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Cal football in the NFL: Wildcard recap and Divisional Round preview

Cal had representation in three out of four Wildcard games and will have a player or coach in each of the four Divisional Round matchups.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs is done and dusted and a lot went down so let's get right to it.

Marvin Jones: WR, Cincinnati Bengals (12-4, seeded 3rd in the AFC)

The Bengals welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers to Cincinnati for an AFC North showdown in the NFL Playoffs. The Bengals were seeking to snap a streak of five consecutive seasons ending with a loss in the Wildcard Round. They were also in search of their first playoff victory since the 1990 season.

The search will continue for the Bengals next season as they suffered a horrific collapse to end the game on the wrong end of an 18-16 scoreline. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a former Arizona State Sun Devil, laid out Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown with a blow to the head which resulted in a personal foul penalty.

The self destructing continued when Adam Jones was called for a personal foul penalty just seconds after Burfict's. This put the Steelers well inside field goal range resulting in the winning kick.

Marvin Jones caught four passes for 32 yards in what might be his final game as a member of the Bengals. Jones is set to be a free agent when the season concludes.

FOX19 in Cincinnati ranked each of the 15 Bengals set to be unrestricted free agents on how important it is that the team resign them and Jones topped the list.

Jones is at the top list due to the potential depth issues in the wide receiving corps. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert will be back in 2016. Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate will all enter free agency this spring. The Bengals could address this issue in the draft, but with a new offensive coordinator it will be imperative to bring back a solid No. 2 receiver Dalton trusts.

DeSean Jackson (WR) and Nick Sundberg (LS): Washington Redskins (9-7, seeded 4th in the NFC)

The Washington Redskins were looking for their first playoff victory since the 2005 season in what was just their fifth postseason appearance since 1993.

The Redskins were actually favored going up against a preseason Super Bowl favorite in the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were struggling compared to the level of play many expected of them while the Redskins were playing above expectations.

It seemed like the Redskins were going to rout the Packers early on when they sacked Aaron Rodgers in the endzone for a safety. Moments later it appeared as though Jackson would give the Redskins an early touchdown to add to their lead, but his foot never touched down in the endzone while the ball was on the out of bounds side of the pylon. The Redskins settled for a field goal instead.

The Redskins did add a touchdown early during the second quarter, though, before missing the extra point. That missed extra point represented a momentum shift in the game as the Packers dominated proceedings from then on.

Jackson had a fairly quiet game aside from the almost touchdown as he contributed just two catches for 17 yards to the 35-18 loss.

Jackson's future as a member of the Redskins was a topic of conversation during a mailbag with Mike Jones, a Redskins reporter for The Washington Post.

The Redskins indeed have a decision to make regarding Jackson, who for a second straight season will count for $9.25 million against the salary cap. While it’s a significant chunk of change, cutting him only saves $3 million. It’s possible that the team would try to restructure his deal. Or, they could just decide that his unmatchable deep-threat ability is worth hanging on to for one more year.

The problem with Jackson is that he’s not the most versatile weapon, and that makes it hard to justify paying him a huge salary. However, compared to Calvin Johnson ($16.2 million), A.J. Green ($15 million), Julio Jones ($14.25 million), Demaryius Thomas ($14 million) and T.Y. Hilton ($13 million), Jackson’s salary isn’t that hefty.

Your questions of whether or not Jackson is a McCloughan guy are shared by many. He doesn’t seem to fit that hard-working, sold-out-24/7 type of player that McCloughan loves. However, the GM also loves playmakers, and when he’s dialed in, Jackson can make plays with the best of them.

Sundberg performed the long snap duties once again for the Redskins.

Marshawn Lynch (RB) and Brandon Mebane (DT): Seattle Seahawks (10-6, seeded 6th in the NFC)

The Seahawks 10-9 victory on the road against the Minnesota Vikings was bizarre enough, but the strangeness around this game started the day before they took the field in frigid conditions.

Throughout the week it appeared as though Lynch would be ready to go for this playoff matchup. Everyone from his trainer to Pete Carroll were confident that he would be able to play after reportedly going through an entire week of practice without any setbacks.

