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Shutdown Corner

Wild-card weekend’s five most valuable players

MJD
Shutdown Corner

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Tim Tebow, Quarterback, Denver Broncos. It was really simple. Pittsburgh put everyone at the line of scrimmage and said, "Tim Tebow's going to have to throw to beat us," and then, well, Tim Tebow threw to beat them. I very nearly gave this spot to Demaryius Thomas, because he was just as responsible for making that plan work. It doesn't work without a receiver who can get open. Thomas had to beat coverage from a pretty good corner, Ike Taylor, and that's what happened ‒ just four catches, but they went for 204 yards, 64.6 percent of Tebow's total.

[ Related: Les Carpenter: Tebow's defining trait is being a winner ]

David Diehl, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, Offensive Line, New York Giants. Atlanta coach Mike Smith is an easy target for his fourth-down decisions, but it's not like this game hinged on Smith having a wild hair in his belly button about going for fourth downs. The Falcons lost because they were beat up in trenches, offensively and defensively. These fellas opened holes for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, and they gave Eli Manning the time to make backbreaking throws.

J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans. J.J. Watt did this, which was arguably the most important non-Broncos, non-Steelers play of wild-card weekend. The Texans were knotted at 10 with the Bengals at the time, and after Watt lit it up (sorry), nothing good happened for the Bengals. Maybe it was the shift in momentum, maybe it shattered Andy Dalton's confidence  … or maybe it was just seven points like any other seven points. In any case, J.J. Watt came up with a game-changer.

[ Related: Lions DT Suh among wild-card weekend's most disappointing ]

Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints. Completing 33 of 43 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns … that's pretty good, right? Granted, a good portion of those yards didn't have a high degree of difficulty due to Detroit defensive breakdowns, but Brees put a number of balls into tight windows, too. Watching that game, the 49ers had to be thrilled that they don't have to go down there and play the Saints on their fast track.

Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions. I prefer to award these spots to guys who win, especially in the playoffs, but there's just no way Calvin Johnson doesn't make this list. Can anyone else make a case that they were a better player on wild-card weekend? He had 12 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns. I use the word "unstoppable" too much, but yeah, this guy is unstoppable. What was the score of that Saints/Lions game if Calvin Johnson didn't exist?

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