The NFL Divisional Playoff round is in the bag, and despite a strong regular season, there are no more Ohio State rookies fighting for a Super Bowl ring. Star rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys fell just shy of making it the NFC Championship, despite a late-game comeback with just minutes to play.
With only one game left standing between teams and a trip to Super Bowl LI, there are three Buckeyes still in the hunt.
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
Falcons win, 36-20
Former Ohio State tight end and NFL rookie Nick Vannett was listed as inactive for his second playoff game in a row. Despite continually showing the Seahawks that he was worth the draft pick, the team had veteran Jimmy Graham healthy for the postseason run. Vannett finished the 2016 NFL season with 3 receptions on 4 targets for 32 total yards -- including one first down catch for 21 yards. With a solid offseason, Vannett could see a marked increase in his snap count this fall.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Patriots win, 34-16
The Texans would have had a much better shot at stopping Tom Brady had Buckeye John Simon been able to suit up. Following a long stretch of missed games due to a chest injury, Simon returned for just one game before being sidelined again with the nagging issue. Despite returning to practice ahead of the Divisional Playoff, the former Ohio State linebacker was inactive for the matchup — but on the bright side he now has all offseason to rehab and heal.
Patriots’ special teamer Nate Ebner was omitted from Pro Bowl ballots despite leading the league in ST tackles, but he continued to show why the snub was a big mistake. With the benefit of a first round bye, this was Ebner and the Patriots first go at the 2016 postseason. The Buckeye snagged two tackles — one solo — when the Texans came to town, adding to the 19 he recorded in the regular season. He’ll have his hands full next week in the AFC Championship against the Steelers returners.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Packers win, 34-31
Green Bay’s third year center Corey Linsley had an up and down game in the Divisional Playoff game Sunday, both blocking the way for a touchdown and snapping it short throughout the matchup. Linsley and the Packers’ offensive line have excelled at pass protection, giving their quarterback more time in the pocket than most other passers in the league. The Buckeye will no doubt work to correct his low and short snaps ahead of the NFC Championship.
The outcome for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was much different than the last time he played a playoff game in AT&T Stadium, but despite the loss, he still had a solid finish to his rookie season. Following a season that included breaking numerous league and franchise records, Elliott has quickly become a fan favorite -- like one guy who had the running back’s face shaved into his hair. Elliott was in a fender bender just days before his first NFL postseason game, but said his car was worse off than he was and felt 100% heading into the weekend.
The rookie phenom may not have gotten into the endzone in his first NFL playoff game, but Elliott put up 125 yards on 22 carries. The entire Dallas offense got off to a slow start and showed about as much energy on the sideline as Jabrill Peppers did in the press box during this year’s rivalry game. They pulled it together close to halftime, and went on a run that tied up the score with just minutes left to play. After a three minute back and forth, the Packers came away with the win with a long field goal at the whistle.
One of the many things Buckeye fans are used to seeing from their alumni is the illustrious spin move. Exhibit A:
Fullback Rod Smith is in his second season out of Ohio State, but only saw a few snaps for the Cowboys through the first half of the regular season. With Darren McFadden being injured early on, Smith saw some playing time and recorded one reception for 4 yards against the Bengals in early October. His last appearance on the field with Oct. 30 against the Eagles.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
Steelers win, 18-16
Despite the NFL trying to finish every big football weekend with a Dallas Cowboys game, they were forced to flex the Steelers-Chiefs matchup thanks to the weather.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier is one of the smallest in the league at his position, but he’s also one of the fastest. Last year the Buckeye gained credibility when he beat teammate and NFL best, wideout Antonio Brown, in a foot race. During the week’s practice heading into the divisional round, Shazier was asked if Chiefs’ return specialist Tyreek Hill was the fastest player he’d ever faced.
"It might be the first time playing somebody that fast on offense, but Tyreek Hill hasn’t played a linebacker as fast as me," Shazier quipped back.
Shazier had a great game Sunday, putting his money where his mouth was. He had a big first half with a defended pass and interception, in addition to two tackles -- he finished the day with five total. There was no questioning his speed as he rushed Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith and zipped from sideline-to-sideline, play-after-play.
The Buckeye claimed he wants to be the best linebacker to ever play the game, and with big plays when they need it most, is well on his way to fulfilling his goal — next stop, the AFC Championship.
- Linebacker Curtis Grant was signed to a future/reserve contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday.
- With news -- and a slew of internet memes mocking the new logo -- that the Chargers are officially moving to Los Angeles, Joey Bosa and Joshua Perry are packing up too. They only had a year in San Diego, but have already established some outreach opportunities in the community and will quickly have to adjust to yet another new city.