The Wild Card Weekend has come and gone. We had three close games and one that wasn’t necessarily a blowout, but most were fun to watch (though Buffalo and Jacksonville was a bit painful to see at points). You had some interesting things happen in all of the games and you had some good highlights as well.
AFC WILD CARD GAMES:
Titans 22, Chiefs 21: Kansas City’s playoff woes continue especially at home where they now have a home playoff win drought since 1993. But early on it looked like the Chiefs would pull away and blow the doors off of Tennessee. However, late in the first half, Travis Kelce got drilled, knocking him senseless and out of the game. And that was the turning point really. The Titans Heisman Trophy winners of Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry took over. Mariota’s play of trying to throw a TD pass was blocked and he caught it for the TD got the Titans pumped. Henry’s running wore KC’s defense out, and a big TD reception from Mariota to Eric Decker gave the Titans the lead for good. Kansas City, whose offense is influenced by Kelce, was stagnated in the entire second half with poor throws and dropped passes. Late in the game, when the Chiefs needed a big stop from their defense, they failed to get it as Henry, with a key block from Mariota, ended the game with a big run.
THOUGHTS: Titans: Mariota didn’t look like the Heisman winner in this game, but he showed a lot of guts and heart with his play. He played very well and got the Titans going alongside Henry, who definitely looked like his Heisman self with punishing runs. Chiefs: Another playoff implosion for the Chiefs and as expected the questions surround Andy Reid, and honestly rightfully so. The guy who was lost in the shuffle was Kareem Hunt. Why didn’t he get more touches as he has been just as important to the offense as Kelce was. It’s probably why Reid has always got that monkey on his back of not being a playoff coach.
Jaguars 10, Bills 3: This game will not go down as memorable or a classic, unless you count for the Bills Mafia outside the parking lot being the Bills Mafia. LeSean McCoy did play, and played decent, but with the wind blowing, both Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles had problems all day throwing the ball. It was more of the grind it out type of game. Buffalo took a 3-0 lead and had a few good drives working, but penalties messed things up while Jacksonville looked inexperienced in the process. It was Buffalo’s to lose. The 2nd half was more of the same. Just struggles on offense for both, but Bortles used his legs instead of his arm to help out the Jacksonville cause and gave the Jags a TD, finding Ben Koyack from 10 yards out. The Bills had two drives to tie it up, but on the last one, Taylor took a vicious hit, bringing in Nathan Peterman and in turn “Petermaned” it by throwing a game-ending interception.
THOUGHTS: Bills: Not to add insult to injury, but Tyrod Taylor is not the guy to get Buffalo back to the Super Bowl. That has been evident for a while. While McCoy played well, he didn’t take over. But costly penalties hurt Buffalo in this one as I thought they played an overall better game than Jacksonville. Jaguars: Well, Bortles can run. But passing the ball is atrocious for him right now. He nearly got booed out of the place early on by overthrowing his targets on screen plays. If that happens in Pittsburgh…yeesh. The other thing that if you’re a Jags fan and you have to be concerned about is their maturity. They made a few bonehead plays that nearly costed them. Yes, the Jags beat Pittsburgh in Heinz Field earlier this year (badly), but if they make bonehead penalty after bonehead penalty, it won’t be a repeat of that game at all.
NFC WILD CARD
Falcons 26, Rams 13: The defending NFC champions showed why they will be a tough out. Projected by the “experts” to lose this game pretty easy because of the vaunted Rams offense, the Falcons frustrated Jared Goff, kept Todd Gurley primarily quiet, and got two key turnovers on special teams. Adding on, the Falcons offense, while still not being the juggernaut that carried them last year, played near mistake-free football and played poised throughout the game. It never really felt like the Rams were truly “in” this game the way the Falcons controlled the clock and kept Goff & Gurley off the field.
THOUGHTS: Falcons: Yes, Gurley had 100 yards rushing, but if you take out really two big runs, he was not really a factor. And the Rams lacked that top receiver that could really hurt. The biggest thing though was that defense played like clockwork, making tackles and getting key stops all throughout the game. The offense had to grind it out but overall played a solid game and Ryan & Julio are slowly getting back on the same page. That should be a concern for the rest of the playoff teams. Rams: They are very young and it showed. The two turnovers killed LA and it really was the deciding factor. But there is hope for this team down the road, barring injury.
Saints 31, Panthers 26: In a NFC South battle, the Saints swept the Panthers. New Orleans looked to jump ahead and blow out Carolina by halftime as the Saints were scoring TD’s and the Panthers were kicking FG’s. In the 3rd it seemed like the Panthers found their rhythm with Newton passing and using his weapons. However, the Saints offense picked apart the weak Panthers secondary, doing just enough to hold the Panthers at bay. However, the Saints in the 4th quarter struggled with running the ball and Brees was getting hit on his back a lot thanks in part to injuries to the offensive line. The Panthers had one final drive to win it but got stopped despite a great effort form Cam Newton.
THOUGHTS: Panthers: Like him or not, Cam came to play. He was pretty accurate the whole game, but his receivers let him down early with dropped passes that would have given Carolina TD’s. Instead of the Atlanta loss last week where it looked like the entire offense was bickering at each other, Cam kept his cool and played great. Unfortunately, the Panthers have major struggles in the secondary in this game and down the stretch and it showed. That is what killed Carolina. And maybe it is time for a new running back who can run the ball instead of seeing Cam take off and McCaffrey gain 1-2 yards (he’s a good receiving back, but not a good running back despite a good 4th quarter). Saints: The Saints are happy to move on for sure. But they are also getting thin with the offensive line as two injuries nearly costed the Saints the win. It looked reminiscent of the Saints circa 2014-2016 where Brees gunslinged it hoping to win. And the defense outside of the line has some issues to work on though Marshon Lattimore is a truly legit #1 CB in this league.
It was a good week of football, but next week the divisional playoffs start. Can the Titans or Jags bring down the heavy hitters of New England or Pittsburgh? Can Atlanta bring down Philadelphia? Can the Saints overcome injury and a hostile crowd in Minnesota? Should be a fun one.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat