The NFL Playoffs: takeaways from the Divisional Round

There was some great football played this weekend. And then there was the performance by Brock Osweiler.

Let’s look at some of the biggest takeaways we learned this past weekend.

Matt Ryan is the MVP.

I know, the votes are already in, so this weekend’s playoff performance has no effect on the final outcome. We also know, thanks to Tim Mason earlier this month, that Matt Ryan is far and above the best candidate for the award (you can read his article by clicking HERE).

We also know that the MVP Award has been somewhat of a popularity contest in the past, and the guy Matty Ice will be facing this Sunday may just likely steal the award away from him.

That being said, Ryan cemented himself as the greatest Falcon player of all time (yep, I said it). No one has been more important to this franchise than he has. Amid all the hubbub about Aaron Rodgers “Run the Table” performance, Ryan has been nearly unstoppable.

338 yards passing and three touchdowns all at a 70 percent success rate. He hasn’t thrown an interception in five weeks and hasn’t been below a 70 percent completion rate in four. While Matty Ice and Rodgers are the two hottest quarterbacks in the NFC, the Falcons defense has Vic Beasley. If Ryan continues his flawless play, Beasley could be the difference maker that gets them to Houston (but don’t sleep on the red hot Brooks Reed either).

Brock Osweiler is bad.

I can’t talk about this anymore. In fact, I had to trash the piece I was writing about his failures after the Patriots game because it hurt me so. They say the hardest part about being a writer is separating yourself from fandom. Sometimes you can’t. And instead of publishing an angst-full article that sounds more like a high school breakup letter, I trashed it.

Instead I will point to this, the Dieter Kurtenbach piece at Fox Sports that explains why the Texans need to cut Osweiler immediately. I agree, simply because he is a negative asset.

Whether it was because of the Patriots poor execution or not, entering the second half, Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel had the Patriots exactly where they wanted them. Special teams, a long-time bane to the Texans, made a huge mistake on that kickoff return (despite the fact that it was attacked nearly perfectly, just some horrendous tackling — or lack thereof — and seemingly giving up on Lewis’ speed allowed him the touchdown) but they were able to over come it. Tom Brady and the Patriots committed back-to-back turnovers and allowed ten unanswered points, only to be stuffed at the goal line three straight times on the ensuing drive. I want to know the last time that happened in Foxboro in January.

But in the second half, it was Brock being Brock. Inaccurate throws. Sure, you can say the Will Fuller‘s big drop was the turning point — and it was — because had he caught it it would have been 24-20, but here’s the thing. Most analysts have said something along the lines of this:

Fuller dropped Osweiler’s lone perfect pass of the second half.

Here’s what we know. Will Fuller drops passes. I was against drafting him when it happened purely because of this. For nearly a decade, the Texans had one terrible signing or draft pick after the other at wide receiver to try and take pressure of Andre Johnson, and this seemed like another. Secondly, Fuller hadn’t seen a good pass from Osweiler since week three and was probably so surprised the ball reached him that he wasn’t ready.

The Texans have a few problems, the biggest being the offensive line and quarterback play. But having Brock behind center hurts everyone on the defense and especially Lamar Miller, because Brock Osweiler scares no one. Fear is a powerful thing in the NFL, don’t ever underestimate it.

Oh and by the way, I hope someone gave Nick Novak one MVP vote. The Texans are 0-16 without him, that is the absolute truth.

The Steelers are dangerous.

If you think the Patriots are at some big advantage playing at home next week because of Ben Roethlisberger‘s acclaimed road struggles, well think again.

Big Ben wasn’t on top of his game, but here’s what we learned. This Steelers team has gone out and learned how to win when Big Ben isn’t atop his game. Le’Veon Bell doesn’t need anyone at quarterback to be a game changer, and depsite Big Ben only throwing for 224 yards, Antonio Brown caught half of them. When he has the ball in his hands, it’s scary and it makes other people more open, which is how Jesse James went off for 83 yards.

The NFL is full of subpar kickers, but the Steelers have one of the best over the past two seasons and Chris Boswell proved his worth this past weekend. The Patriots defense is superior to the Steelers defense, but I think the Steelers defense is just tricky enough to give the Patriots problems.

I’m not predicting a win at Foxboro by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we’ll have a great game Sunday. The Steelers did their own version of running the table, and they are red hot right now. That is just as dangerous a weapon as fear in the playoffs.

The Packers and Cowboys gave us the best game of the season.

What’s the biggest takeaway from that game? There are so many.

Jared Cook is the most frustrating tight end in the history of the NFL. Ok, fine, maybe recent history. This guy is so talented and so big and strong, but he has just been so injury prone over the years. I think Rodgers may have the best tight end he’s had in awhile on his hands, and that gives him one more weapon.

Mason Crosby has ice in his veins. So much ice that they couldn’t even ice him. Think about it, he hit three 50-plus-yard field goals (the Cowboys called time out on one) in the final three minutes of play. This guy is the Packers all-time leading scorer, and if you weren’t aware, the Packers are one of the greatest franchises in the history of the NFL. While kickers always have a tough time entering Canton, I think Crosby etched his name in the annals of NFL history this past weekend.

No, the biggest takeaway from this past weekend had nothing to do with yet another remarkable Packers victory in their run. It had to do with the Dallas Cowboys.

They played a pretty terrible first half of football. Tony Romo started trending on Twitter and memes were flying on Instagram. But Dak Prescott proved he is the real deal.

A lot has been made about rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs. Prescott could have easily crumbled in the face of adversity but instead, he climbed back and played one of the best halves of football he’s played all year. In the biggest game, on the biggest stage of his young career. Sure, you can say his first half short comings cost them the game early on, but you can’t deny that he did everything in his power in the second half to have the Cowboys seconds away from overtime in a game that looked like the Packers were about to steamroll the Cowboys.

I have been on the Dak train since day one, and I think this year was a great ride. That fourth quarter was like the Rocky versus Drago fight when all of a sudden each team was delivering a huge upper cut and nobody wanted to go down.

Onto the conference championships. After yesterday, I can’t wait for what next weekend has in store.

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