Another great week of football. The Wild Card games were much more competitive than many thought.
AFC Wild Card Round:
(4) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Tennessee Titans.
The Chiefs started out hot, taking a 21-3 lead into halftime. Chiefs looked to run away with a blow out win, but they lost a major piece to their offense, tight end Travis Kelce. With Kelce unable to return to the game due to concussion-like symptoms, the Chiefs were left finding a new way to move the ball in the second half.
Titans quarterback, Marcus Mariota did something we rarely see in football, he threw and caught a touchdown on the same play in their first drive of the second half. The Titans continued to use their momentum to slowly chip at the lead and eventually taking it late in the 4th quarter. Titans used their run game with Derrick Henry to open their offense up. He finished with 156 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also helped Mariota set up for another touchdown pass to receiver Eric Decker to take the lead.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs lost their way without Kelce and stopped running the ball with potential rookie of the year running back, Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs had several chances late to add another score and walk away with a home playoff win. Unfortunately, the Titans defense was too much for Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, to handle.
Titans hold on to win 22-21 and the Chiefs suffered the 6th straight playoff loss under coach Andy Reid. With their season over the Chiefs can focus on what to do with Smith since he’ll become a free agent this offseason.
The Titans will turn their focus to the defending champions, New England Patriots. It will be another battle-tested game for the Titans, who will once again be missing primary back, DeMarco Murray. Look for Henry to continue to move the ball for the Titans.
(3) Jacksonville Jaguars vs. (6) Buffalo Bills
Both of these teams made the playoffs for the first time in more than 10 seasons. For one team, the journey ended and the other will battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was a slow start for both teams with a 3-3 tie at halftime. The defense for both teams was the reason that they were able to make it to the playoffs in the first place. If you’re not a fan of low scoring competitive games, this wasn’t the best game to watch.
The second half started off right where they left off. Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles, struggled to get anything going with his arm, but he led his team in rushing with 88 yards on 10 attempts. He threw for another 87 yards and the only touchdown of the game.
Bills quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, also struggled to get anything going. He and running back, LeSean McCoy, did everything they could to try to get a touchdown, but the Jaguars defense proved to be tough enough.
They were so tough that Taylor was hurt and missed the final minutes of the game. That left the Bills having to rely on back up rookie quarterback, Nathan Peterman.
The last time we saw Peterman was when he threw four of his first nine passes to the other. Peterson threw 5 intercepts in the first half of that game. What would he do in a playoff game? He runs for a first down to keep the drive alive only to throw an intercept a few plays later and end any last hope for Bills to score a touchdown.
NFC Wild Card Round:
(4) New Orleans Saints vs. (5) Carolina Panthers
Round three of a divisional rivalry goes to the same team that won the first two games. Both the Saints and Panthers finished the season 11-5, and the Saints beat the Panthers both times in the regular season. Panthers took the first drive all the way down the field but missed a field goal. The Saints answered back with an 80-yard touchdown catch and run from Ted Ginn Jr. Saints went up 7-0 with that score and took complete control early on.
Both teams managed to score three times each, but the score was 21-9 in favor of the Saints who scored three first-half touchdowns.
The Panthers struggled to find the end zone in the first half, but quarterback Cam Newton wouldn’t stop trying. Newton threw for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen and rookie running back Christian McCaffrey were the recipients of those scores and each had 100 + yards. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for a pair of touchdowns himself in the first half. As the Panthers were slowly trying to come back, Brees continued to throw the ball for a total of 376 yards and set up a rushing touchdown for rookie running back, Alvin Kamara, to set the 31-26 victory for the Saints.
The Saints will face the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round.
(3) Los Angeles Rams vs. (6) Atlanta Falcons
The Rams made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years with a new, young head coach Sean McVay.
The Falcons are looking to make another run to the Superbowl, and prove all the critics wrong.
Both teams started off slow, the Falcons got a couple early field goals from their 42-year old kicker off of Rams turnovers. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed for a touchdown off of another Rams fumble putting the Falcons up 13-0 halfway through the second quarter.
Rams started to make a move and scored 10 straight points to end the half. Rams quarterback Jared Goff found rookie Cooper Kupp for the duos first career playoff touchdown. They were able to get a field goal before the half to go down 13-10 at halftime.
The second half was much of the same. Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan kept passing the ball to his no. 1 receiver, Julio Jones, but nothing to show for it besides another pair of field goals. However, Falcons were finally able to get into the end zone once again with a beautiful floater from Ryan to Jones and put them up 26-13 with five minutes left.
The Rams were able to get another field goal and got a touchdown called off after the review showed the pass was incomplete. Rams continued to fight and tried to come back, but the experience of both players and coaches for the Falcons helped them hang out and win the game.
The Falcons path to the Superbowl will now go through the Philadelphia Eagles. Falcons are 11-0 this season when scoring 20 + points in a game, but the Eagles are one of the best defenses in the league and this will be an interesting game.
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