Ian Evans’ NFL Wild Card Weekend Love/Hate Weekend Recap
Wild Card Weekend was everything that NFL fans asked for. From revenge games to risky and shocking fourth-down decisions, this weekend set up the playoffs perfectly. We even had the privilege of having a Nickelodeon broadcast of an NFL game that was wildly successful. There was a lot to love from this wild card week. Some team's playoff win droughts were vanquished while other teams got revenge. There were also some surprises that had NFL fans awestruck. It’s safe to say that the first round of the NFL playoffs didn’t disappoint in the slightest. However, there were some players and teams who did disappoint which is worth mentioning. With this being said, here is what I loved and hated from the Wild Card Weekend!
Love: Bills Playoff Win Drought is Over
This weekend of football saw two playoff win droughts come to an end. The Buffalo Bill defeated the Indianapolis 27-24 to win their first playoff game since 1995. Although the Bills had to defend a Hail Mary from Phillip Rivers in order to secure the victory, the Bills did just enough on both ends of the field to seal the deal. Josh Allen threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns as he looked incredible all game long. Stephon Diggs also had himself a game reeling in six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown as well. Although the Bills showed some weaknesses in this game, including allowing 163 yards on the ground and 472 yards in total, the Bills are still going to be tough to stop. With their first playoff win in 25 years the team the city of Buffalo is buzzing and riding a ton of momentum. The Bills will play the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round at home. Lamar Jackson vs. Josh Allen? Can’t wait. This should be fun.
Hate: Pittsburgh Stunned at Home
CORVETTE! CORVETTE! After an 11-0 start to the regular season, you would think that the Pittsburgh Steelers would at least win one playoff game. Nope. Not the case. The first snap of this game went over Ben Roethlisberger’s head which was later recovered by Cleveland’s defense for 6. After a slew of scores from the Browns, the Steelers found themselves down 28-0 AT THE END OF THE FIRST QUARTER. Pittsburgh did find a way to claw themselves back into this game but ultimately ended up losing 48-37 at home. Ben Roethlisberger threw for a whopping 501 yards and three touchdowns on an astounding 68 passing attempts. However, he did throw 4 costly picks that cost the team greatly. What also cost them greatly was JuJu Smith-Schuster’s comments before the game saying that the “Browns are the Browns” and calling them “nameless gray faces.” That only added fuel to the Browns fire. Although Smith-Schuster had a great game Sunday night (13 rec, 157 yds, 1 TD), it wasn’t enough to lift the Steelers to a victory. There are two takeaways from watching the Steelers this year. The first is that they showed that they were frauds after starting the year 11-0 and fell apart since the flawless start. The second takeaway is that it’s never how you start the season that defines you, it’s how you finish. Never celebrate too early and never let your pride become bigger than your work ethic.
Love: Ravens Get Revenge
People never forget how you disrespect them. Earlier in the regular season, the Ravens lost to the Titans 20-24 in overtime in Week 11. During the pregame, the Titans were stomping and walking all over the Ravens logo before the game started. Baltimore took offense to it as both teams exchanged words at midfield. Sunday was a perfect opportunity for the Ravens to get revenge on the team that disrespected their logo. And they did just that. On Sunday afternoon, the Ravens beat the Titans 20-13 behind the incredible play of Lamar Jackson and a hounding Baltimore defense. Jackson ran for 136 yards and a touchdown as well as throwing for 179 yards in the air. The Ravens defense as a whole only allowed 209 yards including limiting star running back Derrick Henry to only 40 yards. The defense also only allowed 4.3 yards per play. It was clear that the Ravens had the image of the Titans disrespecting their logo as well as the previous overtime loss, ingrained in their minds for this game. The Ravens now have a chance to stun the Bills in Baltimore as they take on a red hot Buffalo Bills team in Buffalo. This should be fun.
Hate: Derrick Henry
It’s weird and rather odd to say but Derrick Henry was a nonfactor in the Titans Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens. King Henry looked more like a mere pawn than a king as he had no power in this game whatsoever. You could even see his frustration on the sideline as head coach Mike Vrabel had to calm down his star running back. Henry only rushed for 40 yards as his longest rushing attempt was an eight-yard gain. Yikes. It was clear the Ravens prioritized stacking the box to contain him early and often. And it was successful all game long. Once Henry was accounted for a frustrated, the Titans looked one dimension. The Titans found a way to run all over the Ravens in the 2020 playoffs as Henry rushed for 195 yards. This was definitely a performance Derrick Henry and Titans fans would love to forget.
