Super Wild Card Weekend
by Grant Poarch
Las Vegas Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals
After 31 long years, the streak is finally over. Cincinnati’s playoff win was the first of its kind in the texting era (since late 1992).
If we didn’t already figure this one out, Burrow to Chase is turning into a dominant QB-WR duo. It might even be the best in the league if it weren’t for Rodgers to Adams. From the beginning of the game, you could tell that Joe Burrow was comfortable. He was calm, poised, and focused on getting the ball to his college teammate as well as his other offensive weapons.
After a solid opening drive by the Raiders that led to a field goal, the Bengals began to take over the first half. On their opening drive, Joe Burrow looked like he was playing in the College Football Playoff again against Oklahoma (63-28 LSU Victory with 7 first half passing touchdowns).
With Cincinnati up 7-3 after each team had one possession, it looked like this contest would turn into a shootout. Despite what we might have thought would transpire in the upcoming minutes, Cincinnati defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson struck. On a 3rd and 8 on the ensuing drive, Hendrickson strip-sacked Raiders QB Derek Carr in Las Vegas territory.
The Bengals were unable to take full advantage of the quick turnover as they were only able to add a 31-yard field goal by Evan McPherson to their early lead. The Cincinnati defense then forced a three and out on the next Raider possession. Vegas’ defense bent but didn’t break again as they held Cincinnati to another field goal.
Although they seemed to be getting dominated, the Raiders were down just 13-3. The Raiders were able to take advantage of the door still being open as Josh Jacobs carried the load on the drive for another Daniel Carlson field goal.
Someone must have told the Bengals that they were keeping the Raiders in the game too long. Up 13-6 with 7:55 in the second quarter, Cincinnati embarked on what may have ended up being their best drive of the game. 12 plays and 82 yards later, the Bengals extended their lead to 20-6 with just under two minutes to go in the first half. With a stop, Cincinnati would likely take over the game as they were going to receive the second half kickoff.
Vegas rolled the dice and turned on their two-minute drill. The Raiders hit the absolute jackpot as they out together an outstanding two-minute drill touchdown pass with just 13 seconds to go in the first half.
Cincinnati’s hot offense didn’t show in the second half as they were only able to get two field goals. With that, Vegas slowly started to get back into the game. At the start of the second half just down by a touchdown, it seemed like the Raiders still had a lot of work to do.
After an opening drive field goal for the Bengals, the Raiders desperately needed a response. They did not get one until the 4th quarter, but at least they didn’t let Cincinnati score any more than the one field goal.
With 6:47 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Raiders took over after an impressive defensive series. Derek Carr lead a drive that went into Cincinnati territory and on a 4th and 3 was helped by a defensive pass interference call against the Bengals. Nevertheless, the drive stalled out and the Raiders were only able to get a field goal. Having the ball for 7 and a half minutes and only getting a field goal when you are behind in the playoffs will not cut it. Especially when your opponent does the same thing on the next drive.
The back and forth field goals continued until there were just three and a half minutes remaining in the game. At that point, the Raider field goal cut the lead to 26-19. Las Vegas was able to get the stop they needed as they forced a three and out on the next possession.
At this point, all of the Bengal fans began to sweat. The Raiders did everything they can to make life uncomfortable. The two-minute drill was on again for Coach Bisaccia and it worked to perfection into the red zone. In a goal to go situation, the Bengals held on. On 4th and goal, the Bengal prayers were answered. Derek Carr was intercepted, and the Bengals were going to win their first playoff game in 31 years.
Cincinnati advanced to the Divisional Round where they will be on the road against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have Derrick Henry returning, but are only a slight favorite. Perhaps it is due to the outstanding Burrow-Chase connection. This game will be a great way to start off the Divisional Round weekend, and don’t be surprised if the Bengals pull off the upset.
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
Going into the game, the question was whether or not the Patriots are still king of the AFC East. Despite not winning the division each of the past two seasons, a win for New England in this game would be extremely inflating for New England and deflating for Buffalo.
Buffalo took the opening drive of the game for a score thanks to a Dawson Knox receiving touchdown. The Bills scoring was a familiar scene for the entire game as they not only scored the game’s first 27 points, but they also scored a touchdown on every single offensive possession.
