Analysis: NFL Wild Card Weekend goes to favorites

The Bengals picked up their first playoff win since 1991, Tom Brady won yet again

By Will Pembroke, Debate & Discussion/Inside Xavier Sports Show Manager

Super is one way to describe the outcomes of the six NFL Wild Card Weekend games. All six favored teams won, with four of the games ending in blowouts. 

However, one of the two games which did not end in a blowout, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals, resulted in the first Bengals playoff win in over 30 years. The other, Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers, likely ended the Mike McCarthy-era in Dallas.

Game 1: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The first game of the weekend did not disappoint. Both teams fought hard, with the final score (26-19) hanging in the balance until the very last play, with Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt clinched the teams’ first playoff victory since 1991 with a goal line interception of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. 

As for Las Vegas, a tumultuous season which saw the firing of Head Coach John Gruden and legal trouble for several Raiders players has finally come to end. 

In the case of the Bengals, they will move on to face the No. 1 seeded Tennessee Titans on Saturday.

Game 2: Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots

The best word I would use to describe this game is simply, wow. Ending with a final tally of 47-17, there is perhaps no game in which Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has been beaten at worse. 

The Bills offense scored touchdowns on its first seven drives and never looked back. Buffalo now moves on to face the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round, as the Patriots head into the offseason with plenty to think about in terms of roster construction.

Game 3: Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The first game of the Sunday slate of Wild Card games was a bit of a snooze, ending in a rather deceiving final score of 31-16, with Tampa winning.

The Eagles never stood a chance in this matchup with Jalen Hurts as quarterback. The former Heisman Trophy candidate showed a complete lack of accuracy and pocket presence on Sunday, only managing to score in the fourth quarter with his team already down big.

 Tom Brady and the Bucs will face a much tougher test as the Los Angeles Rams come to town for a divisional round matchup.

Game 4: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers

 In what was the best of the three games on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers narrowly defeated the Dallas Cowboys on the road at AT&T Stadium 23-17.  

The high-end talent of the 49ers, both on offense with electric receiver Deebo Samuel and on defense with fierce pass rusher Nick Bosa, showcased what they can do against a poorly-coached but uber-talented Cowboys team. 

As for Dallas, there are a lot of coaching-related questions to be answered as they head into an important offseason for the franchise.

Game 5: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

If the Eagles stood no chance with Jalen Hurts as their quarterback, then the Steelers might as well have not shown up for the game this past Sunday with Ben Roethlisberger as theirs. 

The future Hall of Famer was a shell of his former self in the Chiefs’ routing of the Steelers, ending in a 42-21 blowout. The Chiefs now welcome the red-hot Buffalo Bills into town, which will no doubt be a must watch AFC matchup.

Game 6: Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals

The final edition of Monday Night Football for the year was a blowout. 

Dealing with injuries to key players Deandre Hopkins, JJ Watt and Budda Baker, the Cardinals fell behind quickly against a star-studded Los Angeles Rams squad, losing 34-11. 

Quarterback Kyler Murray struggled mightily against a stout Rams pass rush. LA now moves on to try and take down the reigning Super Bowl champions: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs.