What we Learnt from Wildcard Week
Surprises & Disappointment
The first week of the playoffs is over and we have witnessed both surprise and disappointment as teams advanced and bowed out of the race to Seattle and the chance to become the 2021 RZL Champions.
The first game of the weekend saw the 9-7 Detroit Lions back in the playoffs for consecutive years as they hosted the 12-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions drew the toughest hand of the opening week and not many experts gave them a chance against the former juggernaut Bucs. Tampa was returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2019 divisional loss to the rivals Saints. This game was close, field goals were exchanged early and the Lions even held a slim lead at some stage. However the dangerous passing game of the Buccaneers would eventually prove to much, even with the efforts of Lions defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers registering four sacks. Detroit did more then expected, they gave Tampa a fight at home. Experts will expect more from the Bucs next week and they won't need any extra motivation as they clash with the New Orleans Saints for the third time this season. They have split the series 1-1 and the 2019 playoffs will be fresh on the minds of both teams.
The 8-8 Raiders were the next team to bow out of the playoffs when they were ambushed in Tennessee by the 10-6 Titans. Oakland will be questioned with the decision to play quarterback Darrion McDowall over veteran Lou Bishop. McDowall would throw three interceptions and complete only 42% of his passes as the Raiders were never really in the contest. Tennessee did what they needed to, they scored plenty of points and the defence forced the Raiders into mistakes. The Titans ended the contest before the final quarter which is a sign they are a playoff calibre team. They will travel to New England next week to face quite possibly the Super Bowl favourites in the Patriots. With their current form they will be a challenge for New England and it shapes up as quite a match-up.
The 9-7 Jacksonville Jaguars continue to get through by the skin of the teeth. After sneaking into the playoffs they managed to slip past the 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs will be disappointed to be eliminated so early, after a tussle for the AFC West they had the advantage of hosting a home game right away but they couldn't make the most of it. But the Jaguars are a talented side, many tipped Jacksonville to be this years champions and they are getting closer and closer to proving those people right. Jacksonville did a great job on the road against a team who was impressive in the back end of the season. They now face the Baltimore Ravens and will be without two of their most dangerous wide outs, but luck maybe with them as they take on a Rymer less Ravens. This game will come down to who has the depth and can overcome those big injuries.
The final game of the week was possibly the biggest surprise, the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons travelled to D.C to clash with the 12-4 Redskins who dominated the stats sheets. But stats don't win games and Washington was bitterly beaten by the Falcons who appeared in their first playoff game since 2008. Atlanta relied on runningback Mikel LeShoure as he rushed for just shy of 150 yards and two scores. The Falcons defence was much better then Washington's and it proved the difference as troubled Redskins quarterback Will Wright threw a game ending interception as the Redskins were driving to win the game. It's a extremely disappointing end to the year for the Redskins, it seemed as though Will Wright and the team had finally hit their straps only to be blindsided. Atlanta will take on one of the NFC's best in the St.Louis Rams, even though they are without Joe Flacco they haven't missed a beat with Matt Ryan under center. The Falcons will need to re-establish their passing game if they wish to keep up with the Rams.