THE NFL PLAYOFFS ARE BACK BABY! This is the time of year where the men separate themselves from the boys. Childhood dreams will come true, but for which team? Are we going to see an underdog go all the way, or are the powerhouses set to take the big stage? It all starts here! Let’s see what Wild Card Weekend brought us!
One of the best stories from this last week was Derek Carr and the Raiders edging out the Chargers in an all time classic duel to make the playoffs. What was their reward? A trip to Cincinnati to take on the steaming hot Bengals. Although Cinci was the favorite in front of their home crowd, both teams entered the game with a 10-7 regular season record; this was anyone’s game. The Raiders got the scoring started off the leg of Daniel Carlson, but Joe Burrow continued his hot streak by leading his team to 13 unanswered points, with one touchdown thrown to C.J. Uzomah. You’d think teams would know by now how talented Ja’Marr Chase is, but maybe Chase doesn’t care. Double him, triple him; it doesn’t matter. Chase that prized rookie card here! This man is going to put up numbers every week, and he followed that routine to the beat of 9 catches for 116 yards on the day. Burrow then proceeded to throw another touchdown to Tyler Boyd in the second quarter to put the Bengals up 20-6. I mean really, come on now. Isn’t it a little ridiculous that Burrow essentially has three no. 1 receivers to throw to? No complaints here; they built this team through the draft and have been oh so exciting to watch. On the other side of the ball, Derek Carr was not going to go down without a fight. He led his two minute offense down the field before hitting Zay Jones for a 14 yard strike to bring the halftime score to 20-13. The second half was a defensive battle that only saw field goals bump up the score 3 points at a time, effectively keeping the Raiders within a one score deficit. With less than four minutes left, Daniel Carlson kicked a field goal to bring the score to a 26-19 Bengals lead. Maxx Crosby and the Raider’s defense forced a three and out, giving Derek Carr a chance to tie this game up with under two minutes left in regulation. A roughing the passer penalty and two big throws from Derek Carr brought the Raiders to the Cincinnati 9 yard line with 30 seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately for Raider Nation, Carr proceeded to get intercepted at the 2 yard line to end the game in regulation. Joe Burrow and the Bengals continue their hot streak, and the Raiders are sent home. However, the Raiders should be proud of making it this far. Losing your number one receiver and head coach in the same season for reasons best left unmentioned is a hard thing to overcome, and they silenced the haters by making it to the playoffs. Great season to build off of! Cinci handles the Raiders with a final score of 26-19.
Which division in the NFL has been the most lopsided for the better part of the last two decades? It has to be the AFC East. What team is fed up with that narrative and decided to flex their muscles this weekend? THE BUFFALO BILLS. There’s something so exciting about wild card weekend, but when you pair that with a divisional matchup it typically makes for even more exciting football. But was this game exciting? Absolutely not. According to my previous NFL recaps, this game would be deemed a “snoozefest”, but this game was the most glorious thing to happen to the Buffalo fan base since 1990-93. In sub zero degree weather, this game was over before it even started as the Bills looked to make a statement. Josh Allen, Buffalo’s savior, came out slinging the ball through the freezing air, connecting with Dawson Knox for two first quarter touchdowns. Mac Jones thought he had Nelson Agholor for an easy touchdown, but Micah Hyde quickly reminded him that Buffalo has the no. 1 defense by making one of the most insane interceptions you’ll ever see; a true ball hawk! Devin Singletary wanted in on all of the fun, so he decided to score two second quarter touchdowns from 3 yards and 16 yards out, respectively. With the game at 27-0 in the first half, New England wanted to prevent a shutout with a Nick Folk field goal, and Buffalo entered halftime by scoring on every possession with a 27-3 lead. Oh, you thought Buffalo would slow down after halftime? I told you they wanted to make a statement! On their first drive of the second half, Allen threw a DIME to Emmanuel Sanders for a 34 yard touchdown. Okay, okay, okay… It’s time to slow down a little bit, right? NOPE. Josh Allen and the Bills wanted to absolutely dismantle the Patriots for 20 years of misery, so he came out and slung two more touchdowns to Gabe Davis and Tommy Doyle (Big man touchdown)! New England scored two meaningless touchdowns to bring the final score to 47-17, a Saturday night massacre. Allen finished the game with 308 yards, five touchdowns, a near perfect passer rating, and he added 66 yards on the ground just for fun. Oh, and they didn’t have to punt a single time. The Bills were firing on all cylinders, and they might be the most dangerous team in these NFL playoffs. LETS GO BUFFALO!
