While the top two teams in each conference get the week off having earned a bye, they await their 2nd Round opponents once the smoke has cleared after maybe the wildest round of the NFL Playoffs - the Wild Card round. The lower two division winners in each conference play home games against the pair of wild card teams in each conference. A total of 12 teams make it in to the dance, with all having aspirations of winning the Super Bowl and while you usually see all good teams make it in, unfortunately, there are four of them that have to go one-and-done, as it all comes down to a single elimination tournament and it is win or go home. This past weekend had a lot of great football to watch including both games on Saturday taking place in the state of Texas and a bizarre turn of events to end it all on Sunday!
(3) Houston Texans 7, (6) Indianapolis Colts 21
This was an AFC South matchup that featured two teams that got off to slow starts only to go on hot streaks in the 2nd half of the season and burst into postseason action. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who missed the entire 2017 season due to having surgery on his throwing arm, showed he is back to his old form. A hot start to this one, they would jump on the Texans 21-0 and never look back looking dominant at all three phases of the game, and Houston had no answer for it. The Colts beat the Texans at their own game - by getting an early lead, running the ball down their throats and playing great defence. Indy now moves on to play the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs next week and although none of us expect they go all the way through to Atlanta in February, one thing is for sure - they will be a tough out for any team in the AFC.
(4) Baltimore Ravens 17, (5) Los Angeles Chargers 23
This matchup pitted the youngest quarterback in the league vs the oldest quarterback in the league. The Ravens Lamar Jackson became the youngest QB to ever start a playoff game, while the Chargers Philip Rivers is the best QB ever to never play in a Super Bowl. A feel-good story on both sides, this one started out with Los Angeles striking first with a pair of field goals as neither side could find the endzone. As the Chargers kept piling on points, the Baltimore crowd was getting restless, wanting to see Jackson replaced by veteran QB Joe Flacco, who lost his job to Jackson while getting injured. Flacco could not be ignored as an option with his track record being a former Super Bowl champion and MVP, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh stuck with his guy and while eventually, they would put up some points in the 4th quarter, it was too little too late as the Chargers hung on to close this one out as they get ready to face the New England Patriots next weekend.
3) Chicago Bears 15, (6) Philadelphia Eagles 16
This game featured an old-school type of playoff atmosphere that ended in unforgettable bizarre fashion. It was a see-saw battle throughout, very low-scoring despite the fact that the running game on both sides were almost non-existent. After we saw more post-season magic from the Eagles Nick Foles throwing a touchdown pass to hired gun Golden Tate with less than a minute to go taking the lead by one, the Bears started marching down the field needing just a field goal to win it. A 43-yard try was kicked good dead-centre but as we see all the time, Philly used their final timeout to try and ice the kicker. And that they did, as on the next try it gets tipped, goes off the left upright then bounced off the bottom crossbar and out. Wow! This crushes the Bears hearts and their season while the Eagles move on to New Orleans with whatever Foles magic they have left and face the top-seeded Saints.
(4) Dallas Cowboys 24, (5) Seattle Seahawks 22
Questions remained about the play of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is very similar to his opponent, the Seahawks Russell Wilson - nothing flashy but gets the job done when needed with efficiency. On this day, it was a close one as expected but it was the Cowboys using their home-field advantage to edge the Seahawks in the end, who struggled to run the ball which was their bread and butter during the regular season. Veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski got injured on one of his field goal tries, which actually helped Seattle with a pair of 2-point conversions that were successful but may have hurt them in the end when they needed an onside kick which was blundered by the punter, Michael Dickson who did not even come close to giving his team a chance to recover the football after trying the old "drop-kick" that never dropped properly. The Cowboys now go to Los Angeles next week to play the Rams looking to win two games in the same playoff year and reach the NFC Championship game for the 1st time since last winning the Super Bowl back in 1996. You know Cowboys fans (like me) are starving for one of those! How About Them Cowboys!
On a side note, when the Cowboys play the Rams at the old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night it will be the 1st NFL Playoff game played there since January 9th, 1994, just over a quarter of a century ago. This historic landmark was the site of Super Bowls I and VI.
And then there were 8 in the chase for Super Bowl LIII:
(NOTICE HOW ALL 4 TEAMS THAT WON IN THE WILD CARD ROUND ARE IN THE EXACT SAME TIME SLOTS)
(6) Indianapolis Colts vs (1) Kansas City Chiefs - SAT 4:35PM, NBC
(5) LA Chargers vs (2) New England Patriots - SUN 1:05PM, CBS
(6) Philadelphia Eagles vs (1) New Orleans Saints - SUN 4:40PM, FOX
(4) Dallas Cowboys vs (2) Los Angeles Rams - SAT 8:15PM, FOX
ENJOY THE DIVISIONAL ROUND!!!