What started with 16 ProCanes has now dwindled down to 10 active Miami alums that look to keep their Lombardi Trophy dreams a reality this upcoming weekend. While Wildcard weekend was a bit more lopsided than we initially assumed, the divisional round..... well it could be more of the same in the case of one the games. Each game will be a rematch of a 2016 regular season game, of course with higher stakes involved in the outcome. Let's take a look at the matchups for the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Here is a list of ProCanes still going:
- Matt Bosher (Punter) Falcons
- Artie Burns (Cornerback) Steelers
- Anthony Chickillo (Linebacker) Steelers
- Ladarius Gunter (Cornerback) Packers
- Jimmy Graham (Tight End) Seahawks
- Devin Hester Sr. (Kick Returner) Seahawks
- Ufomba Kamalu (Defensive End) Texans
- Lamar Miller (Running Back) Texans
- Herb Waters (WR/CB) Packers
- Vince Wilfork (Defensive Tackle)
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (Saturday 4:35pm EST)
It'll be a bittersweet return to 'Hotlanta' for Devin Hester having served as a Falcon for two seasons in 2014 and '15 seasons. In his first season with the "Dirty Birds" Hester sported a new number (17), different from the 23 he wore for his entire career in Chicago. However, he was still the same electric returner that he has been for the majority of his career, having returned his last punt return touchdown in 2014. His 45 kick returnsand 1,128 kick return yards led him to a Pro Bowl nod. Now at 34 years old, Hester will look to prove that he still has some gas in the tank, even though last weekend he gained 5 yards in the punt return and 20 returning kicks.
Felt good to be on the winning side of a Clink playoff game! We scratched and clawed for every yard. Thank you 12's! I'll see u in Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/gPTI4rUEnQ— Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) January 9, 2017
Jimmy Graham is pretty familiar with the Falcons given his NFC South roots. However, in the past two years since he moved up to the Northwest the Falcons defense has changed their identity from what it once was. In the two games #88 played last against Atlanta he accounted for 135 yards and 1 TD. While Jimmy will be the number one target on many teams, he was just an option behind WR Doug Baldwin in last weekend’s victory over the Lions. As magnificent as Baldwin played, as miraculous as Paul Richardson pulled not one but two improbable snags on wildcard weekend, this should be the game where we get a throwback Jimmy G of the Saints performance, going over the 100 yard receiving mark. That is assuming Seattle's offensive line can with stand the pass rush of a hungry Falcons line that will trot on DE Vic Beasley (16 sacks), DT Grady Jarrett, bookended by "Spinmaster" Dwight Freeney.
So while Julio Jones squaring up against Richard Sherman will get all of the attention, Seattle has a great counter-punch with Jimmy G running wild between the hashes.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (Saturday 8:15pm EST)
Vince Wilfork and the Houston Texans did just enough to get the win last weekend against the corpse of the Oakland Raiders. Their reward.... a road trip to Foxboro, Mass in January. Drafted in 2014 class that featured Benjamin Watson and P.K. Sam, Wilfork was the longest tenured prospect, giving New England it's biggest return over the course of his career. So it’s be fitting that to win the third ring in his illustrious career he'll need to get one more win in his old digs, rushing against that familiar UGG wearing figure in the pocket. Houston will count on the former Cane to clog up New England's 117.0 yards rushing per game in the regular season. LeGarrette Blount scored 18 rushing TDs in 2016, most of which were backbreaking game-sealers that chew up clock while extending the lead for New England. In week 6 of the regular season he had 24 carried for 104 yards and 2 TDs and that was without Brady in the lineup. However, Houston finished the regular season as the best defense in the NFL, with JJ Watt on the mend from back surgery.
