Baltimore 38, Denver 35
This game was an instant classic from the beginning with more twists and turns than the Tilt-O-Whirl at the county fair.
Although Joe Flacco may not be an elite fantasy QB1, he certainly played at an elite level with all the chips on the table. Standing tall in the face of pressure, Flacco repeatedly attacked shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey connecting with Torrey Smith for touchdowns of 59 and 32 yards. He then pushed the game into overtime with a 70-yard strike to Jacoby Jones.
With complimentary running back Bernard Peirce aggravating a knee injury, Ray Rice came through in the clutch for his team. Handed the rock 30 times, Rice gouged the Broncos defensive line for 131 yards and a touchdown. Just goes to show what Rice can do when Baltimore makes the commitment.
It's a shame that someone had to lose this game, but the Baltimore defense earned it, limiting Peyton Manning to short and intermediate passes all game long. Unable to drive the football, many will speculate that cold weather (13 degrees at kickoff) combined with lingering nerve damage were the culprit. Either way, Manning has continually proved that he is still amongst the top fantasy gun slingers, and should retain such status until he proves otherwise.
After becoming the lead pony in Denver's backfield Knowshon Moreno, has been a solid fantasy producer. Unfortunately, Moreno was forced to exit this game with an apparent knee injury. Although the injury doesn't appear serious, it's a reminder that Moreno is a red flag injury risk entering 2013.
San Francisco 45, Green Bay 31
Colin Kaepernick is growing before our very own eyes...becoming the epitome of the new style of NFL quarterback. A dual threat on every play, the second year quarterback proved it once again, racking up 263 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and a record breaking 181 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Although hard to speculate his average draft position next season, he is developing into a nice mid QB1.
After a roaring start to this game, Frank Gore was seen a bit gimpy coming off the field in the second quarter. This was confirmed as LaMichael James carried the load for much of the second half until Gore reemerged in the late third quarter for big gains capped off by a short yardage touchdown. Normally a steady rotation hurts the running back position, but the Niners high volume run offense supplies enough opportunity that Gore will retain his status as a solid RB2.
As Kaepernick lit Candlestick on fire, Aaron Rodgers became a pedestrian, watching much of this game from the sidelines. After the game, Rodgers reminded us that the Packers will undergo a radical transformation during the offseason with the impending free agency of Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver. This will only drive up the fantasy value of James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
DuJuan Harris has propelled himself into the fantasy spotlight the past two weeks. In this game, Harris was putting up solid numbers collecting 53 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. As the Packers fell behind they were forced to scrap the run. Although Harris could emerge as the Packers lead back next season, be mindful that coach McCarthy is a notorious proponent of the RBBC.
Seattle 28, Atlanta 30
This game was the tale of two halves for the Seattle offense. Falling behind 20-0 at the intermission, Russell Wilson proved his value once again amassing 385 yards and two passing touchdowns, complimented by 60 yards on the ground including one touchdown. Like so many of the young gunslingers, Wilson has intriguing value entering 2013.
Zach Miller also made his presence felt hauling in eight receptions for 142 yards and one touchdown. A Pro-Bowler back with the Oakland Raiders, Miller has been underutilized since joining Seattle largely due to developing quarterback play and a run heavy offensive system. With the growth of Russell Wilson, the Hawks tight end will be added to our watch list as we enter the offseason.
First and foremost, congratulations to Tony Gonzalez for picking up the first playoff victory of his illustrious carrier. The first ballot Hall-of-Famer was pivotal, making a number of amazing catches to keep drives alive including a snag over the middle with 13 second left to set up a game winning field goal. No player is more deserving.
For much of the season Michael Turner has looked a like a player running with concrete boots. In a win-or-go-home match, Turner got the message and shifted into overdrive, racking up 98 yards on 14 carries. With the stout 49ers defense coming to town, Turner is not a recommended option in postseason leagues.
Houston 28, New England 41
The Texans simply do not have the pieces to make mistakes and still compete with the Patriots. Although Matt Schaub ended the day with a respectable 343 yards and two touchdowns, it was a costly interception and untimely drops that did him in.
Arian Foster also struggled early in this game picking up 10 yards on his first six carries. He then found traction, finishing the game with 153 yards and two touchdowns. Let the Foster vs. Peterson debate begin.
The one player of note who came out of the shadows was running back Shane Vereen. After Danny Woodhead suffered a thumb injury, Vereen was given an expanded role capitalizing on 12 touches for 124 yards and three touchdowns. He even showed impressive talent in the passing game snagging a 33-yard, over-the-shoulder pass along the sideline, despite near perfect coverage from the defender. Vereen's value moving through the remainder of the playoffs is contingent on the status of Woodhead, but he's certainly earned an expanded role.
Perhaps the most significant news for postseason leagues is the loss of Rob Gronkowski for the remainder of the playoffs after re-breaking his forearm while giving maximum effort on a pass that landed out of bounds. On the upside, this won't affect his 2013 status as the number on overall tight end.