Super Wildcard Weekend 2021 Brings in Exciting Plays

Super Wildcard Weekend 2021 Brings in Exciting Plays

Jaymin Kanzer, Sports Editor

One round down, three to go. Super Wildcard Weekend was a massive success. The experiment that the NFL brought into existence was met with rave reviews, bringing two more teams from each conference to come in as a seventh seed, giving us an exciting two day stretch of playoff football. 

 

The weekend started off Saturday morning with an exciting matchup in north New York between the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts, except one of the teams wouldn’t be in the playoffs if it weren’t for the expansion. The heavily favored two seed, Buffalo Bills, played in front of a home crowd for the first time in the season due to a limited 6,400 people allowed in. The limited number of fans were able to witness the first playoff matchup hosted in Buffalo in 25 years. The Colts were up 10-7, with a couple left in the second quarter, and were knocking on Buffalo’s door, 1st and goal at Buffalo’s four yard-line. The Bills defense stood strong and didn’t allow a point. Sophomore quarterback Josh Allen took advantage of the missed opportunity by the Colts and drove down 96 yards and punched it in himself on a 5-yard rushing touchdown. The Bills didn’t let go of this lead for the rest of the game. Allen also had a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox and a 35-yard touchdown pass to league touchdown and receiving yards leader, Stefon Diggs. With this win, the Buffalo Bills matchup against the Baltimore Ravens at 8:15 on Saturday night. That game will be hosted by Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, and NBC. 

 

Next of the games was the Los Angeles Rams facing off against the Seattle Seahawks. Starting quarterback for the LA Rams, Jered Goff, broke his right thumb against this same Seattle team in week 16, a game that clinched the division for the Seahawks, and received surgery on it just 12 days before the playoff game. Backup quarterback John Wolford started the game for the LA Rams. But on the second drive of the game, strong safety Jamal Adams, came down on a controversial no flag late hit on the second string. This led to Wolford coming out of the game. Third-string Blake Bortals was not active for this game, so Jered Goff, not even two weeks removed from thumb surgery on his throwing hand came into the game. Despite the injury, Goff threw for 155 yards and a game-winning touchdown on 19 attempts. Rookie running back Cam Akers led the offense with almost 30 touches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The number one ranked defense was clutch for head coach, Sean McVay, and the Rams, not letting Russell Wilson and the Seahawks get anything started on offense. The defense also came up big on a great read by cornerback Darious Williams who rushed right through the blocks on a screen pass and snagged the ball right out of receiver DK Metcalfs hands for six points. The defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, got through the trenches and sacked Wilson five times. Donald got to Wilson twice. The number one ranked defense goes head to head against the number one ranked offense on Saturday afternoon at 4:35. 

 

The final game played on Saturday was held in the ever so hectic capital of our nation, Washington DC. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled north led by veteran quarterback Tom Brady. The normal starting quarterback for the newly renamed Washington Football Team, Alex Smith was out with a leg injury. This means for the second time today a second-string quarterback would be starting in the playoffs. Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke played his heart out, keeping the football team in the game until the clock hit zero. He threw for 306 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 44 attempts. He also ran for 46 yards and a touchdown, that he separated his shoulder on, but he stayed in the game. Tampa Bay took this one, in the end, winning 31-23. The Bucs are going on to play against Drew Breese and the New Orleans Saints. You can watch this game at 6:40 on FOX with Joe Buck. 

 

Sunday was packed full of games just like the day before. The morning kicked off bright and early with the Baltimore Ravens visiting the Tennessee Titans. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson led the Ravens past the Titans thanks to his legs. He outrushed the league rushing leader, Derrick Henry by 100 yards. He rushed for 136 yards on 16 attempts and a touchdown. Henry rushed for over 325 yards in the past two meetings with the ravens, this time they held him to only 40 yards on 18 attempts. Along with dominating arguably the best running back in the league, the Baltimore defense held Tennessee to its fewest points all season, 13.  It helped the Ravens push past the Titans 20-13. Jackson was finally able to get rid of the narrative that he couldn’t win in the playoffs, and he did it on the road. 