The 47-17 win for Buffalo truly showed that they are the new kings of the AFC East. Beyond that, they look like a team that can win the Superbowl. If they play at all like they did last weekend, they will not lose a game in the playoffs.
Next weekend, the Bills have a tough test as they have a road game at the Kansas City Chiefs, who also looked dominant in Super Wild Card Weekend. Currently, the Bills are a slight underdog. Bills Coach Sean McDermott is a descendant of the Andy Reid coaching tree, so this weekend will be an intriguing matchup between student and teacher.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Tom exercised his demons against the Eagles in the playoffs as he, along with a stout defense, led the charge in this impressive victory.
Like Buffalo, Tampa Bay also jumped out to a massive lead in this matchup. The Buccaneers took the opening drive of the game for a touchdown and never looked back. Tampa looked pretty comfortable on offense and were lockdown on Jalen Hurts and the Eagle offense.
Going into halftime up 17-0, I wanted to turn the TV off. Well, I would have been correct in doing so as the Bucs scored again early in the 3rd quarter thanks to a blown coverage by the Philly defense on what may have been the easiest touchdown of Gronk’s career.
Things got worse for the Eagles when Jalen Hurts was intercepted on the next possession. On the very next play, Tom Brady found Mike Evans for a 36-yard score. With the lead at 31-0 with 5:18 to go in the 3rd quarter, this game was over.
On the other hand, Philadelphia did score two late touchdowns to make the score at least respectable. The 31-15 win for Tampa Bay does not accurately reflect how dominant they were, but in the playoffs a win is everything.
Tampa plays host to the Los Angeles Rams next weekend, who looked outstanding against the Cardinals last game. The Bucs are a small home favorite, and I would lean towards Tampa in this matchup as I don’t see Matt Stafford taking down Tom Brady in a playoff game.
San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys
Big disappointment in Big D again as Dallas lost a heartbreaker to San Francisco. This old school rivalry was renewed last Sunday afternoon as the two historically great franchises met again in the postseason.
San Francisco came out on fire in this game and it helped that Dallas played like Dallas in the playoffs. Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel were too much for the Cowboy defense on the opening drive as the Niners were able to take a quick 7-0 lead with ease.
The first two Cowboy drives resulted quick punts, which turned into San Francisco field goals. Up 13-0 early in the 2nd quarter, it looked like the Cowboys were going to be beaten soundly. However, a nice mix of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on the next drive resulted in a
touchdown which cut the lead to 13-7. San Francisco responded with a field goal before halftime that was unmatched by Dallas.
Dallas received the opening kickoff of the second half, but their first half struggles continued as they were unable to cut into the lead. Things got even worse as Dak Prescott was intercepted on the Cowboys’ next drive. The Niners were able to turn the turnover into a one play touchdown thanks to a Deebo Samuel 26-yard touchdown run.
After a punt back and forth following the Deebo Samuel touchdown, Dallas was running out of time to make something happen. It looked as if Dallas had to put again early in the 4th quarter when the unthinkable happened. On 4th and 5 in their own territory, the Cowboys ran a fake punt pass for a 16-yard gain and a first down in San Francisco territory. However, the Cowboys were only able to add a field goal after the trickery.
Garoppolo was picked off on the next drive and the interception was ran back to the 28-yard line. The Cowboys were set up perfectly to score a touchdown to regain momentum, and they did. Dak Prescott topped off the short drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown with eight minutes to go in the game.
The Niners were unable to distance themselves as they punted on the next possession, but they took five minutes off the clock. Dallas got one first down on the next drive then stalled as Dak Prescott ran for his life on 4th and 11 where his pass fell incomplete after it hit the hands of Cedrick Wilson.
San Francisco looked to have the game on lock. On a 3rd and 10 on the Dallas 47-yard line with 1:21 to go, Deebo Samuel ran for what looked like a first down. A first down in this situation would have ended the game, but after review it was determined that he was short.
Too far to kick a field goal and too risky to punt, San Francisco decided to go for it. A false start took away the Niners’ chance to win the game right there, so they were forced to punt.
