Themes From Every NFL Wild Card Game
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Hunter De Siver
After 18 exhilarating weeks, the NFL cut 18 teams from the NFL Playoffs. The 14 teams that made it have proven that their hard work and toughness over the last four months make them eligible to play in these 60-minute win-or-go-home games.
The first round is the wild card. The No. 2 through No. 7 seeds in each conference play against each other while the No. 1 seeds get to watch these 12 teams stress from their couch (and prepare for next week).
Wild card weekend lasts from Saturday afternoon through Monday night.
No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders @ No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals: Playoff Win Droughts
Every season, there are a few teams that play significantly better or worse than expected. The Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals were two of those teams that defied the odds.
Both teams have struggled to make/win a playoff game. The Raiders haven’t won a playoff game in 18 years, while the Bengals haven’t won in 30 years.
The Bengals star QB Joe Burrow connected with college teammate Ja’Marr Chase nine times for 116 yards. This duo is a big reason why the Bengals were in the playoffs and winning this game.
With 13 seconds left, Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt intercepted Derek Carr’s pass with 13 seconds left to seal a 26-19 thrilling victory
No. 6 New England Patriots @ No. 3 Buffalo Bills: Surprising Dominance
Going into this highly-anticipated game, the Patriots were slowing down after a huge win streak that made them AFC favorites.
The Bills looked to avenge last year’s heartbreak loss in Kansas City.
For two teams that play in the northeast, the seven-degree weather was a challenge for only the Patriots.
The Bills figured out legendary coach Bill Belichick’s defense as they became the only team in NFL history to score a touchdown on every drive.
The Bills dominated Mac Jones and the Patriots 47-17.
No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles @ No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Injuries Unfazed Bucs
Even with running back Leonard Fournette and wide receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown injured/off the team, the Buccaneers were favored to beat the Eagles
Early in the game, the Bucs lost two of their offensive linemen to injuries. However, that didn’t matter.
Leading 31-0, Bucs QB Tom Brady rested for most of the fourth quarter
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts scored two touchdowns in garbage time to make the score look a little more respectable (31-15).
No. 6 San Francisco 49ers @ No. 3 Dallas Cowboys: Lived up to Historic Rivalry Hype
Rivalries elevate sports to another level. It can be between athletes like Magic and Bird or teams like the 49ers and Cowboys.
The team of the 80s clashed against the team of the 90s in the best game of the wild card round.
The 49ers’ defense helped give them a large lead of 23-7.
The Cowboys stormed back to make it 23-17 with eight minutes remaining.
Getting PTSD from multiple blown leads over the years, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan needed his defense to make a stop with 40 seconds left.
Dallas made it all the way to San Francisco’s 20-yard line after a QB draw, but the clock kept running with less than 10 seconds remaining.
The ref wouldn’t allow the ball to be snapped until he placed the ball (NFL rule). However, the time ran out before they could spike the ball and throw a final pass in the endzone.
This game added to the historic rivalry, but 49ers pioneers Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice took this round.
No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers @ No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs: An Inevitable Retirement Game
Going into this game, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger mentioned earlier in the week that he expected this to be his final game.
The 39-year-old future hall-of-famer announced earlier this season that it would be his last. Big Ben knew that the Steelers were huge underdogs.
However, the game started much differently.
Steelers’ future defensive player of the year T.J. Watt scooped the ball and scored for the first touchdown of the game by either team in the second quarter.
Just when America thought an upset was approaching the Chiefs began to tomahawk the team in black and yellow.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes led the way with five touchdown passes in a 42-21 victory.
No. 5 Arizona Cardinals @ No. 4 Los Angeles Rams: The Comeback of Past NFL Icons
Injuries and off-the-field issues are part of the game. Sometimes they even happen to the NFL’s biggest icons.
All-time great defensive end J.J. Watt returned from an injury that sidelined him for most of the season. Watt has dealt with a plethora of injuries that have definitely slowed him down over the last few years.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has suffered many obstacles on and off the field in the past few years. The young star who was once known for having the best catch in NFL history has lately been known as the guy who complains about not getting the ball.
Ever since signing with the Rams earlier in the season, OBJ has begun to look like his old self. In this game, OBJ had four receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 40-yard pass on a trick play that later set up a touchdown
The Rams also acquired Super Bowl 50 MVP linebacker Von Miller earlier in the season as well. Miller has battled injuries the last couple of years, causing him to lose the top-tier linebacker status. Miller finished this game with six tackles (three for loss) and a sack.
Miller and OBJ helped the Rams cruise to a 34-11 win.
The NFL divisional round starts on Saturday. Four teams will move on after Sunday.