 

The second last of the wild card games was hosted by kids channel Nickelodeon in an attempt to get kids interested in the NFL, which featured favorites from Nickelodeon’s most famous characters such as SpongeBob, Patrick Starr, and more. They also had graphics of slime cannons shooting off every time someone got into the end-zone. Sean Payton, the head coach of the Saints got in on the fun; he pledged to get slimed if New Orleans won the game, and he held up his side of the bargain. The Saints and Bears faced off in front of two million fans watching on Nickelodeon and another 28 million fans watching on CBS. This game was all Saints, with lots of props going to seasoned quarterback Drew Brees who turns 42 on Friday. He threw for 265 yards and two touchdown passes. The 14 points from Brees and a late fourth-quarter touchdown from running back Alvin Kamara pushed the Saints past the Bears 21-9. The Saints face the division rival, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This will be the third time the Saints and Bucs have met this year, both times the Saints took the victory. In week one, the Saints bested the Bucs by 11 points, 34-23. The second time they met in week eight, New Orleans destroyed the Bucs 38-3, which was the greatest point margin Brady had lost by in his professional and college career. This matchup features two of the best quarterbacks of all time Drew Brees and Tom Brady. In maybe the last time the two greats face each other, and it is guaranteed to be a high scoring game. They play Sunday night on FOX. 

 

Super wild card weekend capped off at the home of the Steelers: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Cleveland Browns, who have been the laughing stock of the league since the turn of the century, finally had their chance in the playoffs and they did not squander it. The Steelers had the best start in franchise history: 11-0. But late-season struggles knocked them out of the one seed and had them matched up against their division rivals. A lot of trash talk leading up to the game led the game to be one of the most hyped-up games of the weekend. The Browns came out of the gates with heads of steam, scoring in the first 7 seconds of the game on a muffed snap by the Steelers, leading to Browns big man Karl Joseph falling on it in the end zone. Cleveland put up 28 points in the first quarter alone. They went into half time leading by 35-10, the biggest first half by a road team in NFL history. Cleveland quarterback threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh was on its heels the whole game and quarterback Ben Rothlisberger threw for an NFL record 47 competitions and 501 yards on nearly 70 attempts. He also threw 4 interceptions and the Cleveland defense recovered a fumble to recover five turnovers on the day. When the buzzer buzzed, the Browns were winning 48-37 which was the first postseason win the Browns have had in a quarter-century. The Browns face the number one seed Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at 3:05 on CBS. 

 

There are four games being played this weekend, and here are my personal predictions. The first game of the weekend features the number one ranked defense, Los Angeles Rams against the number one ranked offense, Green Bay Packers. 

 

The Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers, are unstoppable on offense and I don’t think even a number one ranked defense is going to be able to stop them. I think the Packers are going to win by 10 points. The Saturday night game puts two quarterbacks who have the brightest potential in the league, Josh Allen and the Bills against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. The Bills haven’t lost a game in over two months and the Ravens are a futile attempt at being the first team to do it. Besides all the momentum the Bills have, they are also playing in the snow. Not only is that a Bills everyday practice, but Jackson also has never played a game in the snow, which will have a huge factor in the outcome. The Bills also will have a socially distanced home crowd, known as the Bills Mafia who even with a limited amount of fans will be the loudest crowd the Ravens have heard probably the whole season. I have the Bills winning by two touchdowns. Sunday kicks off at 3:05 with the Cleveland Browns visiting the Kansas City Chiefs, who are not going to lose. The Browns have been playing the best football the city of Cleveland has seen in 25 years, but it is not nearly enough to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Mahomes is simply built differently. Last year’s super bowl MVP and 2018 league MVP can only go up and nobody this year is going to stop him from getting his second ring. This game will be close and Mayfield will play his heart out with three touchdowns to his name, but it won’t be enough to stop the lethal offense of the championship-bound Chiefs. I think this will be the highest-scoring game of the weekend, with the Chiefs putting up over 40 points, and the Browns ending somewhere in the 30s. The finale of the divisional round will go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. The Saints have been stumbling since week 13 of the regular season, and Brees has been nursing 11 broken ribs and a collapsed lung injury that he suffered in week 9. I’m convinced Brady will take the battle of the old-timers by a touchdown.