The Cowboys had a glimmer of hope with 32 seconds left as a touchdown here would likely send them into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Taking just 18 seconds, the Cowboys managed to get the ball all the way to San Francisco’s 40-yard line. With 14 seconds to go, the unimaginable occurred. Dak Prescott scrambled up the middle for a 17-yard gain and was unable to get the spike off in time before the clock ran out. This was extremely controversial, however, as the ref bumped Dak and the center while taking a long time to get the ball spotted. Nonetheless, the game was over and Dallas again had their hearts broken.
Cowboy fans were so angry with the result that they threw trash at the referees as they were exiting the field (I wonder who would do such a thing).
As for San Francisco, they have a road game next weekend at the Green Bay Packers. The odds are stacked against the 49ers as not many teams have success in Lambeau at this time of year.
The 49ers have had the odds stacked against them for quite some time now, so don’t be too shocked if they are able to pull off the biggest upset of the divisional round.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Big Ben’s magical ride to the postseason took everything that was left in him. Outmatched, outplayed, and with less talent; the Steelers never stood a chance in Kansas City.
For a while there, it looked like the Steeler defense had a chance to carry Pittsburgh to the unlikely victory. After no points were scored in the 1st quarter, TJ Watt recovered a fumble in Kansas City territory and ran it back for a touchdown early in the 2nd quarter.
The 7-0 lead didn’t last long for the Steelers as Mahomes went to work for Kansas City. The offense suddenly woke up after the turnover, scoring 35 straight points. At that point, the game looked like what we thought it might.
Up 35-7, Kansas City traded touchdowns with Pittsburgh late in the game thanks to a couple of dimes from Big Ben.
The game ended as a 42-21 beatdown in favor of the Chiefs. In the postgame interview, it sure sounded like Big Ben was set on retiring. So, if this is the last we see of the former gunslinger, it was a good ride and thank you Big Ben.
On the other side, Kansas City has bigger fish to fry. The Buffalo Bills are coming into their place next weekend off of a huge win over their divisional rival, New England. The Chiefs and Bills look to be the two strongest teams remaining in the AFC, but one of them will be sitting at home come conference championship weekend. The spread is -1.5 in favor of the Chiefs, so if you feel confident in the Bills this may be a good sign for you to put a wager on them.
Monday Night Football
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
Arizona’s late season struggles continued in part three of this divisional rivalry as they were manhandled in Los Angeles. Kyler Murray looked like he forgot how to play quarterback, and the rest of the Cardinals were lethargic.
Odell continued his LA success as he caught the first touchdown of the game late in the first quarter to give the Rams a 7-0 lead. This was just the beginning of the onslaught for the Rams as they extended their lead to 14 on the next drive thanks to a Matt Stafford rushing score.
Just as things began to get bad for Arizona, they quickly got worse. Backed up deep in their own territory, Arizona had to avoid a safety to make sure the game didn’t get out of hand. While they did avoid the safety, Kyler Murray quite literally underhand tossed the ball in the direction of a receiver. This, clearly, did not end well. The ball was intercepted by David Long Jr. and returned for what was probably the easiest pick-six of his life.
Going into halftime, the Rams were up 21-0 and were receiving the ball to begin the second half. Just as was the case in the first half, the Rams rolled on their opening drive of the first half. Stafford, who hadn’t found Cooper Kupp much in the first half, connected with Cooper Kupp several times on the opening drive (including a touchdown).
Arizona did strike back with a touchdown drive of their own, but the game was almost too far gone at that point. The teams traded field goals to close out the scoring for the game, but that wasn’t the story after the Arizona touchdown. Cardinals safety Budda Baker was going in for a tackle and took a scary fall afterwards. It seemed as if he was lifeless on the ground as he could not move his body and had to be carted off the field. Later on, it came out that he would be okay and only had a concussion.
The game ended at 34-11 in favor of the Rams. Los Angeles will be on the road next weekend against the defending Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While they are a slight underdog, many people have confidence that the Rams can defeat a ‘depleted’ Buccaneers team. Personally, I don’t think Matt Stafford can beat Tom Brady in the playoffs, but it is a team sport and I have been wrong before. Don’t be surprised if this matchup ends up being the best one of the divisional round.