Love: Taylor Heinicke
Alex Smith was unavailable in Washington’s Wild Card game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most fans, including myself, believed that the story of this game would be Tom Brady going up against Chase Young. However, the story in this game was the remarkable play of practice squad quarterback and former XFL player Taylor Heinicke. Although the Washington Football Team lost to Tampa Bay 31-23, he still put on a great performance and a valiant effort. Heinicke threw for 307 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 46 yards and a diving rushing touchdown as well. What was also impressive is that he played through a separated shoulder as he separated his AC joint in the fourth quarter. Twitter was buzzing over Heinicke even though the Buccaneers won the game. Heinicke could make some money as a solid backup quarterback based on that performance and he truly deserves a shot at a backup role. For a franchise that had a rough offseason and starts to the regular season, they ended it on a high note. This team has a lot to look forward to in the future.
Hate: Russell Wilson Struggles
Superman’s weakness is kryptonite, Tom Brady usually struggles against the Giants, and Russell Wilson’s weakness is the Los Angeles Rams. Wilson started off the season as an MVP candidate, but his grasp on the award slipped by the wayside week after week. In Week 10, Wilson against the Rams as he threw for 248 yards and 2 interceptions. Although they beat the Rams in Week 16 to secure the NFC West title, the Rams got the last laugh. The Los Angeles Rams beat the Seahawks in their Wild Card Game 30-20. Wilson has had better performances as he struggled against Los Angeles yet again, throwing for 174 yards, one touchdown, and two costly interceptions. One of those interceptions was a 42-yard pick-six by Darious Williams. The Rams seem to find a way to make Wilson comfortable and flabbergasted every time they face off. It was evident in this game as Wilson had a QBR of 17.6. For a quarterback that was once in the MVP conversation, that’s horrid. Once again, the elusive MVP trophy evades the Seattle quarterback.
Love: Nickelodeon’s NFL Broadcast
I’m going to come out and say that if you watched the CBS broadcast of the Saints-Bears game, not only did you miss out, but you’re also boring. It’s true that sometimes sports broadcasts can be boring and the graphics can be dull or odd to look at. However, the NFL mixed it up Sunday afternoon by collaborating with Nickelodeon to show an NFL Wild Card game. The goal was to not only expand their demographic to families and children, but it was to also have kids become more interested and excited in the game of football. From wacky graphics to the slime zone, this game was incredibly fun to watch and was truly a success. The first down marker was also animated with green slime emanating throughout the orange first down line. SpongeBob’s face was fit in between the goalposts on field goal attempts. Characters from Nickelodeon television shows like SpongeBob Squarepants and Young Sheldon made appearances to explain some rules of the game. And every time a player scored a touchdown, light green slime would shoot from cannons onto the field. Not only was this broadcast successful, but it should also be done more often as Twitter was loving the broadcast. Although an F-bomb was heard on the broadcast, it only added to the entertainment. This broadcast showed that broadcasts of professional games can always be more entertaining. I wouldn’t be surprised if more collaborations like these happen in the future.
Hate: Making Kids Watch the Bears
If Nickelodeon’s intention was to have more children become interested in football, why on earth would you have them watch the Chicago Bears of all teams? The Bears scored nine points, and they only came from a Cairo Santos field goal and a garbage time one-handed touchdown catch from Jimmy Graham. I think everyone knew that the Bears would lose this game, but they looked worse in their playoff game than they did in their regular-season matchup against New Orleans. The Bears lost 21-9 and are now eliminated from the playoffs. Mitch Trubisky threw for 199 yards and a touchdown but had a QBR of 13.1. Fans knew that this game would be rough for the Bears when Javon Wims dropped a wide-open touchdown in the back of the end zone in the first quarter. Chicago only garnered 28 yards on the ground and had nine penalties that cost them 50 yards. They also were one for ten on third-down conversions, so clearly the Bears could not get anything going all game long. It was tough to watch this game and the Bears play as well. I could understand if kids across the nation wanted their parents to switch the channel. But at least Mitch won the NVP (Nickelodeon’s Most Valuable Player) right?
Love: Browns Silence Steelers
Many believed that the Browns would be the same old Browns that NFL fans are used to seeing. However, they have singlehandedly changed that narrative this season and it showed last night against the Steelers. Same old Browns? Wrong on so many levels. Not only did the Browns win without practicing all week long, but they also won without head coach Kevin Stefanski as well. Baker Mayfield had himself a night as he threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Kareem Hunt also rushed for two touchdowns in the win as well. But the Browns defense showed up early and often. From capitalizing on Steelers' miscues to forcing multiple turnovers, this Cleveland defense was hot from the start. The defense only allowed 52 rushing yards and forced five turnovers. Four of those turnovers came from intercepting Ben Roethlisberger, who may have played his last game in the NFL. I have always been a believer in silencing your rivals on the field and letting your play do the talking. Cleveland wanted to show the NFL world that the Steelers were all bark and no bite. And that’s exactly what we saw. The city of Cleveland was ecstatic last night and is riding a ton of momentum after getting their first playoff win since 1995. However, a date with Kansas City is next and the Browns season could very well end this weekend. But, you can celebrate the win for now. The city as well as the team deserves it. Well done Browns.