Then reports came out that Lynch would be inactive for the game, and, evidently it was his own decision to not play. No one could quite figure out what could have happened just a short time after Carroll declared Lynch ready to rock.

As far as the game goes the Seahawks looked dead in the water when they were down 9-0 in the fourth quarter, but Russell Wilson made a great play to find an open receiver for a huge gain after a botched snap. The Seahawks scored a touchdown and pulled to within two points.

Adrian Peterson fumbled on the Vikings' next possession which gifted the Seahawks the go-ahead field goal.

Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings then worked their way down the field for what should have been a game-winning 27-yard field goal from Blair Walsh, but Jeff Locke, the holder, did not spin the ball around to keep the laces from facing Walsh. Walsh then hooked the kick well wide of the mark and the Seahawks took the win.

Moral of the story: Peterson will fumble during the big moments, the Seahawks have unbelievably good luck when their opponent has a chip shot field goal at the end of Wildcard Round matchups on NBC and whatever can go wrong for the Vikings in the playoffs will definitely go wrong.

Mebane recorded three tackles and started the game.

The Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday in the Divisional Round and Lynch's availability will once again be a huge topic of discussion. Here is the latest from ESPN.

"He looks good," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I can't judge each and every day, but probably one of the best days that he had out here today. He's in there, he's moving around, he's making more cuts. Probably a little bit more tempo to it as well, so we'll just continue to go day to day with it."

Bevell was asked if he was surprised by Lynch's decision.

"Surprised? Probably," he said. "He practiced the whole week, but only Marshawn knows how he's feeling, and it's something that we can't determine. I can't determine it by even watching him. It's a feel thing. He had surgery, they cut on him, and so he has to have a feel, and he has to feel very confident that he's going to be able to go out and do it. We don't just want him to go in and have a couple plays and be done. So we want him to be able to finish a game and continue to play. I think that's what he's trying to get a feel for."

Added offensive line coach Tom Cable, "To me, he looks the same. It's just a matter of recovery and feeling confident that he can play."

Aaron Rodgers (QB) and Richard Rodgers (TE): Green Bay Packers (10-6, seeded 5th in the NFC)

Cal's Rodgers duo started the game slowly, but the offense woke up and found a bit of its swagger again (granted it was against the Redskins) but the Packers needed to find any bit of their mojo that they could before heading out to Glendale for a rematch of a beating they took from the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago.

Aaron Rodgers completed 21 of 36 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Here is video of his highlights and postgame press conference.

Here is an excerpt from a USA Today story on Aaron Rodgers.

Not five minutes into Sunday’s game, Aaron Rodgers crumpled into the end zone at FedEx Field, buried beneath the indignity of a safety.

Then there was that string of wayward throws. He started 1-for-8 for 11 yards.

The scoreboard was cruel, too. Early in the second quarter, the Green Bay Packers trailed 11-0, with a raucous crowd of 80,000-plus taunting, "You Like That?!" as they waved the rally flags emblazoned with that Kirk Cousins" class="culinks">Kirk Cousins-inspired slogan.

But none of this weakened the spirit. Rodgers has been around long enough to know better.

Why not worry?

"Because we’ve been there, done that," Rodgers said after the 35-18 rout of Washington propelled the Packers into the second round of the NFC playoffs.

Cousins may have entered the game as arguably the NFL’s hottest quarterback, but it was Rodgers who undeniably left Fed Ex Field sizzling.

You Like That?!

All of the social media activists, pundits and bandwagon-jumpers who contended in the days leading up to the wild-dard matchup that they take Cousins over Rodgers are sorely in need of a discount double-check.

After plodding through the most frustrating regular season of his career, Rodgers knows that doesn’t really matter now. The NFL’s best quarterback is still in the mix.

"I talked a lot the last couple of weeks about being able to turn it on, and a lot of you probably thought that was lip service," Rodgers said. "But we just needed a game like this to get our mojo back and get our confidence going."

Richard Rodgers caught two passes for 11 yards.

