Necessary Roughness: Wildcard Weekend
The playoffs are here! Wildcard Weekend brought with it a couple of doozies and a couple of duds. Since there were only four games, let’s go through them in order.
Titans @ Chiefs: This ended up being the best game of the weekend by a MILE. Down 21-3 in the third quarter, Marcus Mariota did his best Brett Farve impression by throwing a TD to himself. This was Mariota’s first career postseason TD and the first time this has ever happened in the postseason. Mariota also deserves all the scene cred in the world for doing an Alex Smith impression and putting a couple of devastating blocks up for Derrick Henry including this one that sealed the game:
MARIOTA WITH THE BLOCK pic.twitter.com/YMIYLBg4X0
— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) January 7, 2018
The Chiefs continue their home playoff drought and move to 0-6 over the last two-plus decades. Andy Reid, everyone’s favorite Kool-Aid impersonator, leaves the playoffs empty handed for the billionth time in his career. I sincerely hope this sparks a Cinderella run by the Titans; I’ve been hoping they would take over the AFC South for two seasons now. Next week, they face the Evil Empire up in New England. The entire world will be behind you, Marcus. You know what you need to do.
Such a big play here. I'm not sure if Barry Church can come back from this Mariota stiff arm. pic.twitter.com/oQw6Khmf4D
— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) January 1, 2018
Falcons @ Rams: The game I was personally most looking forward to was probably the biggest disappointment of the week. Poor Pharoh Cooper couldn’t hold on to the ball to save his life. Chris Collinsworth wouldn’t shut the fuck up about how the Rams aren’t able to handle the spotlight of the playoffs and I cursed him every time. I think I knew deep down he was right. Cooper messed up his fair catch call on an early punt, then didn’t field the ball off his own guy’s foot. He also fumbled a kick return shortly thereafter. Those plays were 100% the difference makers in this game. He cost the explosive Rams O two chances to get going and handed the Falcons ten points on a silver platter.
Pharoh Cooper in the locker room @RamsNFL @NFL pic.twitter.com/J16NZO9FCi
— D (@dfsxman) January 7, 2018
I just had to watch the entire 13 minute highlight package on NFL.com because despite watching the entire game, I couldn’t remember one cool play. I guess this perfect pass from Matt Ryan counts:
#MattyIce❄️ throws a RAINBOW to Julio Jones!!!#InBrotherhood pic.twitter.com/MginclPOVI
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) January 7, 2018
Bold prediction: The Falcons run a train on the Eagles.
Bills @ Jaguars: In what was the least surprising outcome of the weekend, the Jags managed to not fuck up the least to the tune of 10-3! In all seriousness, I’m rooting for Blake Bortles the same way I’m rooting for Marcus Mariota at this point. Bortles managed to be the top rusher of a game that included Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. He also rushed for one more yard than he threw for. How is he always a statistical anomaly?!
Blake Bortles has a 100% playoff win percentage.
Tom Brady does not.
— WTP Sports (@WTPsports) January 8, 2018
Seriously though, if the Jags can get Fournette going earlier next week against the Steelers, Pittsburgh is gonna have its hands full. That guy can eat yards and clock as well as anyone. If the Jags D can bottle up LeVeon Bell and Jalen Ramsey can do even a half good job against JuJu and/or Antonio Brown it’s gonna be a grimy, low scoring game. Exactly where Bortles thrives.
Panthers @ Saints: This game kept getting better and better until Cam got his brains turned to pudding at the very end. The Panthers may as well have flown Nathan Peterson in to take the snaps that Derek Anderson did. The Saints are obviously the more complete team, but they never got their two headed running monster online. When you have Drew Brees, it ain’t no thang though.
Drew Brees' top 5 throws from today's win! #GoSaints pic.twitter.com/1SejddLAMk
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 8, 2018
Look for more of the same next week in Minnesota. The Vikings and their league leading defense will look to keep Kamara and Ingram from going off, but there’s only so much you can do against the Saints, who might have too many weapons to rely on just shutting down the offense for 60 minutes. Case Keenum and the Viking offense will have to get rolling early and not make any mistakes if they want to win.
I think this stat is worthless, but we will be forced to look at it all week:
Divisional Round a battle of QBs with playoff experience vs QBs without it. Remaining QBs and their postseason starts:
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 8, 2018
These guys are all professionals! Despite what I said earlier, I don’t put much stock into “playoff experience” until the Super Bowl. In the case of the Super Bowl, the media crush is definitely a thing that can and will get into some guys’ heads. But the divisional round? Who cares? Mariota, Bortles, Foles and Keenum are just psyched to be there. What pressure is on them? It’s Brady, Roethlisberger, Ryan and Brees who have to prove they’re still the kings. We’ll see what happens!