That had to be one of the craziest NFL Wildcard Weekends in history. Two home teams went down in flames. No favorite covered the spread. If the 2018 NFL Wildcard Weekend games are an indication of what might happen the rest of the way in the NFL Playoffs, watch out!
That’s how nuts things were on both January 6 and January 7. The craziest game had to have been the first, where the Tennessee Titans upset the Kansas City Chiefs. Check out how Tennessee beat the Chiefs while also reading recaps on all the other NFL Wildcard Weekend action: Atlanta Falcons at L.A. Rams, Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints.
2018 NFL Wildcard Weekend Recap
Saturday, Jan. 6
Tennessee Titans +9 at Kansas City Chiefs -9
When: 4:35 pm ET
Recap: The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game at home since 1994. Think about that. The Chiefs, one of the most storied franchises in NFL history, a franchise with, arguably, the best professional football fans in the league, haven’t taken home a playoff game on their on soil since before the mid-1990’s.
That’s a long drought of mediocrity in the postseason. Losing to Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans might have been Kansas City’s worst playoff loss in history. The reason has as much to do with how KC was playing both to end the regular season as well as in the first half of this game as it does with the ghost of Chiefs’ home playoff losses in past seasons.
No team appeared as hot as the KC Chiefs going into the postseason. Kansas City was so hot that they managed to beat the rival Denver Broncos 27 to 24 in Week 17 while resting their starters on both sides of the football. That’s pretty hot.
After the first half of this game, the Chiefs were up 21 to 3. The home team held an 18-point lead heading into the third quarter. Alex Smith had been on fire. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt had looked great. Second-year WR Tyreek Hill had already caught 6 passes for 85 yards. TE Travis Kelce had caught 4 of 4 passes for 66 yards and a TD.
What was going to stop Kansas City’s offense? Forget about KC’s defense, nobody expected the 30th ranked defense in the NFL versus the pass to hold a playoff team to only 3 points. But, the defense had done it’s job in the first half. If they gave up a few points in the second half, what did it matter?
That’s the thing. Teams like Kansas City aren’t supposed to fold in the second half just because their tight-end, Kelce, goes down to an injury. That’s why KC lost this game. Sure, Marcus Mariota provided crazy heroics. The TD pass to himself could go down in NFL Playoff lore.
But, the real reason that Kansas City loss this game is because the offense couldn’t adjust to life without Travis Kelce. Really? Even though Hunt, Hill, and Smith were all still playing? I hate to write it, but the loss falls directly on coach Andy Reid’s shoulders.
Reid should have had a Plan B just in case any one of his top players on offense goes down. That’s what winning teams do. They adjust.
Result: Tennessee Titans 22, Kansas City Chiefs 21
Atlanta Falcons +6.5 at L.A. Rams -6.5
When: 8:15 pm ET
Recap: As opposed to how the Kansas City Chiefs performed in their Wildcard Round loss, the Atlanta Falcons performed amazingly well in their Wildcard Round victory over the upstart L.A. Rams. Winning organizations are built from the bottom down. That makes sense. Great corporations are built from the bottom down.
The Atlanta Falcons always had a great organization at the top. Arthur Blank has been a fantastic NFL owner since he purchased the Falcons. He’s finally got a head coach in Dan Quinn that knows exactly what he’s doing. Since hiring Quinn, the Falcons have been a winning machine.
The winning machine showed up again in the 26 to 13 victory over the home team L.A. Rams on Saturday. Experience is the reason the Falcons took home the win. There were plenty of moments during the game where a more experienced quarterback than the Rams’ Jared Goff might have made a different decision.
Even Rams’ head coach Sean McVeigh, who is already one of the best in the NFL, made some questionable calls. The creative McVeigh appeared downright conservative at points during his play-calling. Goff targeted WR Robert Woods 14 times, and Cooper Kupp 13 times, while only looking to Sammy Watkins 4 times.
If the Falcons could have scripted what the Rams were going to do on offense, their script would have looked exactly like what the Rams did on offense. You can’t win the playoffs like that, which is why Atlanta upset the Rams on the money line as a +6.5 dog.
Result: Atlanta Falcons 26, L.A. Rams 13
Sunday, Jan. 7
Buffalo Bills +9 at Jacksonville Jaguars -9
When: 1:05 pm ET
Recap: Buffalo Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott came up with the perfect game plan to shut down the Jaguars’ rushing attack. Buffalo allows an average of 124.6 rushing yards per game. That ranks 29th in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints rushed for 298 yards against the Bills’ defense. The Jaguars average 141.4 rushing yards per game. That ranks 1st int he NFL.
McDermott put together a defensive game plan that held the Jags to 155 total rushing yards. Yes, that’s over the Jaguars per game average. But, the plan worked because 88 of the 155 total rushing yards came from Jags’ QB Blake Bortles. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette only rushed for 57 yards on 21 carries.
Most imporantly? The Bills held the Jags to a measly 10 points. Unfortunately for Buffalo, the 10 points were enough for the Jaguars to win.
Buffalo’s issue, and McDermott’s known this all season, is with Buffalo’s passing game. QB Tyrod Taylor isn’t a great pocket passer. To make things even more difficult for Taylor, Buffalo’s legitimate WR1, former Carolina player Kelvin Benjamin, missed a lot of regular season games once he became a Buffalo Bill.
Taylor completed 17 of 37 for 134 yards and a pick. He only rushed for 27 yards on 7 carries. He got hurt on Buffalo’s last gasp drive. Nathan Peterman replaced Tyrod. He threw for 14 yards and a pick while going 1 for 3.
If Buffalo can repair their passing attack, watch out. The rest of the team came together brilliantly for first-year head coach Sean McDermott.
Result: Jacksonville Jaguars 10, Buffalo Bills 3
Carolina Panthers +6.5 at New Orleans Saints -6.5
When: 4:40 pm ET
Recap: The old adage is that it’s always difficult to beat the same team 3 times in a single season. That’s what the New Orleans Saints accomplished when they took down the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s second Wildcard Round battle.
It wasn’t easy for the Saints. The Saints struggled rushing the football. New Orleans had rushed for around 150 yards in the first 2 meetings against the NFC South rival Panthers. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera wasn’t going to let that happen again. He devised a defensive game plan that held the Saints to 41 rushing yards from 22 total carries. That’s a horrible per carry average for a team that ranks 5th in the NFL in rushing yards per match up.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid should pay attention to this next part. What did Saints’ head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees do? They went to the passing attack. The Saints adjusted on the second drive,. The 80-yard TD pass to Tedd Ginn Jr. allowed New Orleans to maintain control throughout the game.
The Saints’ D allowed 26 points. But, the D held the Panthers to 4 field goals in 6 trips to the red zone. That’s amazing because this was the third time that Carolina QB Cam Newton had seen the Saints’ defense this season.
New Orleans now heads to Minnesota to battle the NFC 2-seed Vikings.
Result: New Orleans Saints 31, Carolina Panthers 26