Biggest NFL Storylines WildCard Weekend
Chiefs Choke or Titans Triumph?
For long-suffering Kansas City Chiefs’ fans, you’d probably hear them say their team choked. On the other hand, Tennessee Titans’ fans probably view last Saturday’s comeback victory over the Chiefs as a triumph. Regardless of personal point of view, the final score was Tennessee – 22 Kansas City – 21.
Including last Saturday’s loss, the Chiefs last home playoff win was in 1993! Questions regarding head coach Andy Reid’s ability to win the big one have grown, with many also wondering if quarterback Alex Smith should stay or go. With 2017 first round pick Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings, Alex Smith’s departure is probably imminent. If the same is to be said about Andy Reid, whom would his replacement be?
The Chiefs have lots of questions, and answers are not only being required, they’re in demand. While enduring more than their fair share of injuries, Chiefs fans expect a winner. Many experts expected them to be preparing for a game this coming weekend, instead, they look ahead to the upcoming 2018 season.
Those who predicted a victory by the Titans were definitely in the minority, as Kansas City was considered by some as a possible Super Bowl participant.
Roaring out of the gate with a win against the Patriots in Foxborough and starting the season at 5-0, those predictions looked to be accurate. However, injuries and a mid-season losing streak brought those dreams to an abrupt halt.
Rebounding to win the AFC West, the Chiefs went into the postseason with hopes of erasing the memories of their midseason swoon. Unfortunately for them, the Titans had other ideas. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw and caught his own pass, scoring a touchdown that would be the catalyst for the Titans to launch their comeback. Running back Derrick Henry bulled his way for 156 yards, a week after “playing soft” (his words) to help lead his team to the upset. The decision makers in Kansas City had better make the right moves this offseason. Chiefs’ fans will expect and accept nothing less.
Falcons Soar as Rams Retreat
The Atlanta Falcons will go down in history as being one of the two participants in the first Super Bowl game to require overtime. An overtime session was needed because the New England Patriots erased a 25-point deficit to force said overtime. Being on the wrong end of that comeback has haunted the Falcons the entire 2017 season.
With quarterback Matt Ryan winning league MVP honors, the Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Guided by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, they went into the postseason with high expectations. Those expectations were met when they reached the Super Bowl, only to suffer defeat. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons finished 10-6 in the NFC South, behind the division-winning New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, who both finished 11-5. Going into the playoffs, many thought the loss of Super Bowl 51 continued to haunt the Falcons, which would prevent them from enjoying success in this seasons’ playoffs. Faced with the daunting task of going to Los Angeles to face the Rams, the Falcons defeated the Rams by nearly two touchdowns.
After leading the NFL in scoring this past season, the Rams scored only 13 points against Atlanta, while the Falcons doubled that amount scoring 26. Rams head coach Sean McVay may have been the youngest/biggest thing in the regular season, but postseason football is a different animal. Even though they have the stigma of 28-3 following them from last seasons’ Super Bowl loss, the Falcons want to show they aren’t hungover from that experience. This week they will face the number one seed Philadelphia Eagles in a game that will truly prove their mettle.
Not having to face MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz, due to an ACL injury will certainly help. However, nothing is a given, and they will definitely have to earn a victory. The Eagles are ready to prove they can win in spite of Wentz’s absence. The Falcons want to prove they can win. Period.
Jacksonville vs. Buffalo: Somebody Had To Win
Some say it was a thing of beauty, others a pathetic performance. The final score, Jacksonville – 10 Buffalo – 3.
Both teams returned to the postseason for the first time in a very long time. Jacksonville last participated in the playoffs in 2007, while Buffalo hadn’t been in the postseason since 1999. With offense at a premium, somebody had to score for a victor to be declared.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had more rushing yards than passing yards. Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor did very little to endear himself to Bills fans and ending up being knocked out of the contest late in the fourth quarter.
The defenses put their respective stamps on this battle, as they each performed at a high level. Ultimately, the Jaguars broke through in the third quarter with a touchdown pass from Blake Bortles to tight end Ben Koyack. This proved to be the game’s only touchdown, with each kicker booting a field goal.
Jacksonville has to do a much better job of putting points on the board as they go on the road to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their Killer B’s in the form of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, MVP candidate/wide receiver Antonio Brown, halfback Le’Veon Bell and placekicker Chris Boswell, are chomping at the bit for a shot at redemption.
Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh in Week 5, by a final score of 30-9. The Jaguars top-ranked defense will have its hands full facing the Steelers. Having earned a bye week and getting some much-needed rest, Pittsburgh is ready to roll. Antonio Brown has been out since Week 15 due to a calf injury but plans to pick up where he left off, that being, leading the league in receiving yards.
Do it all back Le’Veon Bell longs to put last season’s playoff exit due to injury in his rear-view mirror. When Ben Roethlisberger last faced Jacksonville, he threw a whopping five interceptions, even suggesting “he didn’t have it anymore” in his postgame comments. Pittsburgh followed their loss to Jacksonville with a winning streak that earned the AFC’s number two seed, second only to New England. This should be good.
Grudge Match Round 3 – New Orleans vs. Carolina
The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers have lots of familiarity thanks to playing each other twice a year as members of the NFC South. They faced each other for a third time this year in the playoffs.
With the Saints having won the first two games, history said it would be nearly impossible for them to defeat Carolina for a third time this season. Playing in front of their home crowd, New Orleans got out to an early 14-point lead behind two touchdown passes, courtesy of quarterback Drew Brees.
The Panthers would not go away without a fight, as they clawed their way back into the contest to make things interesting. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw the second of his two touchdown passes to bring Carolina within five points of New Orleans. However, the Saints would not be denied as their defense, yes defense, held serve and closed Carolina out by sacking Cam Newton.
The Saints now travel to Minnesota where the Vikings are a popular pick to become the first team to play in/host a Super Bowl in its home stadium. With potential rookie players of the year on both sides of the ball in running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Saints are primed to go into Minneapolis, hoping to return in a couple of weeks as Super Bowl participants themselves. After winning three games this season against Carolina, New Orleans seems ready to face and defeat the Vikings. No matter the location.