Post-NFL’s First-Ever Super Wild Card Weekend
NFL fans saw the first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend, where there were six total playoff games and many more firsts. The NFL introduced a new playoff structure where 14 total teams made it into the playoffs and only the top team from each division got a bye week. Fans saw things as crazy as a Nickelodeon-themed game that made it child friendly to introduce the younger audience to American football. Each game was decided by 12 points or less and gave fans entertaining, close games to watch all weekend. Not only that, but many teams came in hot and broke their playoff win droughts they had seen previously. The Browns notched their first playoff win since 1994. The Bills also overcame their playoff drought, winning their first playoff game in 25 years. Overall, the new structure and many other firsts for the NFL gave fans of all teams something to watch and made the first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend one for the ages.
For starters, this year’s playoffs have had plenty of teams barely squeak by and make it into the postseason. Plenty of teams made it into the playoffs with records people usually don’t see in the playoffs. The Washington Football Team barely made it with a 7-9 record due to them winning their division, that being the lackluster NFC East. Fans also saw the Chicago Bears with an 8-8 record make it in due to having a tiebreaker over the 8-8 Arizona Cardinals. Although these teams barely made it by, fans saw the 10-6 Miami Dolphins have their season ended early due to being a part of the strong AFC. Before the final week of the regular season Cynthia Frelund, a writer for the NFL, explained how chaotic the playoff picture could be stating, “In the final week of the regular season, the playoff picture remains muddled when it comes to participants and seeding.” Going into that week, only eight teams had playoff spots locked up and made week 17 the most interesting of the season. Week 17 also showcased five games that ended up being the make or break for most team’s playoff hopes. Despite all the action fans saw in week 17 and throughout the first week of the postseason, certain injuries dragged teams right out of Super Bowl contention.
Certain teams were plagued with injuries this season, especially when it mattered most. In week 17, the Dallas Cowboys went without their star linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and cornerback Rashard Robinson. The loss of these players caused them to fall to the New York Giants with a final score of 23-19 knocking them right out of the playoff picture. Nevertheless, the Chicago Bears saw their second team all-pro linebacker Roquan Smith and rookie receiver Darnell Mooney go down with season-ending injuries. Due to this, the Bears were a first-round exit as they went without these players against a lethal New Orleans Saints team.
Like the Bears, the Washington Football Team went into their first-round against all-time great Tom Brady with no starting quarterback and were forced to use Taylor Heinicke, who had not seen the field all year. They fought, but fell short as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense came out firing on all cylinders.
Analis Bailey USA Today discussed postseason injuries saying, “Some teams have been hit harder by the injury bug than others and are waiting to see if critical pieces of the roster can get back on the field for kickoff.” Some teams were hit harder than others, but the fans still saw the most playoff football in one weekend ever seen in NFL history. Fans were left upset, not being able to see some of the highest caliber players perform on one of the biggest stages in all of football. Although they had the chance to watch some great playoff football and witness some of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.
Spectators saw some insane games this weekend, but fans saw some teams get dismantled early and thrown out of the playoff picture that were considered Super Bowl contenders. One of the biggest rivalries in the Super Bowl era clashed on Sunday night and left viewers shocked with the results. The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cleveland Browns in one of the most anticipated and heated games fans have ever seen. Before the game, Steelers' number one wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster had strong words for his feelings on the Browns stating, “I think they're nameless gray faces. They have a couple of good players on their team, but at the end of the day, I don't know. The Browns is the Browns." This must’ve fueled the Browns as they came into this rivalry prepared and put up 28 points strictly in the first quarter. The Browns came in as a six seed facing a third-seeded Steelers team with arguably this year’s best defense and paid no attention to numbers and fought. They upset the Steelers and got the last laugh in their rivalry. This game will go down as one of the craziest upsets in playoff history, meanwhile it was one of many playoff games that shocked fans this weekend.
