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4 former Ohio State stars survive Wild Card weekend

The first round of the postseason is in the bag and several Buckeyes advance.

Wild Card Round - Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The NFL just wrapped up it’s Wild Card weekend, and there were plenty of Buckeyes trying to advance to the Divisional Playoffs.

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans

Texans win 27-14

After a career-best start to the season, Houston linebacker John Simon was sidelined the last time the Texans faced the Raiders -- Week 11’s edition of Monday Night Football from Mexico. Simon suffered a chest injury in the overtime loss, but was committed to making it back on the field before the end of the season with 12-hour daily workouts. Despite his return in Week 16, he sat out the final game of the regular season and was ruled out heading into the Wild Card matchup.

With the Texans’ defense missing star J.J. Watt, Simon did a fine job stepping into his role and excelling in 2016. In just 11 regular season games, Simon amassed 51 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble — plus, the Buckeye set single-game (2) and single-season (3) career highs in TFLs. With the Texans win, there’s still hope that the linebacker makes a return to the field for Divisional Playoff games.

Wide receiver Braxton Miller missed the last few weeks of the Texans’ season following a shoulder injury the coach deemed day-by-day, before ultimately placing the Buckeye rookie on IR for the rest of the year. But as Jeff Heuerman found out last year — you still get a Super Bowl ring, even if you’re sidelined.

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks win 26-6

Despite a loss in the first postseason game of his NFL career, Lions left tackle Taylor Decker had a strong game to cap off a strong rookie season. Decker lined up against the likes of Michael Bennett and Frank Clark and was still able to hold them to four combined tackles. And while he did give up 0.5 sack toward the end of the game, most of quarterback Matthew Stafford rushes and sacks came off the right side.

He may not have gotten a lot of playing time his rookie season, but Seahawks’ tight end Nick Vannett has shown he’ll be an important contributor in years to come. He was inactive for the first postseason game of his young career, and is coming off a season that included 3 receptions for 32 yards, with a career-long 21-yard catch. Seattle will face the Atlanta Falcons next week.

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers win 30-12

In his third season with the Steelers, former Ohio State stud Ryan Shazier continues to shine. He has grown to be a leader of the defense and a formidable opponent for even the league’s best passers. Shazier had six total tackles against the Dolphins and an interception that led to another score for Pittsburgh.

The linebacker finished his second regular season in a row with exactly 87 total tackles — 55 solo in both seasons — and 3.5 sacks. This isn’t Shazier’s first time in the playoffs, and just like the games leading up to the postseason, he showed that he’s in it to win it — even if it’s only 1 degree outside.

After injuries kept him on the sidelines on and off throughout the season, defensive end Cam Heyward was finally put on IR in mid-November while he recovered from surgery for his torn pec. Despite not being on the field, Heyward is committed to helping his teammates from the sideline and has continued to be one of the team’s leaders.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

Packers win 38-13

Rookie Eli Apple was in for a tough game against Green Bay and one of the league’s best passing offenses but had a solid day considering. Despite a strong first quarter, there were a few long passes that got past him, including two scores by Randall Cobb. Apple finished his inaugural regular season with 51 total tackles (41 solo), 7 passes defended, one forced fumble and an interception, and recorded an additional 4 tackles and defended one pass in his first NFL playoff appearance.

Giants defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins has been part of one of the best interior duos in the NFL. He was a big factor in keeping New York in the matchup, coming up big with 1.0 sack in addition to three total tackles. The fourth year player out of Ohio State bounced back big time this season after missing the second-half of 2015 due to a torn pec, finishing the regular season with 43 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, a career-high 7 stuffs and his first career blocked kick. He’s a free agent heading into the offseason and did enough to secure a pretty hefty deal in 2017.

Picked as one of the Packers captains for this matchup, center Corey Linsley had a great game protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After a slow start, the Packers offense finally got on a roll, in large part to a few key blocks by Linsley to give Rodgers enough time for a deep pass. Green Bay lost several offensive weapons to injury during this Wild Card game and will need all the help from the oline as they can get; they face the Cowboys next weekend in the divisional round.

Other notes

  • Plenty of other Buckeyes are still making a run in the postseason, but benefited from a bye week during the Wild Card weekend. Still to play, include Nate Ebner (Patriots) and Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith (Cowboys).
  • Just a week before his first taste of the NFL Playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks waived Tvyis Powell. The team needed an extra roster spot to sign return specialist Devin Hester after their starter Tyler Lockett broke his leg.
  • Some former Ohio State stars signed with new teams this week, including tackle Reid Fragel (Vikings), tight end Jake Stoneburner (Saints), and cornerback Doran Grant (Jaguars).
  • Ohio State legend and NFL Veteran A.J. Hawk announced he will file retirement papers, ending his 11 year career. Hawk spent most of his career with the Packers before a short stint with both the Bengals and Falcons.