NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Round Review

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Round Review
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Updated: Jan 20, 2023

After 18 weeks of action, we are now in the playoffs. 14 teams remain in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This week, the Wildcard round, where every team bar the top seeds plays. So, let us review what was a Super Wildcard Round.

AFC

Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars were at one point in the season on course for another number-one pick in the draft. They then turned around their season, setting up a winner takes all matchup against the Tennessee Titans, who were on a massive losing streak. The Jags won that game, giving them the AFC South title and a spot in the playoffs as the number 4 seed. Their opponent was the Los Angeles Chargers, who finished their season with a 10-7 record and made the postseason for the first time since 2018.

The game started in the worst possible way for Jacksonville. On the second play of their opening drive, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was intercepted by the Chargers, who returned the ball into the Jags RedZone. It then took the Chargers two plays to put a score on the board, with the point coming from a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Austin Ekeler. 

On the Jags’ next drive, Lawrence would be intercepted again. While he was able to move the ball to the Chargers’ 33-yard line, Lawrence was intercepted on a 4th down attempt. They should have chosen to kick a field goal to at least get something from that drive. On the subject of field goals, the Chargers would kick a 22-yard field goal on their next drive. This came after Chargers’ Quarterback  Justin Herbert took his team down to the Jags’ 4-yard line, but the drive stalled there. 

Late in the first quarter, Lawrence would be intercepted again, and this would lead to another rushing touchdown from Austin Ekeler, this time from 6 yards. The Chargers would score again in the middle of the second quarter, this time from a 9-yard pass from Herbert to Gerald Everett. This gave them a 24-point lead. The Jags had to respond quickly. 

Surprisingly no one at this point, Trevor Lawrence was intercepted again. Luckily for him, the Chargers were forced to punt on the subsequent drive. But, the Chargers recovered the ball after the Jags muffed the catch. This gave them an excellent field position to extend their already large lead. This drive went nowhere, and Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker (and that does rhyme)  kicked a 23-yard field goal to put more points into the Chargers’ basket. 

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Just before halftime, the Jaguars were able to score. A 9-yard pass from Lawrence to Evan Engram found the endzone to give the Jags something from this half. At halftime, the Los Angeles Chargers had a 27-7 lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

I have mentioned a lot this year that halftime changes teams. This is one of those games. On their first drive of the second half, the Jags drove the ball down to the Chargers’ 6-yard line. Then, Lawrence threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr, to start what could be a comeback for the Jags. 

Dicker would kick a 50-yard field goal on the next drive for the Chargers to slightly extend their lead. But, Lawrence struck back, throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones. The Jags decided to go for a 2-point conversion, however, this failed. 

After a missed 40-yard field goal for the Chargers, the Jags would score again. Lawrence would find Christian Kirk for a 9-yard touchdown. They would again attempt the 2-point conversion, which this time would be successful. This second-half charge reduced the Chargers’ lead to 2 points, with only 5 minutes to play. 

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The next Chargers drive went nowhere. This gave the ball back to the Jaguars, who knew what they had to do to win. Lawrence and company moved the ball down to the Chargers’ 18-yard line. Then, as time ran out Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson kicked the field goal to give the Jacksonville Jaguars a 31-30 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

This win puts the Jaguars into the Divisional round and continues Trevor Lawrence’s streak of never losing on a Saturday. If only the Super Bowl was on a Saturday. 

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Bar a few games, the team has been very strong, winning 13 of the 16 games they have played. However, one of those losses came against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins scraped into the playoffs as the number 7 seed in the AFC and were playing their third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson. This meant that coming into this game, they had the largest odds in Wildcard week history. Could the Dolphins pull off a massive upset?

Buffalo’s opening drive was not the best. While quarterback Josh Allen was able to move the ball down the field, this drive stalled at the Dolphins’ 32-yard line. The Bills then decided to play on fourth down. Allen’s pass was incomplete, and possession was given to Miami, who was not able to move the ball and quickly punted it away. 

There was a lot more success for the Bills on their next drive. Aided by a 52-yard pass from Allen to Steffon Diggs, the Bills were quickly deep into the Dolphins’ RedZone. Then, a 6-yard pass from Allen to Dawson Knox found the endzone, giving the Bills the lead. 

