NFL Wild Card Weekend: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The NFL Playoffs kicked off with Wild Card Weekend, which certainly lived up to its name.

The Good

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The Colts. Yeah, Indianapolis has now won ten of eleven games, and looks as hot as ever going into Kansas City. The Texans never really had a chance in their 21-7 loss to Andrew Luck and company, as the Colts controlled the game from the get-go.

Nick Foles continues to win. Despite a mediocre performance against a great Chicago defense, Foles calmly navigated his team down the field for a game winning drive. Lucky? Probably – but it works.

The Saints, Rams, Chiefs, and Patriots all earned a bye week. With stars like Todd Gurley not having a meaningful snap in almost a month, the teams are all well-rested as they enter favorable matchups with home field advantage. The Pats will take on Philip Rivers, who is 0-7 against Brady in his career. The Rams will play as a well-rested team in their home stadium against the Cowboys, and Kansas City will do the same against Indianapolis. The Saints might have gotten the best bargain of all teams – as the Eagles pulled off a last-minute victory in Chicago, New Orleans went from playing one of the three teams that beat them to playing a team they beat 48-7 at home just two short months ago.

The first 53 minutes of football from the Chargers. Los Angeles had Colts-like performance in their matchup with Baltimore. The Chargers controlled the tempo of the entire game, and made the Ravens a one-dimensional offense, limiting the production of Lamar Jackson…

The Bad

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… For the first 53 minutes of the game. Los Angeles almost Atlanta Falcons’d their lead against Baltimore in the last seven minutes of action, with Jackson completing two touchdown passes late – putting the Ravens within striking distance of the lead. After a third down holding call that cost L.A. a chance at simply running out the clock, the Chargers had to force a fumble on the Ravens’ final drive to hold on to the victory. Good luck stopping Tom Brady in the fourth quarter next week.

The Cowboys’ win over Seattle. Dallas had many chances to put the game away early, but failed to capitalize. A holding call on a Tavon Austin touchdown and a red zone interception almost proved costly on Saturday, but somehow, Dallas held on. Sometimes, it’s possible to win ugly, but those same mistakes will have Dallas beating themselves in Los Angeles.

Kansas City, despite having the best record in the AFC, are the team out of the four top seeds that faces the least favorable matchup in the divisional round. Their number one seed gave them the rights to play the Colts, who are playing better than any team in the NFL at the moment.

The Ugly

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Kickers. If the endings of two games weren’t enough to convince you that it was an awful weekend for special teams, even Justin Tucker missed – seemingly achieving the impossible. Sebastian Janikowski seriously injured his hamstring on a 57-yard attempt that missed the mark to end the half of the Seahawks loss in Dallas. Punter Michael Dickson filled in for kicking duties for the rest of the night, and while he didn’t have to attempt a field goal, he reduced Seattle’s already slim chances at recovering a last-second onside kick attempt; sending the kick about fifteen yards too far, and sealing the Cowboys’ victory.

On Sunday night, Bears kicker Cody Parkey only helped the narrative that it wasn’t a great weekend for kickers. After nailing his first three attempts of the night, Parkey lined up with ten seconds left to give the Bears a win in the game that seemed to be in their hands for most of the night. After a timeout by Doug Pederson and a practice kick by Parkey that split the middle of the uprights, the kicker lined up again. Although the kick may have been tipped at the line, it still had the distance to give Chicago their first playoff win since 2011… but, it didn’t. Cris Collinsworth coined the phrase ‘double doink’ and Philadelphia continued to be the luckiest franchise in the NFL over the last two years.

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