Gridiron Confidential: The story of the Super Wild Card Weekend
This season saw the addition of one extra team from each conference to the post season giving us the first ever, Super Wild Card Weekend.
The favourites reigned supreme for the most part but it was still action you couldn't take your eyes off, here's everything you need to know from Super Wild Card Weekend.
Bills stay hot and edge past Colts:
The Buffalo Bills are arguably the form team in the NFL and they needed every ounce of their momentum to get over the line against Phillip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts.
The addition of Stefon Diggs has completely turned around this Bills franchise and the combination of Diggs & Allen was crucial again on Saturday evening. Allen throwing for 324 yards, 2 touchdowns and rushing in one td himself while Diggs had 128 receiving yards to go with one touchdown. The Colts brought in Phillip Rivers on a one year deal with the expectation that he would get them back to post season football, he did this but the Colts just didn't have enough to get past the Bills. Final Score in Buffalo, Bills 27-24 Colts.
The Bills will now host the Ravens in the divisional round next week it would could prove to be the best game in the playoffs. The Bills are arguably the form team in the NFL right now while Lamar Jackson is arguably the form player in the NFL, there is sure to be fireworks, the Bills determined to show they are the real deal and the Ravens determined to shut the media up. Both teams are capable of putting up huge scores on the board so it will likely come down to which defense can hold up best, make sure you tune in.
Rams defense once again the key to beating Seattle:
The Los Angeles Rams raised more than a few eyebrows around the NFL when their defense completely dominated the high flying Seahawks in week nine but after Seattle defeated the Rams two weeks ago all was forgotten and Seattle were instantly placed as favourites for this battle but the Rams defense once again stepped up and downed Seattle.
Russell Wilson threw for just 174 yards with one interception and he was sacked five times. Aaron Donald and Jaylen Ramsey were once again crucial for LA as they made light work of the Seattle offensive. The Seahawks were flying high in the early weeks of the season but after the Rams dominated them in week 9 they never fully recovered. While they believed they would be advancing past the wild card game, the Rams had their number this season and won comfortably in the end. Final Score in Seattle, Seahawks 20-30 Rams.
The Rams will be full of confidence ahead of their divisional matchup with the Packers, their main concern will be the health of Aaron Donald, who left the game against the Seahawks with an apparent rib injury. The Rams did not face Green Bay during the regular season but they will be wary of the likely MVP, Aaron Rodgers and his impressive Green Bay offense. Arguably the most effective and competent offense in the league but they have not faced up with the mighty defense of LA yet this season, it should be an interesting clash of styles in Wisconsin.
Brady and the Bucs too much for Washington:
Nobody gave the Washington football team much chance after they clinched the NFC East to setup a wild card battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When it was announced the starting QB, Alex Smith was injured it seemed like Washington were dead in the water but Taylor Heinicke showed what he's made of in his first ever NFL start to make it a real battle in the capital.
The performance of Tom Brady was always going to be the key component of this matchup and while the six time Super Bowl winner was not at his very best he still had an impressive 381 throwing yards to go along with two touchdowns. The story of the night was the performance of Taylor Heinicke however, who threw for 301 yards & one touchdown while he also rushed for 46 yards off six carries including one touchdown. It wasn't enough to cause an upset but Heinicke has put himself on the map ahead of the 2021 season. Final Score in Washington, Football Team 23-31 Buccaneers.
The Bucs are now set to face the Saints for a third time this season in the divisional round. The Saints won the two regular season showdowns by a combined score of 46 points but the post season is where Tom Brady does his best work and the Buccaneers will be primed and ready to do battle with New Orleans next Sunday. This Tampa Bay team was built around succeeding in the playoffs, we will see next week just how successful they were in building their super team.
Ravens get their revenge on the Titans:
The Baltimore Ravens were out for revenge after an impressive end to the season nabbed them a playoff place. The Titans dumped the Ravens out of the playoffs last season and Lamar Jackson made certain there would not be a repeat in 2021.
Lamar Jackson is a superstar in every sense of the word but before this season he was 0-2 in the playoffs and he was sick of all the media hate, he put the Ravens on his back over the last few weeks of the regular season and picked up where he left off against Tennessee. The 2019 MVP rushed for 136 yards including a 48 yard rushing td to level the scores late in the second quarter. The other key for Baltimore was stopping Derrick Henry, arguably the most dominant running back in football, Baltimore managed to restrict Henry to just 40 rushing yards on 18 carries. Henry was the key to the Titans success last year but the Ravens learned from their mistakes. Final Score at Nissan Stadium, Titans 13-20 Ravens.
The Ravens now go to Buffalo to face the Bills in the divisional round and while they will need to on top form to come out on top with Lamar Jackson playing the way he is right now, no team would want to be playing Baltimore.
Saints do their job against the Bears:
Nobody was giving the Bears any chance of pulling off a shock against the Saints but New Orleans still had a job to do despite being heavy, heavy favourites. With the talent and experience in this New Orleans team it was all a formality other than a potentially game changing drop in the end zone by Chicago.
The Bears had just 247 yards of offense in the entire game, a pathetic output from a playoff team but credit must go to the Saints. Brees was on form, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns while Alvin Kamara had 99 yards rushing to go with a touchdown. An impressive one handed catch by Jimmy Graham was good enough for a touchdown with the last play of the game but it was sadly nothing more than consolation. Final Score at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Saints 21-9 Bears.
The Saints will now go head to head with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the divisional round with the Saints determined to go all the way it what looks set to be Drew Brees final season in the NFL. The Saints dominated the two regular season matchups but will be well aware that Tom Brady does his best work in the post season and while they will be confident it would be a grave error to underestimate the Buccaneers.
Browns down Steelers in Pittsburgh:
The depleted Cleveland Browns capitalized on an error strewn performance from Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to earn their first playoff win since 1994. With the very first play of the game an over thrown snap from Pittsburgh was recovered in the end zone by the Browns for a touchdown and that set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Browns managed to put up 28 first quarter points to all but secure victory with 45 minutes of play left. Baker Mayfield once again showed his development in 2020 with an accomplished performance, throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns. While Ben Roethlisberger had an impressive 501 throwing yards and four touchdown passes but it was the four interceptions he threw that proved crucial on the night. The Browns dropped 48 points on the Steelers 'elite' defense and the big question now is, have we seen Big Bens last appearance in the NFL? Final Score at Heinz Field, Steelers 37-48 Browns.
The Browns did a reasonable job of keeping the Steelers receivers quite but they will be going up against a whole different kind of animal when they face the Kansas City Chiefs next week. The Chiefs are the favourites to win Super Bowl LV but the Browns are the feel good, underdog story we don't want to see end in the divisional round. It will take a monumental effort from Cleveland along with a minor collapse from Mahomes and the Chiefs but stranger things have happened in football...