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Things would get even better for them soon after. Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson would be intercepted. This gain in possession would quickly lead to the Bills’ second touchdown of the game, which came from a 12-yard rush by James Cook. The Bills would extend their lead on their next drive. After a touchdown pass was ruled out, Josh Allen was sacked. This led to Bills kicker Trevor Bass kicking a 33-yard field goal. Miami would score next, through a 40-yard field goal of their own. 

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Then, that problem that has plagued Josh Allen all year returned. Allen was intercepted by the Dolphins after his long throw was caught by the goal line, and then ran back by the Dolphins to the halfway line. However, they could not take full advantage of this, only scoring a 48-yard field goal. Another field goal would follow for the Dolphins. 

Allen would be intercepted again later on in the half, this time in a much more favorable field position for the Dolphins, who capitalized on this and scored a touchdown. A 7-yard pass from Thompson to Mike Gesicki. The Dolphins then decided to go for 2 points. This attempt was successful. The Bills would score another field goal before halftime, meaning that they would have a 20-17 lead over the Miami Dolphins as the teams went into the locker rooms. 

The Bills’ issue with ball security became an even larger problem at the beginning of the second half. Josh Allen was sacked and then fumbled the ball. This ball was then scooped up by the Dolphins’ defense, who ran the ball in for a touchdown and an unlikely lead. 

After the next few drives that ended in punts, the Dolphins’ next drive did not end well. Thompson was intercepted. This gave the Bills a good field position to take the lead again. Allen shook off his previous mistakes and drove the offense down the field. He then threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley to give the lead back to Buffalo.

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The lead would be extended a few drives later when Allen threw a 23-yard touchdown to Gabe Davis. Miami would score a one-yard rushing touchdown in an attempt to bring them back into the game, but it was not enough, as the Buffalo Bills held on to defeat the Miami Dolphins 34-31. 

This is a game that should have been a one-sided affair. Buffalo still have problems with their ball security. These problems will need to be fixed if they are to challenge for the Super Bowl. 

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

In the final week of the regular season, the Baltimore Ravens played against the Cincinnati Bengals. One week later, The Baltimore Ravens played against the Cincinnati Bengals in the WIldcard round of the playoffs. Cincinnati won last week’s encounter and was the heavy favorite to defeat the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens. 

The Bengals opened the game well. In their opening drive, Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow drove the ball down to the Ravens 21 yard line. However, the drive stalled there, and the Bengals had to rely on a 39 field goal from Evan McPherson to give them the opening score of the game. 

The same could not be said for the Ravens’ opening drive of the game. Without star quarterback Lamar Jackson, Baltimore has struggled on offense, but quarterback Ty Huntley has tried hard to fill the gap left by Jackson’s absence. On his opening drive, Huntley was intercepted by the Ravens. From this interception, the Bengals moved the ball down to the Ravens’ 7-yard line. Then, Burrows found his most reliable target in Ja’Marr Chase for a 7-yard touchdown pass. However, the extra point was missed. 

The Ravens struck back after this. A 17-play drive took Baltimore from their own 25-yard line down to the Bengals 2 yard line. This drive ended with  J.K Dobbins catching a 2-yard touchdown pass from Huntley to put the Ravens within 2 points of the Bengals. Things became even better for Baltimore not soon after. Cincinnati fumbled the ball, and this was recovered by the Ravens in Bengals territory. 

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While Huntley and company could drive the ball down to the Bengals 4 yard line, they could not move any further and had to kick a 22-yard field goal. With this, as the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime, the Baltimore Ravens had an unlikely 10-9 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals. 

The Bengals would get the first score of the second half. At the Ravens’ 19-yard line, burrows thought he had scored a touchdown. However, the play was reversed, and instead of a touchdown, the Bengals were at the one-yard line. From this, Burrows scored the one-yard touchdown. The Bengals then decided to attempt a 2-point conversion, which was successful. 

Baltimore would quickly score after this play to keep them in the game. Tyler Huntley would throw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson to tie the scores at 17-17. Could the Ravens be on course for an unlikely win over their divisional rivals?