C.J. Anderson: RB, Denver Broncos (12-4, seeded 4th in the AFC)

Anderson and the Broncos had a bye during the Wildcard Round and will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.

Here is a USA Today story on Anderson's relationship with his Broncos' teammate Ronnie Hillman.

There’s an odd couple vibe to the Denver Broncos’ two running backs, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.

Anderson is outgoing and loud, his voice dominating most locker room conversations. He’s a cerebral player, who prides himself on his ability to match wits with Peyton Manning in the classroom and on the practice field.

Hillman, meanwhile, is the definition of chill. And until earlier this year, he rarely even spoke much to his fellow running backs. He wasn’t trying to be rude, he just preferred to be quiet.

Eventually, Anderson wore him down with his incessant chatter, about the Broncos’ offense, or college football, or the NBA.

"I just think, when it comes to football, me saying some things that he can look at on tape and say, damn, C.J. is making sense, it probably put some confidence in what I'm saying," Anderson said.

As players, they are opposites as well. Hillman, who has been designated the team’s starter since Nov. 1 is small and fast, and is at his best on stretch running plays. Anderson, a Pro Bowler in 2014, is more of a bruiser, but with enough shifty moves to be dangerous if get gets past the line of scrimmage.

"I think that our style of play is just so far from each other that it has no choice but to complement each other," Hillman said. "I think that we’re so different that it’s just the chemistry. It has no choice but to mix."

And yet somehow Hillman and Anderson have become quite the duo, and their combined success – or lack thereof – has so often determined the fate of the offense this season. The Broncos are 6-0 this year when at least one of them has had a 100-yard rushing performance, and are 8-1 when they’ve combined for at least 100 yards. The only loss came Week 15, at Pittsburgh, when the Broncos rushed for 104 yards

Chris Harper: WR, New England Patriots (12-4, seeded 2nd in the AFC)

Harper and the Patriots will host the surging Kansas City Chiefs this Saturday.

Ron Rivera (HC) and Richard Rodgers Sr. (Asst. DB's Coach): Carolina Panthers (15-1, seeded 1st in the NFC)

Rivera and Rodgers Sr. will look to coach their team to a victory over the two-time defending NFC Champions when they welcome the Seahawks to Charlotte.

Here is a story from the Worcester Telegram about Rodgers Sr.'s long road to becoming a coach in the NFL.

  • Carolina is the latest and biggest stop since Rodgers began his coaching career at Diablo Valley Community College in 1989. He spent six seasons at the San Francisco-area school before embarking on a road trip that took him to San Jose State, Portland State, New Mexico State, and Holy Cross, where he arrived in 2005.
    The NFL came calling four years ago when Panthers coach Ron Rivera hired his former Cal teammate as a special teams assistant. Rodgers was soon promoted to special teams coordinator, and this year returned to his defensive roots, serving as an assistant defensive backs coach.
    "I think we all have aspirations of moving on and moving up in our career, and the NFL is the pinnacle in our business," Rodgers said. "Obviously when you’re coaching in high school and coaching in junior college and you move your way up in the ranks, it’s something that is always there. You don’t know if you can or you’ll ever get the opportunity, but fortunately for me, I was able to get the opportunity and be ready for it.
    "I think obviously the relationship I have with Coach Rivera and us having played together has a lot to do with it. At the same time, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be able to coach at this level, and all the places that I’ve been have been a part of it."
    Rodgers’ time at Holy Cross was especially meaningful, both from a professional and personal standpoint. He spent seven seasons working in Worcester, which the family of this divorced dad came to call home.
    "I have a lot of friends back in Worcester," Rodgers said. "Of course my boys grew up there, and there’s a lot of family there. I call them my St. John’s family and my Holy Cross family. Those two mean a lot to me. We spent a lot of time and grew up there as a family. And I learned a lot as a football coach.
    "Again, it was a program where we had kids who are probably making a lot of money now because they went to Holy Cross and graduated," he said with a knowing laugh. "I worked with those kids, and they were great to me and great for me and great role models for my kids. My time there was awesome, and like I said, it had a lot to do with where I am now."

Check back next week for a recap of the Divsional Round action for Cal's representation in the NFL.