By: Gus Wilson
In the first week of the NFL Playoffs, there were a total of 6 Wild Card games over 3 days. With each game came standout players from teams that either put their team in a position to win or helped them advance into the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Las Vegas Raiders vs Cincinnati Bengals:
The Cincinnati Bengals won a close game at home against the Las Vegas Raiders, 26 to 19. For Las Vegas, kicker Daniel Carlson drilled all four of his field-goal attempts to give the Raiders more than half of their points. Running back Josh Jacobs gashed the Bengals’ defense with 13 carries for 83 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. For the winning team, sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow shined with 244 passing yards and two touchdown passes. With a 70.6 percent completion rate and a 110.4 quarterback rating, he had one of the better games from a quarterback this first round. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was also extremely helpful with an impressive 9 catches and 116 yards. He broke the record for most receiving yards by a Bengals rookie in a single playoff game, edging out Cris Collinsworth.
New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills:
Unlike the game in the earlier window, this game was a complete blowout. The Buffalo Bills demolished the New England Patriots 47 to 17. The only bright spot on the Patriots in this slaughter was wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who finished with 7 catches 77 yards and two touchdowns. He also added on one carry for 14 yards. Josh Allen might’ve had the best game of the Super Wild Card Weekend. The Bills quarterback finished 21 for 25, 308 yards, and five touchdowns. Allen throwing for more touchdowns than incomplete passes gave him a quarterback rating of 157.6. His leading receiver was tight end Dawson Knox, who had 5 catches for 89 yards and two touchdown receptions. Offensive lineman Tommy Doyle also had a touchdown catch.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The first game of Sunday had the Philadelphia Eagles traveling down to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. While the final may have seemed close, this game was Tampa Bay’s to lose. Going into the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay was up 31 to nothing. The Eagles finished with 15 points thanks to tight end Dallas Goedert who had 6 catches for 92 yards. In any playoff game that Tom Brady plays in, he is almost a lock to be one of the MVPs of the game. Brady finished 29 for 37 with 271 yards and two touchdown passes. However, Mike Evans was one of the more dominant players in this game with 9 catches, 117 yards, and a touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys:
In probably the most entertaining game of the weekend, the San Francisco 49ers traveled east to Arlington, Texas, to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in a nail-biter 23 to 17. While this game may have had a controversial ending, both teams came to play. For Dallas, tight end Dalton Schultz and wide receiver Amari Cooper were the two focal points of the offense. Schultz finished with 7 catches and 89 yards, while Cooper had 6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. While they were led in rushing by rookie Elijah Mitchell, who had 96 yards and a touchdown, and led in receiving yards by Brandon Aiyuk who had 5 receptions for 66 yards, the star of the show for the 49ers was none other than Deebo Samuel. Samuel has had one of the more impressive regular seasons as he was one of the most versatile offensive players in the league. Against the Cowboys, he had 110 total yards, 72 on the ground, and 38 in the air, while also having a 26-yard game-winning touchdown run.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs:
In yet another blowout during Super Wild Card Weekend, the 2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs demolished the 7 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers 42 to 21. While the Steelers sputtered offensively, they actually scored the first points of the game with a fumble recovery for a touchdown by linebacker TJ Watt. He also had a sack that night. The high-powered Chiefs stole the show offensively. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had 404 yards passing and five touchdowns. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce finished with 5 for 108 yards and a touchdown, and running back Jerick McKinnon had 61 rushing yards, 81 receiving yards, and a touchdown. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson also impressed with 76 receiving yards.
Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams:
In the battle of the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams came out on top in a dominant fashion over the Arizona Cardinals, 34 to 11. The Rams defense stifled the Cardinals offensively. The dominant defensive performance was helped by Rams cornerback David Long Jr. who had a 3-yard pick-six, the shortest in NFL Playoffs history. The LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was one of the more impressive quarterbacks in the Wild Card round, with 202 passing yards and two touchdown passes while completing 13 of his 17 passes. Wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. also stood out, as Kupp had 61 yards on 5 catches and a touchdown, and Beckham had 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown while also having a 40-yard pass.
In the Divisional Round of the Playoffs, games start on Saturday as the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans coming off a first-seeded bye week, which is the same for the Green Bay Packers who will take on the San Francisco 49ers at home. Sunday’s games include the Los Angeles Rams taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the highly anticipated AFC Championship rematch from last year, the Buffalo Bills taking on the Kansas City Chiefs. With four more games this upcoming weekend, there is a guarantee for more players to step up when their team needs them the most. Check back next week for the best performers of the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.