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It turns out, they were not. On a drive that took the Ravens down to the Cincinnati 1-yard line, the Ravens were looking very likely to score and achieve this upset. Then, the Ravens fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Bengals. Cincinnati would then run the ball 98 yards for a touchdown. 

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After a few drives that ended in punts, the Ravens had the ball with the hope of at least tying the game. However, they could not do this. As time ran out, it became official. The Cincinnati Bengals had beaten the Baltimore Ravens 24-17. 

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NFC

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

What can be said that already has not been said about 49ers Quarterback Brock Purdy? He is destroying his opponents and currently has not lost a game so far. This game will be his biggest test. Seattle made the playoffs last week after beating the poor-performing Los Angeles Rams in overtime, and with the Green Bay Packers losing their game against the Detroit Lions last week, the Seahawks claimed the number 7 seed in the NFC. 

It would be the 49ers who would have the first score of the game. Their opening drive, which took them into the Seahawks’ RedZone, stalled at the 16-yard line. Then, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould kicked a 34-yard field goal to give San Francisco the lead. 

They would add to this lead on their next drive, which started with a 68-yard rush from Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey would also find the endzone on this drive, catching a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brock Purdy. 

The Seahawks would strike back from this. Kenneth Walker would score a 7-yard rushing touchdown to put them back into the game. Robbie Gould would score a 33-yard field goal for the 49ers to widen their lead.

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But then, this lead would be lost. The Seahawks were at the 50-yard line. It was third down. Seahawks quarterback SmithMith then threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to D.K Metcalf to give Seattle the lead. A pair of field goals for each team before halftime meant that as the teams returned to the locker rooms, the Seattle Seahawks would have a 17-16 lead over the San Francisco 49ers. 

San Francisco would increase their lead at the beginning of the second half. Purdy would score a one-yard rushing touchdown. The Seahawks looked like they would reply to the 49ers’ touchdown on their next drive. Geno Smith led the Seattle offense to the edge of the  San Francisco RedZone But then, it all went wrong for the Seahawks. Smith was sacked and then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the San Francisco defense. From this gain in possession, Purdy moved the ball down to the Seahawks’ 7-yard line. Then, Purdy threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Mitchell. They then decided to go for a two-point conversion, which was successful. This gave them a two-touchdown lead. 

The lead would become even larger soon after. In a drive that lasted two plays, Purdy threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel. On the next play of the game, Geno Smith would be intercepted in Seahawks territory. Luckily for them, the following 49ers’ drive ended in a 31-yard field goal. 

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Seattle did score a meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter. D.K Metcalf caught a 3-yard pass from Smith, but the Seahawks failed their 2-point conversion. All of this is redundant considering the lead the 49ers had. At the final whistle, the San Francisco 49ers had beaten the Seattle Seahawks 41-23. 

This game was settled very early on. With this victory, Brock Purdy goes 6-0 in his career. Will he lose this year? 

Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This battle was interesting. The Dallas Cowboys have a history of collapsing in the playoffs. On the other hand, Tom Brady has a history of performing well in the playoffs (just as long as he does not have to play the New York Giants). These two teams met on Monday Night, which is weird for a playoff game. 

After a couple of drives from both teams that ended in punts, we would finally get some action from the Cowboys. Dallas would move the ball down to the edge of the Tampa Bay RedZone. Then, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott would throw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz, giving Dallas an early lead. 

On the Buccaneers’ drive following the touchdown, Tom Brady and company would move the ball down to the Cowboys’ 5-yard line. But then, Brady would be intercepted. However, the Cowboys would not gain a lot from this, as the ball went for a touchback. While they did not gain any yards from the interception, they did gain points on the next drive. Prescott drove the ball down to the one-yard line. Then, on the fourth down, he scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown. However, the extra point was missed. 

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The Cowboys scored again just before halftime. Prescott and Schultz would pair up again, this time for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was missed again. This gave the Dallas Cowboys an 18-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at halftime. 

Dallas would continue their scoring at the beginning of the second half. Prescott found Michael Gallup for a 2-yard touchdown pass., but again, the extra point was not successful. This touchdown was the fourth of the game for Dallas, and the third extra-point attempt they have missed. 

Tampa Bay was able to finally score at the end of the third quarter. Tom Brady found Julio Jones for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Buccaneers decided to attempt a 2-point conversion, but this was unsuccessful. 