Going into these playoffs, no one expected any upsets due to the higher seeded teams being so strong and seemingly unstoppable. However, a couple of quarterbacks notched their first playoff win and broke huge droughts for their franchise despite them being underdogs. Lamar Jackson acquired his first playoff victory over longtime rival Tennessee Titans which ended in dramatic fashion with Baltimore Ravens players dancing on their logo after clinching the victory late in the fourth quarter. Super Wild Card Weekend spectators saw Josh Allen break the Buffalo Bills’ 25-year winless playoff in a close game versus the Indianapolis Colts and put his first playoff win under his belt.
Writer for CBS Sports, John Breech, explains the drought as his article reads, “Another big drought in the AFC ended during the wild-card round when the Bills won their first playoff game since 1995.” Not only did fans see some intense rivalry games along with teams snapping over two decade long droughts, they saw a player do the unthinkable and overcome a gruesome injury. Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams was listed as an emergency quarterback for this game against the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks and was forced to play through a broken thumb. Not only did he come back with a broken thumb, but he also won the game on the road and took down former MVP frontrunner Russel Wilson in a 30 to 20 victory. This weekend was action-packed, but John Breech at CBS Sports says this upcoming weekend will be “absolutely loaded” as viewers will see some of the best matchups in playoff history.
Now that next week’s picture is set, fans get to see an all-time classic Brees vs. Brady matchup. Two of the game’s best quarterbacks collide in the divisional round to see who will live another day and have another chance to fight for their team. With both these quarterbacks’ careers coming to a close, this may be the last matchup fans see between the two, and like all their other matchups, it will be one for the ages. In the corresponding NFC game, the one-seeded Green Bay Packers take on the league’s best defense on paper facing the Los Angeles Rams who are hot after knocking off the Seahawks a week prior. The Packers have current MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers leading their offense alongside Devante Adams who despite missing games this season, put up numbers better than receivers who participated in every game. But you can never count the Rams out, as they completed one upset already and it is dangerous if you let the offense get into their groove. The Rams strive off their jet motion offense, tearing apart defenses and making it a hard game to prepare for.
On the other side of the bracket, fans see the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs are home to one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and around him, they have some of the league’s best offensive players in Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelve, and veteran running back Le’Veon Bell. That is just one side of the ball as for their defense, they have had struggles as of late but get to ride alongside the league’s most powerful offense. Although the Browns will fight through all four quarters, as they’re known to do everything they can to fight for their scrappy wins. Their offense and defense are balanced and they have what it takes to make one of the biggest underdog Super Bowl runs fans have ever seen.
Lastly, spectators have the Baltimore Ravens traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills. A game that most speculate will be an offensive battle as both teams are fueled by their offensive firepower. The Bills are coming off a nail-biter against the Colts where they barely came out victorious however that doesn’t define them. They have an up-and-coming franchise quarterback in Josh Allen who surrounds himself with the league’s reception leader Stefon Diggs. With their offense being top tier in the NFL, their defense has been stellar recently too.
Marcel Louis-Jacques at ESPN explains, “Since Week 9, the Bills own the sixth-best run defense in the NFL and the second-best third-down defense.” Although the Ravens are coming to play as they’re on their revenge tour from last year’s first-round exit despite being the one seed. Lamar Jackson can get it done through the air and on the ground as he posted 1,005 rushing yards along with 2,757 passing yards. He is surrounded by young speedsters in J.K. Dobbins and Hollywood Brown alongside veteran running back Mark Ingram. As for their defense, they rank seventh in yards allowed per game and sixth in total passing yards. This matchup will be a good one, although viewers can only see one team come out on top.
NFL observers have seen some of the most action-packed playoff football in awhile coming from a wild card round. Witnesses saw some great matchups, insane upsets, and drought ending playoff football for some franchises along with top tier quarterbacks obtaining their first playoff victory. With this upcoming weekend featuring two fewer games than last weekend, fans get to witness two teams seeded highest in their division try to prove they deserve the seed they were given. Along with this, they get to witness other teams battle it out to overcome their low seeding and move in the right direction toward the big game.