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Friday, January 27, 2023

Recapping NFL Wild Card Weekend

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With the first round of the 2018 NFL playoffs over, it’s time to look back and see how four teams were able to advance to the quarterfinals. Both the Titans and Falcons were able to pull road upsets on Saturday, while the Saints and Jaguars were able to stand their ground at home on Sunday. Every wild card game was very intense, and could have gone either way so with that being said let’s talk about this weekends contests.

Titans 22, Chiefs 21
Some fans might have laughed if you told them this Titans team would win a playoff game, – myself included – but somehow they were able to pull off a victory on the road against a hot Chiefs team. The first half of this game made it look like it was going to be a blow out for Kansas City. The Chiefs took a 21-3 lead into halftime and clearly looked like the better team. Unfortunately old demons came back to haunt both the Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid as they let a floundering Titans team put up 18 points in second half compared to the Chiefs zero. The Chiefs have now lost 8 straight home playoff games and brings Reid’s lifetime playoff record to 11-13. Of course many things bounced the Titans way such as a a very luck Marcus Mariota self touchdown pass, and a called back fumble return touchdown at the end of the game, but the Chiefs really have no one to blame but themselves. Not being able to put up a single point in the second half at home against a middling Titans defense makes me believe they did not deserve this win. Hats off to the Titans for the win, but they’re going to need a couple more balls to bounce their way and play their best game of the season if they are going to have any shot facing the Patriots in Foxborough next week. On a side note, that Mariota block that freed Derrick Henry to get a first down and seal the game was awesome and gave me a lot more respect for him.

Falcons 26, Rams 13
This game was closer then the final score indicates, but credit the Falcons for finally living up to their potential. The defense was able to hold the highest scoring offense in the league to 13 points, while Matt Ryan played efficiently throwing for 218 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. The Falcons have struggled at times this year to get their best player Julio Jones the ball, but that wasn’t a problem in this one as Jones caught nine balls for 94 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons will need to continue feeding Jones the ball if they are to continue their offensive success in the playoffs. Don’t let this loss distract you from what was a tremendous season for the Rams. Head coach Sean McVey should be proud of both himself and his team, for how well they performed this season. McVey was able to transform one of the worst offenses in the league into one of the best and made Jared Goff look like the first overall pick he is. Todd Gurley also had an MVP caliber season after a disappointing 2016 campain and had over 100 yards rushing in the wild card game. The Falcons will face a Eagles team next week missing their franchise quarterback in a winnable matchup in Philly.

Bills 3, Jaguars 10
A combination of poor offense and great defense led to this final score. The Jaguars have the best defense in the league and it certainly showed in this one. Outside of one very long drive that led to the Bills only points of the game. Jalen Ramsey might just be the best corner in the league, and that was before his awesome game sealing interception off of Bills backup quarterback Nathan Peterman in the last moments of the game. It must be disappointing for the Bills to loos after making their first playoff game in 17 years, but they just didn’t have enough talent on offense to overcome the Jaguars tremendous defense. Give the Bills coaching credit however, because they did exactly what you have to do to beat the Jaguars, and that is force Blake Bortles to beat you. I believe Bortles realized he wasn’t getting it done through the air which is why he ran the ball the ball 10 times for a career high 88 yards. If Bortles wasn’t just a little faster, then some Bills linebackers then this game might have ended 3-0 in favor of Buffalo. The Jaguars offense must perform better if they wish to win in Pittsburgh next week, that is of course if Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t throw five picks against Jacksonville like he did in week five.

Panthers 26, Saints 31
This game was hyped up to be the best matchup of the week and it didn’t disappoint. The Saints seemed to be in control of the game for much of the day, due to a tremendous performance from Drew Brees. The 38-year-old QB has always had a tendency to kick it up a notch in the playoffs and that was true once again on Sunday. He lit a very good Panthers defense up for 376 yards, two touchdowns and only one interception, on a day where his Pro Bowl running backs – Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara – were both held under 25 yards rushing. Cam Newton’s performance was equally admirable as he threw for 349 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also ran for another 37 yards on 8 attempts, showing once again that the Panthers offense depends very heavily on him. This games outcome might have been different if Panthers receiver Kaelin Clay had caught a perfectly thrown ball from Newton in the end zone, in the first quarter. A couple plays later Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed a field goal from 25 yards out. That series of plays shifted momentum heavily in the Saints favor, and was enough for them to win in a one possession game. Up next the Saints will face a very good Vikings team, in what should once again be a very entertaining matchup.

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