There is almost always an upset when it comes to the wildcard round. This week was certainly an exception. I predicted the Seahawk to win, but the Rams winning wasn't an upset by any means. Other than that game, this weekend went almost exactly as I thought. So, as the week wraps up, let's look at these wildcard games!
Bears @ Saints
As I said, the running game was the ultimate key to Chicago in this game. David Montgomery got 12 rushes for 31 yards and 0 touchdowns. The team had 48 rushing yards total as the star for this team was Mitch Trubisky. On defense there was just as little help as on offense. The Bears defense got 0 sacks, one takeaway, and had no answer for Drew Brees.
For the Saints, this was a spectacular game, as the announcers stated all night this could be Brees' last run at a Lombardi Trophy, as he could retire following this years playoffs. This motivation to go all the way showed through Brees' 28 completions to 10 different players for 265 yards. For the most part, this New Orleans defense held the Bears in check, that is until the last play of the game when Jimmy Graham caught a one handed touchdown against his old team. Overall, the Saints knew exactly what they needed to do to get the job done, and will be advancing to the divisional round where they host the Buccaneers.
Rams @ Seahawks
I was right that this game wouldn't be a shootout, but I was wrong that it wouldn't be high scoring. The key to this game was Russell Wilson against the Rams defense and the Rams defense won the battle. Wilson ended the night with 11 completions on 27 attempts for 174 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Rams also sacked Wilson 5 times to show that the Seahawks would have to adjust into a completely different game plan if they wanted to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
As for the Rams, they continued to show that their defense was the highlight of this team, but also showed that their weakness, their rushing attack, could show up when they needed it. Cam Akers rushed 28 times for 131 yards and a touchdown putting the offense on his back as John Wolford got injured and they only had Goff, who was also recovering from an injury. This game showed that the team who can hang onto their strength while improving their weakness will always win.
Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team
My storyline coming into this game was whose offense could come out early, that team would win. With these two defenses, it would be very unlikely to end in a shootout. After the end of the half, the score was 18-7. The Bucs took the lead and it was up to a backup Quarterback to play catchup. While it was a very interesting game to watch, the flash had been taken out of it very early as Brady threw like he had never left his prime. It isn't an easy task to beat the GOAT, but when when you're trying to do it while being behind, makes it all the more difficult.
Colts @ Bills
This game was highlighted by two effective passing offenses, as both Quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards, and both had two touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The Colts held the positive momentum leading up to halftime just to have it taken away with 14 second left in the second quarter on a 5 yard Josh Allen rushing touchdown. After halftime, the Bills made just the right adjustments to hold off the Colts offense, while scoring 10 points of their own to give them a big lead early in the 4th quarter.
Philip Rivers' job was to play catchup this game, but he sadly couldn't execute a Hail Mary on the last play of the game to win. Rivers led the Colts to a much more competitive game than most thought, and this season leads me to believe that Rivers may just be a Hall of Fame quarterback after leading a struggling team to the post season. Although, above it all, an interesting game is left with these few words: The better team won.
Browns @ Steelers
Hearing everyone say the Steelers would win has never felt better than right now. The identity of the Steelers was lost after an 11-0 start. JuJu ran his mouth all season but couldn't show the world that these really were the "Same old Browns." Aside from my anger at the Steelers for the unnecessary collapse of their team, they did almost show a spark to get their team back in the game. Although, you can only ask one man to do so much, and asking Roethlisberger to throw 68 times is too much for a veteran to do. Roethlisberger threw for 110 yards more than the Browns has total (501), but that is fine when you constantly have short fields to work with after interceptions and fumble recoveries.
After finding themselves up 28-0 at the end of the 1st quarter, all the Browns had to do was play defense, and they did that better than they have all year. The Steelers had to go big or go home, and sadly it ended in them going home today. I said last week that the Browns needed to get the run game established and let Baker play complimentary football, but Baker showed us that he is born for big games like this.
Raven @ Titans
The rushing offense was supposed to be the story of the game, and boy was it! The Titans came out early hitting A.J Brown and going down field for a touchdown, but that would be the lone touchdown for the Titans this game. We find both offensive and defensive action for the Ravens in the run game. Lamar Jackson had a career moment with a HUGE 48 yard touchdown run. Jackson rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown while passing for 179 yards and 0 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens only let Henry run for 40 yards on 19 attempts limiting him to 2.2 yards per attempt. The Ravens will advance to the divisional round giving Jackson his 1st career playoff win, and many more to come.
This game was full of short runs, but the ravens proved that when they need to make a play, they can do it on even the biggest stage. As for the Titans, their playoff journey ends here, and hopefully they can improve their defense before August rolls around.