense doesn’t have a true WR1—at least for fantasy purposes.
Chargers 27, Bengals 10
The least likely upset of Wild Card weekend saw the playing-with-house-money Chargers marching into Cincinnati and running all over the Bengals. Sure, Ryan Mathews (13-52 rushing, 2-12 receiving) was outperformed by both Danny Woodhead (15-54-1 rushing, 2-14 receiving) and Ronnie Brown (8-77-1 rushing, 1-9 receiving) and Philip Rivers (12-16-128-1) was more efficient that outright productive. But it’s the Chargers who’ll be adding another game to their playoff fantasy stat sheet instead of the Bengals, largely due to four critical giveaways—three at the hands of Andy Dalton (29-51-334-1 passing, 5-26 rushing). Dalton couldn’t (wouldn’t?) find A.J. Green (3-34), instead relying on Marvin Jones (8-130), Giovanni Bernard (12-45 rushing, 7-73 receiving) and Jermaine Gresham (7-64-1).
FILE AWAY FOR NEXT YEAR: If we haven’t already declared Jones the winner in the A.J. Green Wingman Sweepstakes, this week’s showing should push him over the top. Gresham’s productivity came with Tyler Eifert available but hobbled, and barring injury the duo will again share what has proven to be a lucrative tight end role in Cincy’s offense—assuming Jay Gruden doesn’t land a head coaching gig. The surprising no-show in San Diego’s attack was Keenan Allen (2-21); instead, it was dynasty favorite Ladarius Green (3-34-1) who outpaced not only Allen but also Antonio Gates (1-5). Chargers fans and fantasy owners should get used to that new world order. And all that good will Mathews built up with a surprisingly strong regular season likely evaporated with his latest injury and subsequent failure to live up to expectations.
49ers 23, Packers 20
Strange how the California team was better suited for the frigid conditions, riding the arm and mostly legs of Colin Kaepernick (16-30-227-1 passing, 7-98 rushing) into the second round of the playoffs. While it was Anquan Boldin (3-38) who dominated the Packers in the earlier meeting this season, it was. Michael Crabtree(8-125) with a late smattering of Vernon Davis (2-37-1) levying the most damage. And after lightening his load most of the season, the Niners leaned far more heavily on Frank Gore (20-66-1) at crunch time, with Kendall Hunter (2-4 rushing) and Anthony Dixon (1-10 receiving) barely registering a blip. Eddie Lacy (21-81 rushing, 2-7 receiving) was a larger factor this time around, but ultimately it was the Green Bay passing game that failed to deliver—or, more appropriately, the Niners who played tough defense and didn’t give Aaron Rodgers (17-26-177-1) even one second to work his magic.
FILE AWAY FOR NEXT YEAR: When you look back at this season’s numbers, don’t forget that much of Jordy Nelson’s (7-62-1) stat line came with someone other than Rodgers at the helm. Randall Cobb’s (2-51) numbers will also pale in comparison, so go ahead and shift that expected breakout campaign to 2014. If you’re wondering what Kaepernick might do without free agent-to-be Boldin next year, look no further than what Crabtree has accomplished working his way back from his Achilles’ tendon injury; he’s another breakout candidate, though a loud postseason will remind everyone just how good he can be and drive his draft-day value up.