It was the first round of the NFL Playoffs this weekend, with 14 teams dreaming of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. But by the end of Sunday, only 8 remained in contention. Here’s how the action unfolded:
Bills vs Colts
The Buffalo Bills won their first playoff game since 1995, but they didn’t make it easy for themselves against Indianapolis. Bills QB Josh Allen had an excellent game with 3 touchdowns, including 1 to his favourite target Stefon Diggs. But the Bills defence struggled, giving up 472 yards of offense and keeping the game close. Bills fans must have had their hearts in their mouths as Phillip Rivers threw up a last second Hail Mary after what happened earlier this year against Arizona, but thankfully this time the Bills defence held, sending their fans into raptures. Indianapolis missed a field goal and had a drop in the endzone, the types of mistakes you cannot afford to make in a playoff game.
Rams vs Seahawks
The Rams defence stifled Seahawks QB Russel Wilson and helped the Rams to a huge playoff win in their rivals backyard. Wilson was sacked 5 times and had a pass intercepted and returned by LA For a touchdown. The Seahawks O-line and play calling needs to be improved next season, but plenty of blame must go to Wilson himself, who has had a poor second half of the season after looking like a potential MVP in the first half. The Rams meanwhile will hope that their QB Jared Goff’s broken thumb is further healed next week as they travel to the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field to face Green Bay, never an easy game for any team in January, especially one used to the sunny climes of LA.
Tampa Bay vs Washington
Tom Brady continues to defy the aging process, as the 43 year old led the Buccaneers to their first playoff win since winning the Superbowl way back in 2002!. But much credit must go to Washington QB Taylor Heinicke, who was impressive on his playoff debut. Heinicke has certainly earnt himself a chance to be a starting QB in the NFL next season with this performance, although it remains to be seen whether that will be with Washington or not. Brady will face off with his fellow veteran Drew Brees in New Orleans next week, in what will almost certainly be the final matchup of these NFL legends.
Ravens vs Titans
Lamar Jackson silenced his critics as he won his first playoff game, defeating the team that knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs a year ago. Jackson threw an ugly early pick, but rebounded to put in an impressive display, including a long rushing touchdown in which he displayed the speed that makes him so dangerous. The Ravens defence completely shut down Titans RB Derrick Henry, limiting the NFL’s best Running Back to just 51 yards. Titans coach Mike Vrabel faced much criticism for not going for it on a 4th and 2 in Baltimore territory, a decision which was considered cowardly and ultimately proved costly, as the Ravens got the ball back and proceeded to put the game out of reach for Tennessee. Baltimore will face a stern test in Buffalo next week, but this win will give them confidence that they can beat anyone.
Bears vs Saints
This game was the first to ever be broadcast on children’s channel Nickelodeon, with virtual slime cannons appearing on screen after a touchdown!. This was the only thing that made this game watchable, as it wasn’t much of a contest. Chicago simply could not get anything going on offence, and QB Mitch Trubisky has surely played his last game in Chicago. There could be more changes afoot in the Windy City, with the jobs of coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace under threat. New Orleans meanwhile will host their division rival Tampa next week, with QB Drew Brees hoping this will not be his last game, as the 41 year old is expected to retire at seasons end.
Browns vs Steelers
The game got off to a bad start for the Pittsburgh as the ball was snapped way over QB Ben Roethlisberger’s head and recovered by the defence for a Browns Touchdown. The Browns raced out to an early 28-0 lead, and that proved too much to overcome for the Steelers despite a comeback attempt in the second half. QB Ben Roethlisberger had a poor game throwing 4 interceptions, and faces an uncertain future. Big Ben is certainly past his best, but the Steelers has a lot of money remaining on his contract which makes it difficult for Pittsburgh to get rid of him. But they may have no choice, as he is holding the team back at this point and the team will not go far next year if he is still there. Cleveland meanwhile won its first playoff game since 1995, and will face the defending Superbowl champs in Kansas City next weekend. Their defence will have it’s work cut out stopping Patrick Mahomes, but if their offense can keep up with KC’s, Cleveland may have a chance.