What always strikes me watching the playoffs is the finality of it. There's a big deal about making the playoffs versus being left out, but six days after the season ends some team that made it, like the Raiders or Giants, is just as out of it as Denver and Washington. Suddenly Eli Manning is 36 and might not have another playoff run in him, just days after they were the team who could go knock off Dallas and beat the Patriots (again). So quickly from winners to losers.
All four home teams won, convincingly too. But there was at least some drama here and there.
Raiders at Texans: I thought the Raiders might eke out a low-scoring win, but was obviously overestimating their defense. It made Houston's offense look functional, which takes some doing. They credibly contained Lamar Miller, a wise strategy, but Brock Osweiler did not implode. A nice game for DeAndre Hopkins, and good for Houston to end the season on an up note. I suppose this week there will be some anything can happen in the playoffs talk regarding Houston going up to New England, but this is one where no one is buying. There's just too many different options for New England's offense and essentially zero chance of Houston doing anything on offense itself. Returning kicks and punts for touchdowns; that's how Houston can make a game of it. With Oakland, they were obviously destroyed by the Derek Carr injury. I mean, if nothing else, Carr staying healthy would have made them the No. 2 seed, and they'd be hosting Pittsburgh. It's a good team that needs to improve defensively, but there are some nice pieces in place.
Lions at Seahawks: A little reminder I think that playoff experience counts for a lot in these games. Seattle looked way more ready to play and like it knew what it was doing out there, since they're always there and always a very tough playoff out. Those of us who had written off Thomas Rawls and the Seattle ground game looked bad, and Tom Cable probably landed himself another head coaching opportunity. Seattle just ripped through Detroit on the ground in the first half, then got some chances to make plays via the pass after that. The outcome wasn't surprising, but Seattle's running game certainly was. Some awesome catches by Seattle receivers, you've seen the highlights if not the plays live. A scary game, I think, for Atlanta to watch, because it sure looked like a Seattle team peaking at the right time and turning its game up a notch for the playoffs. For Detroit, not much to say, their season basically ended a few weeks back. You've got to be able to run the ball at least a little to win in the playoffs. They couldn't. I wonder if they believe Ameer Abdullah will make a difference. I'm not sure anyone has seen enough of him to say for sure. Offensive line an issue, too.
Dolphins at Steelers: This went about as expected. Miami couldn't stop the run all year and was missing its best cornerback, obviously an unworkable situation on the road against maybe the league's best running back and wide receiver combo. I am actually surprised Miami hung around for as long as they did, since the game was basically over early on but the Dolphins were within a couple of scores for most of the game. Scores it never looked like they were going to get. I saved Bell and Brown for this week in a playoff league where you can only use players once, but honestly I kind of wish I'd used them, because hard to see them being better any other games. Oh well. I don't know if the Steelers will win in Kansas City but they certainly can, if Roethlisberger is healthy and they can avoid turning it over.
Giants at Packers: So for almost a half, this looked like other Giants-Packers playoff games the past decade. Eli Manning was extremely sharp in the cold weather and on the road, throwing darts to his receivers. Unfortunately for him, both Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. didn't seem to react as well to the cold, both dropping touchdowns (and Beckham dropped another easy one to kill a drive). What can you say? Giants could very easily have gone up 17-0 or so early on. Instead it was 6-0, and the Packers did nothing until very late but went into halftime with a 14-6 lead. Like everyone, I was dumbfounded by the Hail Mary. Just no excuse for letting that happen, none. How you let the ball get over your head...terrible. Bobby Rainey's kick return gaffe, I just felt bad for the guy. Lack of pressure on Rodgers throughout was frankly comical. Yeah his line is playing well and he moves around and stuff, but to give him that kind of time; at some point you've got to bring blitzers and risk big plays downfield because they were getting those anyway -- you can't ask people to cover forever. Anyhoo, Giants should have scored more early, better defended the Hail Mary, and had a nice second-half lead, and then we'll see. Instead they squandered scoring chances, blew it on defense, and lost. Dallas is favored next week, but with weather not a factor and the Dallas pass rush also suspect, plus a rookie quarterback running the offense, very possible Green Bay wins. A tossup kind of game and a scary first-round matchup for the NFC's top seed. A couple of significant injuries in this game, to Jordy Nelson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I think losing Nelson was less of a big deal.
So next week is usually the best week of the playoffs, and this year should be no exception. Three games that could go either way, plus the eyesore up in New England. We'll talk more about them in our last Weekly and on the site this week.