Following a wildcard weekend where he carried the rock a career-high 31 times Lamar Miller will need to continue to be a major factor in the Texans offense. The last time Houston played the Pats Miller ran for 80 yards on 21 carries with 4 receptions for 27 yards in a 27-0 beatdown by a Pats squad led by Jacoby Brissett at QB. The last time Bill Belichick's defense surrendered 100+ rushing yards to a RB you would have to go rewind to the 2014 divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens where Justin Forsett rushed for 129 yards on 24 carries. NE would still win 35-31 illustrating that it will take more than just pound the rock to survive a playoff game at Gillette Stadium Saturday night. Head Coach Bill O'Brien named QB Brock Osweiler the starter for this weekend soon after their wildcard win a week ago. Backup QB Tom Savage is out of concussion protocol and will be available. Belichick defenses are notorious for taking away the strength of the offense, forcing them to go to their 2nd and 3rd options. Meaning it could be a 8-man front for Miller and bracket coverage for WR DeAndre Hopkins Saturday night.
Ufomba Kamalu was deactivated for wildcard weekend, and could face the same fate for the divisional round.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday 1:05pm EST)
Another week, another game, another day that Artie Burns looks like a natural. Embracing the spotlight instead of shying away from it, Burns turned in a solid performance against Devante Parker last Sunday. This weeks challenge will be fellow rookie WR Chris Conley and veteran receiver Jeremy Maclin. Their combined 148 receiving yards was not good enough outscore Pittsburgh in a week 4 matchup the Steelers ran away with to a final score of 43-14. The second time around with more reps under his belt, having played the Chiefs before, Burns along with fellow rookie DB Sean Davis are viewed a strengths for Steelers.
LB Anthony Chickillo was deemed inactive for Pittsburgh game against Miami a week ago with an ankle injury. Having started 7 games earlier in the regular season it appeared that Chick made a tremendous stride in his second year as a pro having only appeared in 7 games as rookie. With the return of Bud Dupree and James Harrison's snaps count increasing as the weather grew colder in Pittsburgh. At the time of this posting Chickillo was listed as questionable to play. If he does play he will see most of his snaps come on special teams as it appears that he's fallen out of the rotation.
Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey registered a tackle in the initial meeting. A shoulder injury forced the man from Sapelo Island, Georgia, who tallied 19 sacks in his time as a Cane on Injured Reserve, ending his 2016 season.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday 4:40pm EST)
Was anyone else holding onto their seat when they seen Ladarius Gunter travel with Odell Beckham Jr last weekend? Yet that's what happened, and while Gunter did receive help in coverage a couple of snaps he did an admirable job agains the NFL's second-most targeted receiver. I doubt that Gunter would celebrate the win by going on a boat with his fellows DBs and celebrating with celebrities before getting to the ultimate goal. Green Bay lost in week 6 at Lambeau Field to Dallas 30-16, and will now face them in "Jerry's World" to extend their 7-game win streak as well as their Super Bowl aspirations.
Stopping Zeke Elliott behind that Dallas O-Line will be a mission in itself. Everyone is going to need to bring a hat when #21 has the ball. Making this rematch more interesting is that Dez Bryant did not play when the teams met earlier in the season. Gunter size at 6'1 on paper suggest that he might be able handle Bryant's physicality at the line of scrimmage, so it would be interesting to see if Packer's defensive coordinator Dom Capers sends Gunter to follow #88. That still doesn't answer how GB will defend Beasley in the slot or Witten releasing down the seam. To be at the point in the year where Ladarius Gunter being perhaps the best cover option that the Packers have is remarkable.
Herb Waters was active in his first career game last weekend against NY. He did not record a stat in the game. Again, unless there are more injuries in the Green Bay secondary he serves as depth for an injury-riddled group.
- Another week, another Hall of Fame snub. The College Football Hall of Fame announced their 2017 class of inductees on Monday, sadly no Canes made it. LB Ray Lewis made the summer ballot.
- BIG SHOUTOUT to Greg Olsen for owning on social media. Greg’s hashtag #OlsenWPMOYChallenge won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Challenge over the weekend. Olsen also ponied up $25,000 for Receptions4Research charity. He was very appreciative.
- Reactions from both LB Denzel Perryman and WR Travis Benjamin on news that the Chargers will moved from San Diego to L.A. next season.
- Ufomba Kamalu released a glowing recommendation for a former Miami DC.