The NFL Wildcard Round took place over the three-day weekend and for lack of a better word, disappointed the fans. With six games taking place across the AFC and NFC, the usual buzz and excitement wasn’t there. I did have fun watching however, but an analysis should be done in the only fashion acceptable, from a fans perspective.
Bengals Narrowly Defeat Raiders 26-19
After an exhilarating game in the first week eighteen in NFL history, the Raiders came into Paul Brown Stadium with the expectation of an upset and a hopeful advance into the NFL Divisional Round. Joe Burrow was ready to put all those hopes to an end. Joe Burrow got the chance this year to go to the playoffs with LSU Tigers teammate and probable Rookie of the Year Ja’Marr Chase, and they broke records the entire way there. While Joe Burrow had an incredible season bouncing back from injury followed by Chase’s rookie season that will go down in history with the names of Ben Roethlisberger and such, it looked inevitable to get a win here. The first half was tightly contested, the Bengals winning 20-13. After an entertaining first half, the fun ended there. The second half was only field goals by both teams, and while Derek Carr tried to lead a comeback to go to overtime towards the end, the Bengals defense proved to be too much for the Raiders offense. While I give Derek Carr a lot of credit for what he did this season, losing his head coach and star receiver, it was not enough to beat an incredible Bengals team, who I could see making a run. Joe Burrow wins MVP of this game, throwing 24/34 in his playoff debut followed by two passing touchdowns, an incredible start to what could be an incredible career for Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The Bengals will be facing the first-seeded Tennessee Titans on January 22 at 4:30 PM in Tennessee.
Bills Squash Patriots 47-17
Mac Jones was poised for his first NFL playoff game and had brought the Patriots back to life with a playoff berth, and all of that was quickly forgotten by the third quarter against the Bills. Unless you are a Bills fan, this game was tough to watch. Buffalo dominated in all three facets of the game. On the offensive side, it was a flawless performance. The Bills did not punt or turn the ball over a single time in the game, scoring seven touchdowns on seven drives. Josh Allen had a masterclass, throwing 21/25 and 308 yards, a nearly flawless game, capped off with five passing touchdowns. Josh Allen also had sixty-six rushing yards, so whether he was throwing or keeping the ball, he was destroying the Patriots defense. The defense showed up as well, only allowing seventeen points all game, keeping them to only three before the first half ended. Levi Wallace came down with a momentum-murdering interception on one of Mac Jones first pass attempts, then followed later in the game by a Micah Hyde interception off a deflection. The icing on the cake for Buffalo in a win was easily the Tommy Doyle touchdown reception, one of the last of the game. The Patriots were not themselves, Mac Jones having two interceptions, the team didn’t even get over one-hundred yards of rushing offense, and they felt like the Patriots in the first half of Superbowl LI, atrocious. Josh Allen had himself a day, easily getting my MVP of the game vote and had one of the best playoff performances not only by a Bills quarterback, but by a quarterback in playoff history.
Tom Brady Takes the wind out of the Wings of the Eagles 31-15
With all of the drama surrounding Bruce Arians and the departure of star wide receiver Antonio Brown, not many people knew if TB12 and the Buccaneers would show up full force, but that they did. Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl LV Champion Buccaneers came out to a thirty-one-to-nothing lead over the Eagles and looked like they were going to have the first shutout of the playoffs this season. Forty-four year old Tom Brady threw 29/37, 271 yards and two touchdowns, including a Rob Gronkowski connection for six, a pleasure for any NFL fan to see. While the Buccaneers were efficient, they also were forced to punt seven times, luckily their defense made all the stops necessary. Jalen Hurts only completed 53% of his passes, having 258 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. While Brady and the Bucs got comfortable with their thirty-one point lead, the birds decided to try to fly again. Jalen Hurts and company came down the field in the fourth quarter and scored fifteen points, not enough to comeback against the greatest comeback player in NFL history however. MVP of this game goes to Tom Brady without question, and maybe the real NFL MVP will go to him as well, Brady will be facing the Rams in Raymond James Stadium next Sunday at 3 PM EST.
49ers Follow the Rules and Barely Defeat the Cowboys, 23-17
This game was easily the best one of this years wildcard round, it had everything you could want. A rivalry game, Dak Prescott in his first year back from injury, multiple people’s jobs on both sides on the line and of course, a comeback. Jimmy Garoppolo has always been an odd name to talk about in the playoffs achievement wise. While he has two Super Bowl rings as a backup quarterback in New England, he has also reached a Super Bowl by himself but lost, but has had average stats along the way. Average is the only way he can be described in this game. While they did come out to a 23-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Jimmy G had 172 yards passing and one interception, while Deebo Samuel ran all over the entire Cowboys defense 100 total yards in the game. Dak tried to comeback and almost did, throwing for 254 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and rushed for a touchdown as well. While having ten points in the fourth quarter, a brain-fart of a thought process in the final seconds, handing the ball to his center instead of the official made time end earlier than expected, ending the game. At the end of the day, penalties are what killed the Cowboys. Everything went right for them in the game as well, injuries at the perfect time, 49ers mess-ups constantly, and perfectly drawn plays, right until that final mistake. The MVP doesn’t matter here considering Dak Prescott won the Nickelodeon Most Valuable Player Award, now joining an elite group alongside Mitchell Trubisky.
Chiefs put the Nail in the Coffin for Big Ben, 42-21
Ben Roethlisberger put up one of the most illustrious careers in NFL history, but Patrick Mahomes could care less in what is most likely Big Ben’s final NFL game. The game started off odd, 0-0 after the first quarter, then having a TJ Watt fumble-recovery touchdown to break the game open, and then Patrick turned on the jets. In a 77% completion game with 404 yards and five touchdowns, Patrick Mahomes had one of the best games in the playoffs in the round. Jerick McKinnon came out of nowhere all around the whole game, rushing the ball twelve times for sixty-one yards. Once Travis Kelce threw a touchdown pass, the game was over. Ben threw 29/44 for 215 yards and two touchdowns in an admirable performance in his farewell, while it’s not 60-point Kobe farewell, they all come in different ways. Patrick Mahomes runs away with MVP as they set up to face the Buffalo Bills in what should be a shoot-out in the Divisional Round.
Rams make Kyler and the Cardinals Come up Short with a 34-11 win
I expected this game to be a shoot-out style game and one where the Cardinals that played football in the first half of the season would win, but I was sadly mistaken. The Rams ran away with this game from the coin toss on. By halftime Matt Stafford and the Rams were up 21-0 and the game was over by then. Matt Stafford had a great performance, throwing for over 200 yards and two touchdowns as well as rushing for one. Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. both caught a touchdown in this game, and Odell even got to show off his arm, throwing a pass for forty yards, at one point having more passing yards than Kyler Murray. David Long and Marquise Copeland both picked off Kyler Murray, who may have had the worst game of his career in his first playoff game. Kyler went 19/34 and had two interceptions, the only touchdown for the Cardinals coming off of a rushing touchdown from James Conner. The Cardinals came up way shorter than expected, and proved that an undefeated streak doesn’t mean much, especially with a Wild Card exit. If there is anything these Cardinals remind me of, it is the 2020-21 Steelers. Matt Stafford wins his first playoff game and wins MVP of the game with his performance, and now he has to go and face Tom Brady on Sunday.
If there is anything NFL fans can hope for in the divisional round it is that the Bills-Chiefs game is a good one, Packers and Bucs advance for a second straight year, and just some more close games. That is my full analysis and I will be doing the same after the divisional round, if you are gambling stay safe these playoffs folks.