Wild Card Weekend was…Wild. Well, at least Saturday was. Both games led to upsets that shook up the playoff picture dramatically. Sunday outcomes were expected but the journey were unexpected in both Sunday matchups. We are now down to 8 teams eligible to leave this season as champions, technically. Before we enter the divisional round, lets break down this first round of playoff games.
Tennessee Titans 22 vs. Kansas City Chiefs 21
So apparently the Kansas City Chiefs are looking to be the new Cincinnati Bengals of the postseason. Seriously, you had a 19 point lead to a team that was said to be the weakest amongst the 12 qualified teams, and arguably weaker than teams that couldn’t make it to the January dance, and you find a way to blow it. I didn’t know how important Travis Kelce was until he went down and the collapse began. I wish he could void his contract right now, because he would likely get paid a lot more to stay with the Chiefs. This was more of a Chiefs collapse than a Titans victory in my perspective, which makes this a likely win or a BIG trap game for the Patriots.
Atlanta Falcons 26 vs. Los Angeles Rams 13
Despite being the 3 seed, the Rams were probably less likely to make the Super Bowl than the Falcons going into this game. Their passing game and defense were relatively inconsistent all season in which Todd Gurley and their weak division help them make the postseason for the first time since 2004. That being said, the Falcons were out for vengeance from last year, and they have Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. The Rams fate was sealed when they stepped on the field. Don’t get me wrong, they put up a fight… in the first half. Unfortunately, the Rams path to the playoffs next year will likely get a lot harder with the Seahawks and Jimmy G. led 49ers team in their way. At least the Falcons going against the Carson Wentz-less Eagles increases the odds of back to back playoff appearances.
Buffalo Bills 3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills on making the postseason for the first time in the 21st century. It only took you 18 tries to do that, but at least you made it. This game was a defensive struggle from start to finish, with both defenses unwilling to give up a TD until the Jaguars managed to succeed on 4th down in the 3rd Quarter. Buffalo couldn’t respond from there and that should be the end of Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo, as Bills look for a new longer term answer at QB. At least the Patriots are looking like an implosion might be in their future and Tom Brady’s decline in play late in the season could be a tell-tale sign that the AFC East is more wide-open than anyone thinks next season. On the other hand, the Jaguars will play the Steelers next week, in a game that is only competitively interesting because the Jaguars managed to beat the Steelers in Week 5. Its more and more looking like Pittsburgh vs. New England is inevitable after this weekend.
Carolina Panthers 26 vs. New Orleans Saints 31
If only NFL games ran for 65 minutes rather than 60 minutes and a different outcome might’ve been actualized. The Panthers made the postseason in a very difficult NFC South that 2 of their rivals earned more than 10 wins in the regular season and now have to face one of their rivals in a game for the right to play the Vikings next week. The Saints controlled this game in the first half, with surprisingly not much help from Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara. The arm of Drew Brees put the Saints in a 21-9 lead at halftime and kept the 12 point lead through the 3rd Quarter. The Panther scored 2 TDs in the 4th Quarter, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Saints. Carolina needs to find new receivers in the offseason and look for more consistent defensive playing for this tougher division. The Saints will now take on the Vikings this weekend in a 2010 NFC Championship Game rematch, so there’s clearly no hard feelings or extra motivation for the Vikings to humiliate this team, right?