Prescott would score his fifth touchdown of the night soon after. This time, it was from an 18-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb. The news got even better for Dallas, as their extra-point attempt was successful. 

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Brady would score one more touchdown for Tampa Bay, but it would only be a consolation score, as the Dallas Cowboys had defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14.

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This was not a surprise. Dallas has been a strong side all season, playing in the strongest division in the NFL (the NFC East, which produced 3 playoff teams). On the other hand, Tampa Bay struggled all year. They were lucky to make the playoffs and came into this game with a losing record. Is this finally the end of the road for Tom Brady? We will find out soon. 

New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings

This game was probably the game that no one could predict coming into it. Both of these teams have had amazing seasons. The Minnesota Vikings convincingly won the NFC North this year and gave us the biggest comeback in NFL history, when they came from 33 points down to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. While this is a good accomplishment, the fact that they were 33 points down shows us how bad their defense is. The New York Giants have had a season to remember. Going into the season, no one expected the Giants to be competitive, let alone make the playoffs. But, they made it. Could they go on a run to win the Super Bowl?

The game started with the Vikings showing us how strong their offense is. On their opening drive, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins broke through the weak Giants’ defense to reach the Giants’ 6-yard line. He then threw a touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson, but this pass was then ruled out. Cousins would then score a one-yard rushing touchdown to give the Vikings the initial lead. 

The Giants quickly responded to this by scoring a touchdown of their own. Saquon Barkley ran for a 28-yard rushing touchdown, which tied the scores up again. 

After a Vikings punt, the Giants would find the endzone again, through a 14-yard touchdown pass from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to Isaiah Hodgins. 

Now, let us talk about the drive that took most of the second quarter. From the Giants’ 9-yard line, Jones nearly single-handedly moved the ball down to the Vikings’ RedZone. There was a set of 4 plays in this drive where Jones scrambled for every one of them, and in one of these scrambles, he gave a Vikings defender the stiff arm. This all shows how versatile Daniel Jones is. The Giants were on the  Vikings’ 4-yard line, and Jones ran the ball in for a touchdown. This would have been the fairytale ending for this drive and would have put the Giants’ 2 touchdowns clear. However, on the play, the Giants were penalized, wiping the touchdown off the board. They settled for a 25-yard field goal but knew that they should have scored the touchdown. 

Before halftime, the Vikings scored another touchdown. Cousins threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn. With this, it meant that at halftime, the New York Giants had a 17-14 lead over the Minnesota Vikings. 

It would be the Giants who would have the first possession of the second half. It would also be the Giants who would have the first score of the second half. Building on their momentum from the first half, New York moved the ball down to the Minnesota 9-yard line. Then, Jones threw the 9-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Bellinger to put them 10 points ahead. 

The Vikings would quickly reply to this score with a score of their own. Cousins threw a 3-yard pass to Smith, which would find the endzone to keep Minnesota in the game. The scores would be level soon after, with Vikings kicker Greg Joseph kicking the field goal. 

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We were now in the fourth quarter. This is historically the quarter when the Giants perform very well. Today was no exception. Jones and company drove the ball down to the Vikings’ 2-yard line. Then, Saquon Barkley score what could be the winning touchdown to give the Giants the lead in the game. 

After two drives that ended in punts, the Vikings had the ball with the Giants needing only a defensive stop to win the game. Kirk Cousins moved the ball to the Vikings’ 48-yard line. The Vikings’ 3rd down attempt was incomplete, meaning that they had to convert on fourth down, or it would be over. They needed 8 yards. Cousins passed to Hockenson and was tackled by Xavier McKinney 3 yards after the throw.

The Giants had done it. The New York Giants had beaten the Minnesota Vikings 31-24. This is the first playoff win for the Giants since Eli Manning led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. For the Vikings, while they have played well all year, they could not deliver when it mattered. 

The Playoff Picture

With the Wildcard round now over, we turn to the Divisional Round, where the number one seeds (Kansas City and Philadelphia) enter the hunt. 

In the AFC, The Kansas City Chiefs host the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Buffalo Bills face the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the NFC, The Dallas Cowboys visit the San Francisco 49ers, and the Philadelphia Eagles face the New York Giants.

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