Following an exciting regular season, the first round of the playoffs didn’t let us down. Let’s look back at the winners from Wild Card Weekend.
The Bengals rode the hot hand into the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19. Marking their first playoff win in 31 years, the last time they won a playoff game many members of the team hadn’t even been born yet. This is a big step for the organization as a whole, setting them up for future success for years to come.
To recap their first-round game, the Raiders had to play catch up the entire game. The Bengals started fast and came away with points on all four of their first-half drives by putting pressure on Derek Carr to move the ball downfield and respond quickly. After a field goal-filled second half, the Bengals came out on top and moved on to this weekend’s Divisional Round of the playoffs.
They will head to Tennessee to take on the Titans on Saturday in a very exciting matchup. Both teams present an arsenal of offensive firepower, especially if Derrick Henry is able to take the field for Mike Vrabel. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase will have to be clicking on all cylinders if they’re going to knock off the top seed in the AFC.
San Francisco 49ers
Heading to Dallas with the upset in mind, the 49ers were able to take care of “America’s Team” in Jerry’s World. Kyle Shanahan’s offense came out ready to play, scoring 13 straight before the Cowboys were able to find the endzone. Eli Mitchell and Deebo Samuel are turning into a dominant one-two punch in the San Francisco backfield. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t perfect, but his play was sufficient enough to get the job done.
The Niners’ front seven stifled Ezekiel Elliott on the ground, holding him to 2.6 YPC and pressuring Dak Prescott by getting to him five times. The Cowboys will now go back to the drawing board as their season ends with another disappointing loss in the playoffs. Is Mike McCarthy the problem? The ensuing weeks will show who Dallas chooses to blame this on and who will head to the chopping block.
Aaron Rodgers will await the arrival of the 49ers in Green Bay before the two sides face off in the nightcap on Saturday. This should be an amazing matchup at Lambeau as both sides present problems for the opposition. It could be another ground game show for the Niners as Rodgers hopes to delay his future with the organization for another week.
Los Angeles Rams
Entering Monday night, the world wasn’t sure what we’d get out of Rams/Cardinals part three but for Rams fans everywhere you watched the contest with a giant grin on your face. At one point in the second half, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had more passing yards than Kyler Murray. Murray made poor decisions all night long, throwing two interceptions including a pick-six.
This looked like a vintage performance from the Rams, which should worry the rest of the league if they’re peaking at the right time. Cam Akers and Sony Michel looked very compatible switching off the run game duties, as the Rams went for 140 yards on the ground. Matthew Stafford didn’t throw an interception! This was a statement that seemed like it would never come the way he had been playing leading up to the playoffs.
They now get to head across the country to Tampa, Florida to take on the reigning Super Bowl Champs. They look to take advantage of a banged-up Bucs team with hopes of moving on in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady had his way with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, throwing for 271 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers also outran the team that led the league in rushing coming into this matchup. Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovanni Bernard made the most of their carries and Brady frequently leaned on Bernard on check-downs out of the backfield.
Jalen Hurts had a disastrous performance in his first-ever playoff start, being picked off twice and constantly making the wrong read on throws. The Eagles will have to regroup and look themselves in the mirror to prepare for next season under Nick Sirianni. This could be disastrous if they don’t figure out their quarterback situation.
The Buccaneers will be able to stay home and wait for the Rams to come to town this weekend. This should be an exciting matchup that features two high-volume offenses vs two physical defenses. This will be one to watch as Brady continues to defend his Lombardi.
The Patriots as an organization were punched in the mouth single-handedly by Josh Allen. Buffalo had their way over their AFC East rivals on Saturday as they scored 27 unanswered points going into halftime against a team they had lost to at home earlier this season. Allen is ready now. He has silenced all of the doubters that have questioned his playmaking ability on the biggest stage. Throwing for 308 yards and five touchdowns with only four incompletions makes for a stellar performance.
Mac Jones’ villain story starts here after he was held in check until he was able to throw two garbage-time touchdowns. He should come back motivated as ever after ending his rookie season with an embarrassing loss. The front office might seek out another weapon on offense to help Jones next season.
Buffalo will head to Arrowhead in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. The two sides faced off earlier this season which resulted in a dominating win for the Bills. I expect the Chiefs to put up a fight in this one in what could be the most entertaining matchup of the weekend.
Kansas City Chiefs
After a slow start in the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to dial in and take care of business. Following the T.J. Watt touchdown, Mahomes would go on to throw five touchdowns in under 11 minutes of game time, shattering the previous record set by Tom Brady in 2011. Other than Mahomes, the Chiefs’ defense held the Steelers’ offense in check for the entire game, shutting down Najee Harris who has had a great rookie campaign.
Pittsburgh now prepares for life after Ben since he will presumably call it quits following an incredible 18-year career in the black and gold. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are the other quarterbacks on the Steelers roster if they opt to not draft one in the upcoming draft.
The Chiefs will now play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. Hoping to turn the tide from the last time the two teams took the field, the Chiefs are a different team who will now have Chris Jones and Melvin Ingram in this matchup vs the Bills. Get your popcorn ready folks.