It was a gloomy weekend for Ravens fans in Baltimore. The hometown team is usually playing (and winning) in the Wildcard round but they failed to reach the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005. Instead the first weekend of the NFL playoffs brought mostly mundane football in all four contests.
FACT: The Texans defense dominated Oakland with 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 13 passes defensed and 3 interceptions.
OPINION: Houston will be a force going forward.
The Raiders were playing without their top two quarterbacks and their starting left tackle but the Texans were still quite impressive. Former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was in the backfield all afternoon, Whitney Mercilus made an impact off the edge and Benadrick McKinney has developed into one of the best inside linebackers in the league while cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jonathan Joseph provided sticky coverage throughout.
Houston will be hard pressed to beat the Patriots on the road next weekend without more consistent quarterback play. However, elite lineman J.J. Watt and former first round corner Kevin Johnson will return from injury next season. With nearly $26 million in cap space this offseason the Texans should be able to retain Bouye, leaving an upgrade at quarterback as their only pressing draft need.
Their 2017 home game against Houston will present the Ravens with a difficult challenge.
FACT: Seattle possessed the ball for 13 more minutes than Detroit.
OPINION: The Seahawks maligned offensive line has come together at the ideal time.
Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls gained 161 rushing yards on six yards per attempt behind the inexperienced Seattle line. Center Justin Britt and left guard Mark Glowinski were excellent. Russell Wilson was pressured on just 32% of his dropbacks and was extremely effective when blitzed.
Blocking has been Seattle’s Achilles heal this season. They allowed 42 sacks and averaged 3.9 yards per rushing attempt in the regular season - sixth and eighth worst respectively. The Seahawks still field an elite pass defense and several playmakers on offense. If they can continue to coach up their young lineman throughout January they will represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI.
FACT: Pittsburgh walloped Miami 30-12.
OPINION: The Ravens would have beaten the Dolphins handily again.
If the Ravens could have kept the Steelers out of the end zone for the final minute and a half in Week 16, they may have ended up hosting the Dolphins in cold, snowy Baltimore. They pasted Miami 38-6 at home in early December before starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was injured.
Miami proved they have a few top individual players but not the overall quality, leadership or coaching chops to beat tough teams playing cold weather football. The Ravens should not overestimate their championship competitiveness based on their double digit win over a Dolphins team that were pretenders.
FACT: The Packers were 1 for 10 on third down in the first three quarters and 4 for 4 in the fourth.
OPINION: Aaron Rodgers is he best quarterback of his generation.
Rodgers started off slow as New York created consistent pass pressure and top target Jordy Nelson was knocked out of the game. Once he finally found his rhythm he was surgical against the Giants underrated top-five pass defense in the fourth quarter. Rodgers knack for completing Hail Marys is uncanny.
The quarterback has the most complete skill set of any signal caller in the league. Intelligence, a strong arm, supreme accuracy, a lightning quick release, elite pocket presence and scrambling ability. With the fourth highest average annual salary at the position, Rodgers’ contract is a bargain.