SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 41, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 36
Who’s laughing now? Two early scores from John Carlson (3-17-2), two more TD passes from Matt Hasselbeck (22-35-272-4-1), and 19-131-1 from Marshawn Lynch capped by his epic 67-yard TD rumble and the Seahawks moved one game closer to .500—and on to the divisional round in Chicago.
Drew Brees (39-60-404-2) did what he does, and he got a bit of a lift from the ground game with 15-59-2 (and 6-61 receiving) from Julius Jones. But thrice the Saints drove inside the Seattle 10 and settled for field goals—a dozen points New Orleans left on the table that would have come in handy. Despite the gaudy yardage total Brees didn’t have a single receiver over 80 yards; Devery Henderson (7-77-1) led a group of nine Saints with receptions, seven of them with at least four catches but only three with more than 49 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: The lack of a running game, a problem all year for the Saints, proved to be their undoing. Reggie Bush (5-12 rushing, 5-37 receiving) proved incapable of picking up the slack left by injuries to Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, and while Jones was decent he’s not the long-term solution. It’s a situation to monitor this offseason, with Thomas potentially a free agent. Freed up to get out into the pattern by a Saints defense that managed just one sack of Hasselbeck, Carlson put up the kind of game fantasy owners had been waiting for all year. Didn’t hurt that the Saints’ secondary was lost without Malcolm Jenkins; not only couldn’t they account for Carlson, but Brandon Stokley (4-73-1) got loose behind them and both Mike Williams (5-68-1) and Ben Obomanu (5-43) found room as well.
NEW YORK JETS 17, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 16
Every team goes into a matchup against Indy with a game plan of keeping the ball away from Peyton Manning, but few execute it as well as the Jets did in the second half. Gang Green’s two touchdown drives totaled 27 plays, covered 150 yards, and ate up more than 15 minutes of clock behind the two-pronged ground attack of LaDainian Tomlinson (16-82-2, 4-17 receiving) and Shonn Greene (19-70). But at crunch time the Jets got a plus performance from Mark Sanchez (18-31-189-0-1), who moved the team 40 yards in 50 seconds to set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal.
Peyton Manning (18-26-225-1) will take the heat again, but he directed three second-half scoring drives despite having his top weapon, Reggie Wayne, limited to one catch for one yard by Darrelle Revis. Instead, Manning went to Pierre Garçon (5-112-1), Blair White (6-54), and Jacob Tamme (5-46) and got at least a little help from a running game led by Joseph Addai (13-60).
FANTASY IMPACT: Wayne was unhappy about being targeted just once and wasn’t afraid to let reporters know after the game. But Revis blanketed him the entire game, forcing Manning to look elsewhere. That’s become the norm in Indy, and if Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie can get and stay healthy by next season Wayne’s days as an elite fantasy target may be over. The Jets’ receiving corps may also look different next year as well, with both Braylon Edwards (4-62) and Santonio Holmes (4-46) slated for free agency. Sanchez is best in small doses, so it makes no sense to devote big bucks to the receiver position—especially to two big-ticket wideouts. Keeping Holmes and letting Edwards walk might make Jerricho Cotchery (2-17) a viable fantasy option once again.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 30, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 7
The game was even more lopsided than the score indicates, as Baltimore held the ball for more than 40 minutes, ran almost twice as many plays and gained 229 more yards than their opponent. Plenty of that came on the ground via Ray Rice (17-57, plus 5-42-1 receiving), but the real offensive heroes were Todd Heap (10-108), who set a franchise playoff record for receptions in a game, and Joe Flacco, whose 25-34-265-2 passing allowed the Ravens to move the ball at will.
Jamaal Charles (9-82-1, 1-15) provided the Chiefs’ lone offensive spark with a 41-yard touchdown burst to give KC a brief early lead. But Kansas City didn’t run an offensive snap inside the Baltimore 30, turned the ball over five times, and got a total of 64 yards from players other than Charles.
FANTASY IMPACT: Charles’ playoff performance, averaging nearly 10 yards per touch against the vaunted Ravens, proves he’ll be the fantasy back to have should both he and Thomas Jones (5-15, 1-8 receiving) return to KC next year. But a passing game that leans so heavily on Matt Cassel (9-18-70-0-3) and Dwayne Bowe (started but was held without a catch; in fact, he wasn’t even targeted) will be extremely difficult to trust. The Ravens have a similar backfield dilemma, as despite Rice’s 99 combo yards it was Willis McGahee (10-44-1, 2-10) who got the rushing TD. It’s far less of a 50/50 split than the Chiefs have, but McGahee continues to take just enough off Rice’s play to knock him out of contention for elite fantasy status.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 21, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 16
The buzzword for the Packers was efficiency, as in converting 62 percent of their third downs and turning all three red zone visits into touchdowns—all capping drives of 10 or more plays. Similarly, Aaron Rodgers (18-27-180-3) didn’t even top 200 yards, but his three touchdowns provided the points the Pack needed to win. A most valuable and unexpected contribution came from the Green Bay backfield, where James Starks (23-123, 2-9 receiving) set a rookie playoff rushing record and both Brandon Jackson (3-10, 2-27-1 receiving) and John Kuhn (3-1, 3-33 receiving) chipped in as receivers on a day where Greg Jennings was held to just one catch for eight yards.
The Eagles lived by Michael Vick (20-36-292-1-1, 8-33-1 rushing) all year, so it was only appropriate that their playoff run died by Vick’s inability to consistently slip Green Bay’s containment, not to mention the game-sealing interception he threw in the end zone with under a minute left to play. LeSean McCoy (12-46, 4-36) wasn’t given much of an opportunity to help, and DeSean Jackson (2-47) didn’t contribute until late as he missed a large chunk of the game after suffering a knee injury. In their place, Jason Avant (7-93-1) and Jeremy Maclin (3-73) stepped up.
FANTASY IMPACT: Over the final couple of games—at least the ones where the regulars played—Philly mustered about eight minutes of quality offense. Does the league have a blueprint on how to shut down Vick? If so, the Eagles will need to find a way to counter—assuming, of course, they keep Vick around. And if they do, you can unfortunately get used to more 82-yard combo efforts from McCoy. Have the Packers finally found the solution to their ground game in Starks? This was the kind of performance expected of him earlier, at least by those fantasy owners who had been squatting on him much of the season. He looks to be capable of being the between-the-20s back, and with Kuhn and Jackson both potentially free agents there could be goal line and third-down duties available as well.