For the first time since October 9, 2019, I’m doing the Impact Players Of The Week series in the form of a blog entry on a page (Extra Sessions) as opposed to combining 12 weeks worth of games into one long post, the latter of which I did exactly a week ago. And with that being said, I hand out the Impact Player Of The Week honors to the players that had the biggest hand(s) in their teams’ wins during Wild Card Weekend.
The matchups are listed via the bullet points and bold text below:
- Buffalo Bills Vs. Houston Texans-Five Texans players get the Impact Player award of this game. First up is the greatest defender in Texans history, J.J. Watt. In a game where his team was facing the possibility of a 20-0 deficit, the three-time Defensive Player Of The Year award winner sacked Josh Allen on a 3rd-and-8 from the Texans’ 12-yard line for an eight-yard loss to force the Bills to settle for a field goal from 38 yards out. Second and third are Whitney Mercilus and Jacob Martin for collaborating on the strip sack of Josh Allen, with the former forcing the fumble and the latter recovering it. The play would then lead to a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal from 41 yards out to cut the Buffalo lead from 16-8 to 16-11. Fourth is Taiwan Jones for setting up Fairbairn’s game-winning field goal from 28 yards out via catching a 34-yard pass from Deshaun Watson on 2nd-and-6. And lastly is Watson for overcoming seven Buffalo sacks of him to lead his team from a 16-0 deficit to a Divisional Round date with the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Tennessee Titans Vs. New England Patriots-Eleven Titans get the Impact Player award of this game. First up is league rushing champ Derrick Henry for going Shaquille O’Neal on the Patriots defense, by rushing the ball 34 times for 182 yards (most rushing yards allowed by a Bill Belichick team in the postseason) and a touchdown. Plus, Tennessee’s beast of a running back caught a 22-yard pass to set up that aforementioned rushing touchdown of his. Second is Henry’s Alabama teammate, Rashaan Evans, for being a one-man goal line stand with three huge tackles in a row on Patriots running plays. The huge three tackles that he made were three of his game-high 10 and played a huge part in the Patriots settling for a Nick Folk 21-yard field goal, the last points that New England would score in both the game and their season. Third is Ryan Tannehill for his timely passing, such as his 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Firkser, along with key third down completions to both Firkser and Dion Lewis to both help keep two late Tennessee drives alive and take time off the clock. Plus, the Texas A&M alum converted another key third down with his legs, as he trucked over Devin McCourty for a three-yard gain on 3rd-and-2. Fourth and fifth are the aforementioned Firkser and Lewis for being on the receiving end of those aforementioned timely Tannehill passes. Sixth is Kenny Vaccaro for being a force against both the run and pass, the former of which conjured up memories of a certain long-haired Pittsburgh Steelers safety. Seventh and eighth are Adoree Jackson and Kevin Byard for working well with Vaccaro and Logan Ryan (more on him in a bit) in defending the pass, and ninth is Tramaine Brock Sr. for helping in pass coverage as the fifth defensive back. Tenth is Brett Kern for pinning the Patriots inside their own 20-yard line on four of his six punts. And lastly, Ryan for icing the game with a nine-yard interception return for a touchdown.
- Minnesota Vikings Vs. New Orleans Saints-Nine Vikings get the Impact Player award of this game. First up is Kirk Cousins for having the biggest win of his career by far, as he went 19-for-31 for 242 yards (232 net), along with the game-winning four-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph and the 43-yard completion to Adam Thielen to help set up that touchdown. Second is Dalvin Cook for having 28 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Third and fourth are Rudolph and Thielen for being on the receiving end of those huge completions in overtime. Fifth is Xavier Rhodes for finally looking like himself again. Especially with back-to-back stops on second down and third down against the run and pass respectively. Sixth is Anthony Harris for returning an interception 30 yards to help set up the first of Cook’s two touchdowns. Seventh and eighth are Minnesota’s dynamic duo of defensive ends in Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter for combining on a sack of Drew Brees, along with each having a solo sack of Brees. And finally, Jalyn Holmes for recovering the lost fumble of Brees, courtesy of Hunter.
- Seattle Seahawks Vs. Philadelphia Eagles-Three Seahawks get the Impact Player award of this game. First up is Russell Wilson for going 18-for-30 for 325 yards (318 net) and a touchdown, along with rushing for 45 yards on nine carries. Second is Jadeveon Clowney for getting the key fourth down sack of Josh McCown to all but dash any hopes of the Eagles tying the game. And finally is D.K. Metcalf for catching the Wilson touchdown pass that proved to be crucial for Seattle’s lead, along with officially dashing an Eagles comeback with a 36-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 to allow his team to run out the clock for a Divisional Round date with the Green Bay Packers.