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Eli Apple, Johnathan Hankins hand Ezekiel Elliott first true road loss since high school

Buckeyes are eyeing the NFL postseason with just a few weeks left to play.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

There are only three weeks left in the 2016 NFL regular season, and playoff spots are starting to be filled with teams that host a lot of talent out of Ohio State. In Week 14, some Buckeyes faced former college teammates, and others continued their campaign for a spot in the Pro Bowl. And Terrelle Pryor continues to get no respect.

‘Sunday Night Football’

After an electric season for the Dallas Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith), this week’s NFC East rivalry matchup against the Giants (Eli Apple, Johnathan Hankins) was flexed to primetime. The League is starting to capitalize on what Buckeye Nation has known for years — Zeke is incredibly exciting to watch.

The Giants were able to do what only one other team has been able to this far into the season — stop Zeke and beat the Cowboys — coming up with a big 10-7 win against a Dallas team riding an 11 game winning streak. The Giants are still in the playoff hunt with a 9-4 record, and this win in their division will go a long way toward getting them into the postseason. Plus, they make Dallas fight one more week for a victory that will secure a first week bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.

Despite not getting into the end zone in Week 14, Ezekiel Elliott still rushed for over 100 yards, and still leads in votes for the 2017 Pro Bowl. This was the rookie’s first true road loss since his freshman year of high school — thanks to the superb record of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Buckeye Johnathan Hankins is a big reason the Giants have one of the best defensive interiors in the league and a big factor in holding the Cowboys to only seven points. He suffered a burner late in the game and was not able to return.

Things did not go so well for Eli Apple, whose hit from Tyron Smith is making it’s way GIF debut across the internet. The cornerback made two total tackles and defended a pass in his team’s win over Dallas, but will largely be remembered for being Smith’s ragdoll in this matchup.

Smith’s 2016 debut

Second year player Devin Smith (Jets) was supposed to go into the league in 2015 and be a breakout receiver, providing his NFL team with a deep threat and possible special teams contributor. Instead, he struggled on kick returns and spent the majority of his rookie season with few targets (28) and even fewer receptions (9) for 115 yards and a touchdown.

He started his rookie year with a rib injury and finished it in Week 14 with a torn ACL. After spending much the 2016 regular season recovering from the ACL surgery, he was able to come off the bench in the same week exactly a year after his injury. He started the day on special teams, but didn’t see an offensive snap the whole game.

Chargers vs Panthers

Lots of Buckeyes faced off when the Carolina Panthers (Corey ‘Philly’ Brown, Kurt Coleman, Ted Ginn Jr., Andrew Norwell) hosted the San Diego Chargers (Joey Bosa, Joshua Perry). The Panthers came away with a 28-16 win.

Safety Kurt Coleman finally returned after clearing concussion protocol, and was right back to work, snagging eight total tackles and an interception — his third of the season. Teammate Ted Ginn Jr. ended his streak of games with a touchdown, recording just 21 yards Sunday, and Philly Brown finished with just eight receiving yards.

Defensive end Joey Bosa went out with a neck injury on a Cam Newton sack that left the rookie lying flat well after the play. Bosa was initially looked at for a potential concussion, but was ruled out due to his neck.

Football weather

This time of year, several of the games are snow covered battles, but they aren’t new to former Ohio State players. Buffalo produced some impressively snowy conditions Sunday, when the Bills (Cardale Jones, Adolphus Washington) hosted the Steelers (Ryan Shazier) in a close 27-20 Pittsburgh win.

Great Team Win! #steelers

A photo posted by Ryan Shazier (@shazier) on

Debt owed

The greatest rivalry in sports has made way for a few additional traditions, like alumni from both Ohio State and Michigan making wagers on The Game with their teammates and rivals in the League. Following this year’s Buckeye win over that team up North, Malcolm Jenkins made Eagles teammate Brandon Graham rock a J.T. Barrett jersey and now the Buckeye Panthers are making their Wolverine teammate pay up.

Plays of the week

Carlos Hyde

The running back had one touchdown and 141 rushing yards in just the first half of Sunday’s game — surpassing all of his other games this season. Having lost all but one of their games this year, the Niners have relied heavily on ‘El Guapo’ and it’s been working in their favor.

He came close to a second trip to the endzone early in the game, but was taken down just shy of a score. The 47-yard breakaway was Hyde’s longest rush of the season. He finished the game with 200 total offensive yards — 193 rushing — and a touchdown.

Other notes

  • This week’s ‘Monday Night Football’ game will only feature one Buckeye when the New England Patriots (Nate Ebner) take on the the Baltimore Ravens.
  • After re-injuring his ankle last week, center Nick Mangold (Jets) was placed on IR and will miss the remainder of the season. That makes three Buckeyes sitting out the rest of the year, including Cam Heyward (Steelers) and James Laurinaitis (Saints).
  • The Texans were down both of their Buckeyes with Braxton Miller and John Simon sidelined with injuries. Simon has been rehabbing 12 hours a day to get back on the field before the end of the season. Rookie receiver Michael Thomas (Saints) missed practice Wednesday with a foot injury and ended up missing Sunday’s game as well. Mike Adams (Bears) was out in Week 14 with a back injury.
  • Jack Mewhort (Colts) went out Sunday against the Texans with a knee injury, that could keep him out the rest of the season.
  • Tyvis Powell (Seahawks) and Jalin Marshall (Jets) were both inactive (non-injury) this week.
  • Some people still won’t show Terrelle Pryor (Browns) any respect as a wide receiver, and that includes rival Pacman Jones. Pryor finished the in-state battle with only three receiving yards — and the Browns are still win-less.