End of the road or one step closer? Round up of wildcard weekend

Wildcard round is over and for the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders the season is gone. And for some they’ll be glad to see the back of the weekend’s games when their sides were not just beaten but horribly pulled apart.

The Steelers, Packers, Texans and the Seahawks all go into battle again this weekend but know that more challenging teams and locations all await. But in playoffs there’s no time to think about the past, just what lies ahead.

On Saturday the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, a side that they have already defeated on the road this year. They’ll be feeling positive after destroying the Lions at the weekend but the Falcons are a very different outfit indeed. The Falcons offense is in fabulous form and with Matt Ryan at quarterback who threw 11 touchdowns in his last four games and no interceptions you’d want a side with those stats. Julio Jones as receiver was suffering from a toe injury but should have recovered well with the extra week’s breaks. Seahawks will feel positive about the sacks they dished on Ryan in week six but make no mistake, the Falcons will be looking to be on fire in the playoffs.

Also on Saturday the Texans go to the Patriots trying to make their way through to the divisional championships. And they’ll be feeling in good spirits too with Brock Osweiler having had a great performance at the weekend having found receiver DeAndre Hopkins for five receptions in nine targets. If he can hold it together and the defence stay strong then there is hope.

But then the Patriots do have Tom Brady and a seven match winning streak coming into playoffs. The Patriots have only lost once since Brady returned from suspension and they’re up against a side who have lost the last four games they’ve played at their home ground, and by double digits. They’re also fit, fit and healthy and are looking like a force to be reckoned with. It’ll be a brave person betting against the Patriots for this one.

On Sunday the focus switches to the other two battles and first up the Steelers travel to play the Chiefs. The Steelers showed yesterday how dangerous they can be when their offensive trio of Brown, Bell and Roethlisberger are on song together. Despite playing in a league where the defence are stingy, they’re making waves so could feel comfortable, especially after they stormed through the Dolphins. But the chiefs are rich in playmakers, and despite what head to heads you may do on paper, they have a load of people who could just make a difference such as Tyreek Hill racing to the end zone or a Travis Kelce catch and run. But while they have home advantage, they meet a side who has eight wins on the bounce.

And alongside the Steelers, the Packers are another team who are hot in the hunt and they play the final game of the weekend heading to Dallas and the Cowboys. The Packers come into the game having won seven in a row, they put up a season high 38 points against one of the best defence in the league and in quarterback Aaron Rodgers they’ve probably got the person playing the best football in the playoffs. If you’ve got to win on the road, you’d rather have a quarterback who can’t miss at the moment like Rodgers than not.

But don’t discount the Cowboys, they are rested and will be feeling confident that in the three losses they’ve had this season, two were against the Giants who are no longer a threat. And the Packers have allowed a lot of passes to go by each game and it’ll be hard to see them keep with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. And while they have the superb talents of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, they are still rookies and experience does count for a lot come playoff time.  This is the game of the playoffs, it may even be the game of the season. Who knows which way it will go, all we know is by Monday morning only four teams will remain.