Chalk, chalk, chalk, and chalk—that's how the NFL's Wild Card weekend played out, with all four favorites pulling away to impressive final scores. According to Pro Football Reference, it's the first time all four favorites have beaten the spread by at least a touchdown since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990.
The Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers collectively dominated their lower-seeded opponents 121-45, answering all doubts. Right? Well, not exactly.
"This is what we all had envisioned," Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler told media after his big win. " We envisioned an AFC South championship, and we envisioned making some noise in the playoffs. This is exactly what we expected out of this football team and to be able to get the job done today means a lot."
But Osweiler probably didn't envision getting benched for Tom Savage along the way. Nor did his imagined moment of glory involve slowly working over an Oakland Raiders team that lacked their top two quarterbacks, half an offensive line, and half a linebacking corps. But the Texans are on to the next round, nonetheless—just like the Seahawks, Steelers, and Packers, all of whom struggled much harder than the final scorelines indicated.
Osweiler threw for just 168 yards against the Raiders, and looks no more likely to put up points against the Patriots next week than in Week 3, when the Patriots shut the Texans out 27-0—not to mention when New England was missing their top two quarterbacks.
The Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions 26-6, yes, but it was just 10-6 at the start of the fourth quarter—and only because little-used receiver Paul Richardson made the fourth-down touchdown catch of his (or possibly any) career.
The Steelers took a quick 21-3 lead against the Miami Dolphins, then spent the rest of the game not quite putting them away. Ben Roethlisberger threw a couple of ugly picks, and a couple of other ducks that could have been picked. Were it not for the dominance of Le'Veon Bell, the game might have gone the other way. It'll be even harder to control the clock against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
The history books say the Packers put a 38-13 hurting on the New York Giants, but if it weren't for a patented Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary at the end of the first half—and receiver Randall Cobb walking off the side of a milk carton to turn in a three-touchdown performance in the wake of Jordy Nelson's game-ending rib injury—things might have ended differently:
The Packers may be without Nelson and running back Ty Montgomery next week when they face the Dallas Cowboys in Texas, which is a world away from today's frozen-over Lambeau Field.
So don't be fooled by a boring Wild Card weekend of favorites blowing out underdogs: All the winning teams have serious flaws, and they'll be lucky not to be on the other end of a blowout next round.