The wildcard weekend on the road to this year’s Super Bowl took place this weekend and the cast of twelve has been reduced to eight. Four different games took place and while four teams start their preparation for next season, for other teams, they live for another round. We take a look at the four games and what lies ahead.
Atlanta Falcons vs LA Rams had a scoreline that perhaps wasn’t telling of how close this one really was, with two of the nation’s premier offences facing off against one another in a great game on Saturday evening. The Falcons did seem to be able to match up, at least in some regard, to the NFL’s top offence, keeping them to only 13 points, with one of the Rams touchdowns being called back. Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Matty Ice combined and complemented each other exceptionally, with Julio even taking a jet sweep for a scamper that resulted in more than 10 yards and a first down.
Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs was without a shadow of doubt, the game of the weekend. It was the first one up and was simply the best. The chiefs took command early in the game, with their offensive stars Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all turning up and showing out, giving the Chiefs a 21-3 lead going into the second half. But, anyone who thought that sort of a lead is comfortable, clearly didn’t see last season’s Super Bowl final. With Kelce taken out of the game after a brutal hit that resulted in a concussion, the Chiefs squandered their opportunity to advance into the next round. The Titans came into the second half of the game up for it. The Titans were led by a strong rushing performance by former Heisman winner Derrick Henry. After one of the wackiest touchdown receptions of all time, with Marcus Mariota catching his own batted-down pass and scampering into the endzone, it seemed nothing was going to stop the Titans form reaching the next round. With a late potential game winning score from the Chiefs being taken away by the referees, the Titans will be laughing all the way to Foxborough, and seeing if they can give the Pats a run for their money.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills had less excitement to it, with a team who were in the playoffs for the first time against a team that squeaked through. There was with little-to-no passing by either team throughout the game with Blake Bortles looking decidedly average as a passer, but manage to make plenty of plays with his legs. Taylor did exactly the same, as we have come to expect from him, until at 10-3 down with less than 2 minutes to go he went down. Nathan Pieterman came on, completing a couple of quick passes that appeared to be getting the Bills in scoring range. Yet it was not to be. An incredible pick by All-pro superstar corner Jalen Ramsey later and the game was iced.
New Orleans Saints vs Caroline Panthers- The first quarter looked like it would be a one sided contest, and while the Panthers pulled themselves back into it, the Saints still always looked like they’d pull off the win. The Saints scored touchdowns on three drives in a row, and averaged more than ten yards a play going into the third quarter. Carolina improved in the second half but just not enough, bringing pressure that New Orleans found difficult to take when lineman Andrus Peat was carted off the field. Drew Brees and the Saints offence pretty much dismantled the Panthers second-rate pass defence however, with the two 1000 yard backs being used sparingly against a good Carolina front seven. A few drops and missed cues from the panthers early in the game could have cost them. Marshon Lattimore continues to impress as a rookie corner shutting out Devon Funchess every time he covered the Panthers number one receiver. The Saints have receivers with, as a group, some of the best hands ever, so the real question now is can they take their winning ways over to the Vikings and play against one of the best defences in the league and still come out on top? We will know by this time next week!