Sunday opened up with a lopsided affair between the Eagles and Buccaneers. Tom Brady and the Bucs were not messing around, scoring 31 unanswered points in the first three quarters. Tom Brady saw his running backs score two first half touchdowns, so naturally he wanted to match their production. He found Gronk wide open in the endzone for a 2 yard touchdown, and then Mike Evans for a 36 yard touchdown strike on the very next drive; the nail in the coffin. Entering the fourth quarter, TB had a wildly comfortable 31-0 lead before the Eagles scored two garbage time touchdowns to see a final score of 31-15. Brady finished the game with 271 yards and two touchdowns, and he found Mike Evans all day for 117 yards and one of those scores. Hurts did all he could for the Eagles, but untimely interceptions led to their demise as the Bucs capitalized. Could we see the Bucs take on the Packers in the NFC Championship game for a second straight year?
UPSET ALERT. Well, if you even really want to call it that. Their record is 10-7, but most people don’t know that San Fran has a top ten team on both sides of the ball. The 49ers travelled to Dallas to take on the high powered Dallas Cowboys, and they came ready to ball. Eli Mitchell started off the scoring with a four yard scamper, and the 49ers quickly went up 10-0. Dak Prescott found Amari Cooper for a beautiful 20 yard touchdown, but a couple more Robbie Gould field goals saw the 49ers with a 16-7 halftime lead. Did the Cowboys forget that Deebo Samuel is good at football (like, really good)? I mean, he’s an All-Pro for goodness sake! Deebo finished the game with over 100 yards from scrimmage, and he capitalized on a Dak interception with a very impressive 26 yard touchdown run. HE’S A BEAST. With the score at 23-7 heading into the fourth, the Cowboys came to life by scoring 10 unanswered points off the legs of Dak Prescott, bringing the score to 23-17. However, the talk of the town is the final play of regulation in this matchup. Dak got his team to San Fran’s 41 yard line with 14 ticks left, but then decided to run up the middle with no timeouts left. Some people blame Dak and the Cowboys for poor offensive execution, some are blaming the refs for not handling the ball properly, but all I know is that this run effectively ended the game at 23-17. And you can say all you want about Jimmy G, but all I see is a man who consistently puts his team in position to win. The 49ers are moving on to the divisional round!
The Sunday Night game proved to be as uninteresting as the Bucs/Eagles game, as the Pittsburgh Steelers travelled to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Cam Heyward and your likely DPOY, T.J. Watt started the scoring off with a bang on a lovely little 26 yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, the game was all Kansas City from this point onward. Patrick Mahomes went on to score 35 unanswered points into the third quarter, finding Jerick McKinnon, Byron Pringle, Travis Kelce, Nick Allegretti, and Tyreek Hill for touchdowns. Mahomes finished the game in true MVP form, with over 400 yards through the air and five touchdowns. This game was a blowout from the jump, but Big Ben still managed to put up 215 yards and two touchdowns in what will likely be his final game. The former first round quarterback will finish his career with two Super Bowl victories, close to 70,000 career passing yards, and over 400 career touchdown passes. Everyone wants to finish their career on top, but Big Ben’s numbers are nothing to sneeze at; it’s been an honor watching you play. Next stop: Canton!
The weekend was rounded out with a divisional matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Las Angeles Rams. The Rams came out firing on all cylinders as Stafford looked to capture his first career playoff victory. Crazy, right? After a slow start from both teams, Stafford got his team on the board first with a beautiful throw to OBJ for a four yard touchdown. The second quarter saw the Rams run away with the game as Stafford snuck a touchdown in from one yard out, and David Long had an interception returned for a 3 yard (?!?!) touchdown on an errant pass from Kyler Murray. Murray and the Cardinals struggled to get anything going offensively, and it’s hard to believe that missing Hopkins didn’t have something to do with it. Following a well executed trick play on a pass from OBJ to Cam Akers, Cooper Kupp demonstrated his All-Pro abilities with a 7 yard touchdown grab. Oh, and by the way, Cam Akers totaled 95 yards from scrimmage, and that comes only 5 ½ months after a torn achilles threatened his entire season. Love to see it! Stafford finished the game with 202 yards and two touchdowns, while his star receivers in Kupp and OBJ combined for 115 of those yards and both scores. Murray threw two interceptions, and this game was over before it even started. The Rams smack the Cardinals 34-11.
There ya have it folks, Wild Card weekend is a wrap! We have some exciting games to come next week in the divisional round. In the AFC, we will see the red hot Bengals travel to Nashville to take on the Titans, and the two Goliaths of the AFC will duke it out as the Bills travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. The NFC will see the sneaky good 49ers team travel to Lambeau to challenge Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, while two high powered offensive teams will air it out when the Rams travel to play Tom Brady and the Bucs. This should be an amazing round of football.