The NFL playoff field dwindled from 12 teams to eight as Wild Card weekend saw all four home teams pick up victories with the Raiders, Lions, Dolphins, and Giants sent packing. While the closest margin of victory among the Wild Card games was 13 points, there were notable performances throughout the weekend that kept the fantasy faithful tuned-in with playoff contests and DFS winnings at stake.
Two of the more interesting fantasy eruptions from the weekend came from players who hadn’t turned in a single useable performance in nearly a month. Seattle running back Thomas Rawls had a brutal stretch in Weeks 15-17, turning 37 carries into 56 yards (1.5 ypc) while backup Alex Collins began to barge his way into the Seahawks’ backfield. Early on Saturday, Seattle coach Pete Carroll told ESPN that he wanted to get Rawls the ball “20 times this week,” and Carroll spent Saturday evening chomping on his gum and watching his master plan take shape. Rawls began ripping off chunks of yardage against the Detroit defensive front from the jump, and by the time the dust cleared, Rawls had racked up 161 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 27 carries. Rawls will now look toward the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle’s Divisional Round opponent. Atlanta allowed opposing rushers to chip off 4.5 yards per carry in 2016, good for 26th in the league, although they had success against Seattle in Week 6, holding the Seahawks to 72 yards on the ground at 2.7 yards per attempt. The potential return of C.J. Prosise (shoulder) may lessen Rawls’ workload, but the Seattle ground game will likely need a repeat performance to knock off Atlanta.
Randall Cobb also emerged from hibernation over the weekend, exploding for 116 yards and three touchdowns on five receptions after not catching a single pass since Week 14. Cobb dealt with ankle issues that held him out of Weeks 16 and 17, but was able to return to the field and play a key role for the Packers after Jordy Nelson (ribs) was knocked out of the game in a 38-13 win over the New York Giants . Cobb’s only other 100-yard performance of the 2016 season also came against the Giants, who were served a swift gut punch at the end of the first half on Sunday when Cobb managed to snag a 42-yard Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers as time expired. Cobb should continue to be heavily involved in Green Bay’s offense next week when the Packers travel to Dallas, and Rodgers will certainly lean on his old pal if Jordy Nelson is forced to miss time.
Franchise Tag for Bell
Aside from shredding the Miami Dolphins for two touchdowns and a Pittsburgh postseason record 167 rushing yards, Le’Veon Bell was in the news for other reasons on Sunday. Bell stacked up a mountain of production in 2016 but won’t get a chance to hit the open market over the offseason, as the Steelers will reportedly use the franchise-tag on the free agent running back, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Bell and the Steelers will have plenty of time to work on a long-term deal, a resolution that would benefit both sides as Bell turns just 25 next month and just completed a season with 1,884 total yards in only 12 games (157.0 yards per contest). Fantasy footballers will now have all offseason to doodle on their notebooks while hopelessly daydreaming about a Pittsburgh offense with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ladarius Green, and Martavis Bryant all on the field at once.
The Green Bay Packers received a tough blow in the second quarter on Sunday when Giants CB Leon Hall exploded toward Jordy Nelson on the sideline and crushed the receiver directly in the ribs. Nelson didn’t return to the game and his Divisional Round status is now up in the air after coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, “I obviously have concern for Jordy. I don’t have the information yet.” In Jordy’s absence, Davante Adams (12 targets), Jared Cook (9), and Randall Cobb (7) were Aaron Rodgers’ top targets and all three will be heavily involved at Dallas next Sunday if Nelson’s ribs cause him to miss game action. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also called out Geronimo Allison’s name after Sunday’s game as a player who will see more action if Nelson is on the shelf. “But you know Geronimo is going to have to step up and play extended time if Jordy is going to be out," Rodgers said. Allison saw just two targets on Sunday, but was a force with Randall Cobb out of the lineup in Weeks 16 and 17, catching eight passes for 157 yards and a touchdown in two games.
Ben Roethlisberger reportedly injured his ankle near the end of Pittsburgh’s 30-12 stomping of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, but told reporters “I’ll be out there next week” when the team travels to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Large Ben did throw a pair of passes to the wrong team on Sunday but was otherwise solid, throwing for 197 yards on just 18 pass attempts and hitting Antonio Brown for two scores. There should be no major cause for concern here, but stay tuned to Rotoworld this week as more news surfaces regarding Roethlisberger’s status.
Ladarius Green (concussion) was able to practice last Thursday but was absent on Friday and is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Green was unable to play on Sunday, but may have an outside chance at suiting up in the Divisional Round if he makes progress this week. Jesse James caught one of two targets for six yards in Green’s absence with Pittsburgh not pressed into many passing situations against Miami.
Michael Crabtree (concussion) was forced from Oakland’s game at Houston in the fourth quarter on Saturday and did not return after suffering a concussion. Crabtree had a rough afternoon with the rest of the Oakland offense, hauling in just two of seven targets for 33 yards as the Raiders fell to the Houston Texans 27-14. Crabtree and the Raiders sorely missed Derek Carr in the Wild Card round and should jump right back on track next season when their quarterback is back in action.
C.J. Prosise (shoulder) sat out Seattle’s win over Detroit on Saturday, but is a name to watch this week as the Seahawks prepare to travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. Prosise did not practice before the Wild Card round but should be nearing a return after injuring his shoulder in Week 11.