Review of NFL Wild Card games

The Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs lived up to the hype this past weekend, with great games and big stories across the league. New Englanders are used to having this week without football as the Patriots prepare for the Divisional round after securing a first round bye. The big story of course, is that we also have a bye week for the remainder of the season after the Patriots failed to reach the playoffs this season.

All hope is not gone though, as Tom Brady, the longtime Patriots quarterback, is continuing to dominate the opposition, now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After all he accomplished in New England, there is no reason not to root for him as he works toward another ring. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers(5) At Washington Football Team(4)

The Buccaneers took on the Washington Football Team in a game that seemed very favorable to Brady’s squad. Washington had backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke start as regular starter Alex Smith was out with an injury. Washington also ended this season with a disappointing 7-9 record, yet still found  a way into the playoffs.

The big story of this game was previously unknown quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, throwing for 306 yards and keeping Washington in the game until they ultimately fell to the Bucs 31-23. Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns as he won his first playoff game with his new team and now advances to the NFC Divisional round for the first time in his career. This was also the Buccaneers first playoff win since 2002.

The Bucs weren’t the only team to snap a long streak of years without a playoff win, the Buffalo Bills who took on the Indianapolis Colts hadn’t won a playoff game since 1995 and the Cleveland Browns took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in an effort to snap their streak of losing since 1994.

Indianapolis Colts(7) At Buffalo Bills(2)

The Bills game featured a young star quarterback in Josh Allen pitted against aging veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. The Bills finished the season 13-3, ending up in first place of the AFC East. This is the first time since 2008 that the Patriots have not won the division. The game was a close battle all the way through and ended 27-24 after the Colts failed to complete a potential game winning drive with just seconds remaining. This game now leads the team in two very different directions as the Colts are unaware if Philip Rivers plans to retire this offseason, while the Bills are sure they have their quarterback of the future. If this does end up being Rivers last game, he ends with 309 passing yards and two touchdown passes. Josh Allen was the difference maker though, as he threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Los Angeles Rams(6) At Seattle Seahawks(3)

Washington wasn’t the only team rolling with a backup quarterback this weekend; John Wolford got the start for the Rams as Jared Goff was available but still injured. The Seahawks were the favorites to win this contest as they finished the regular season 12-4 after quarterback Russell Wilson got off to a red hot start. The Rams have been reliant on their star studded defense this season and with Wolford starting it was essential as ever that they perform well.

Running back, Cam Akers, received a lot of handoffs for the Rams to make Wolford’s job easier and ended the day with 131 rushing yards and one touchdown. Disaster struck late in the first quarter though, when John Wolford had to leave in an ambulance after a hit to the head. This forced the Rams to use previously injured starter Jared Goff. With help from the Rams defense, Goff finished the job and upset Seattle 30-20.

The Seahawks just failed to get more points on the board as Russell Wilson threw for just 174 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. The ground game didn’t offer much more as Seattle failed to score a rushing touchdown. On a positive note for the team, wide receiver, DK Metcalf, finally got the best of Rams corner, Jalen Ramsey, finishing the game with 96 receiving yards and both of Wilson’s passing touchdowns.

Chicago Bears(7) At New Orleans Saints(2)

This game was the first NFL game to ever be featured on Nickelodeon. That is the biggest highlight of the contest though, mainly due to the lack of surprise at the outcome of this game. It was low scoring the entire time and the better seed won the game, with the Saints winning 21-9. New Orleans just had too much talent on both sides of the ball, which led to a mediocre Bears team to be dominated the entire game. Chicago failed to score a touchdown until the last play of the game when there was no debate that they would lose. The Saints looked solid as veteran star quarterback threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Alvin Kamara added on 99 rushing yards and one touchdown to the offensive totals.

In positive news for the Bears, Mitch Trubisky is now the first winner of the NVP (Nickelodeon Valuable Player) trophy. He amassed 49 percent of the votes, beating out far more deserving candidates. Ending with 199 yards and a touchdown, Trubisky shows that you don’t have to be the most talented player on the field to win the awards. It truly is a wonder that the NFL expected the fans watching a Nickelodeon Wild Card game to pick anybody else. That is democracy in action.

Baltimore Ravens(5) At Tennessee Titans(4)

Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, has received an unnecessary amount of slander after losing in his first game of the playoffs for the second season in a row last year. That game was against the Titans as well, so he had something to prove going into Sunday. His whole career has been surrounded by hate: after his first season people said he could only run, last season he wins MVP but loses in the playoffs and fans say he can’t win when it matters. Well now the doubters have to come up with a new narrative as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens beat the Titans by a very close score of 20-13.

The Titans have been absolutely carried by a beast of a running back in Derrick Henry. Henry stands at a massive 6’3”, 238 pounds. The way the Titans would win this game is if Henry could rush for 150 yards and a couple touchdowns. Instead the very talented Ravens defense completely shut him down to just 40 rush yards. Lamar Jackson had almost 100 more rush yards than him, and he has to throw it as well as run it. The blame can’t be solely on Henry though, he had one poor game this year and the Baltimore Ravens exposed that the Titans were nothing without him. Of course there is always something  positive to take out of a game and for the Titans it is when Head Coach Mike Vrabel said, If me fighting coaches was gonna make a difference in us winning, I would fight ’em all,. So you can sleep easy tonight Titans fans, Coach Vrabel has got your back.

Cleveland Browns(6) At Pittsburgh Steelers(3)

Everyone is a Browns fan at heart. You can despise their cocky players or laugh at their quarterback history, but if you don’t have a soft spot in your heart for these Browns, do you even have a heart at all? The Browns have turned an 0-16 team into a playoff contender very quickly, which seemed impossible just a few seasons ago.

It was always something new for the Browns; maybe they got a few college studs over the years and each time there is a glimpse of hope for the franchise, but it always ended in a crash and burn. Going into this season there were still doubts if Baker Mayfield was the franchise quarterback for Cleveland or if he was just another bad pick for the team. All doubts have vanished this season as Baker led the Browns to an 11-5 record; their first playoff appearance since 2002.

Pittsburgh on the other hand is so easy to hate. Unless you’re one of the die hard Steelers fans, it is so easy, especially as a New England fan, to root against the Steelers. Juju Smith-Schuster did not help the team this year by dancing on opponents logos and then losing important games while he caught very few passes.

With all that’s wrong in the world today, there is one thing that can make everybody smile. The Cleveland Browns defeated the Steelers 48-37 and are moving on to the AFC Divisional round. The Browns looked godly, scoring 28 points in the first quarter alone. The Steelers tried to fight back into the game, but just couldn’t overcome the early deficit enforced by a very motivated team. Ben Roethlisberger threw three early interceptions for Pittsburgh, but did end the game with an impressive 501 yards and four touchdowns.

Divisional Round Matchups

AFC: Baltimore Ravens(5) at Buffalo Bills(2) and Cleveland Browns(6) at Kansas City Chiefs(1)

NFC: Los Angeles Rams(6) at Green Bay Packers(1) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers(5) at New Orleans Saints (2)

 

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