Talk about a first world problem – I told Val that we’re running out of selfies / pictures of the two of us to use for Our Thoughts game recaps. As you can see above, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Now that I think about it, though, the above picture is a good representation of all the wild and wacky things that went down during this first week of NFL playoffs.
Here’s what we thought about wildcard weekend in the NFL…
Carolina (27), Arizona (16) – Let’s start out by saying that the best part of this game was Brian McKnight singing the national anthem. If you missed it, watch it now:
The Panthers were lucky they were playing the version of the Cardinals on their fourth-string quarterback (Ryan Lindley), rather than the team that started the season leading the league in wins. The Panthers defense held the Cardinals offense to a NFL post-season record low of 78 yards, and the final score of the game makes this look like it was closer than it really was. Carolina QB Cam Newton had a so-so game, and there were lots of special teams blunders from both teams. The Panthers could be in a tough spot if #3 wide receiver and deep threat Philly Brown can’t recover from his injury to play next week, but they do have running back Jonathan Stewart, who has been on a roll since returning from injury.
Arizona Coach Bruce Arians is definitely in contention for coach of the year after bringing his team this far with a multitude of injuries on both sides of the ball, but especially at the quarterback position. Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles deserves kudos as well for adjusting his scheme to fit his personnel due to injuries, and he is being interviewed for open head coaching positions. Arizona needs to upgrade their run game over the offseason. Can’t help but feel bad for Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a talented player and classy guy still looking for his first Super Bowl ring, but also facing the fact that he might not return to Arizona next year due to his large salary cap hit. (Larry, we would absolutely love it if you came to New England. We bet Tom would too.)
The Panthers head to Seattle to face the Seahawks in the Divisional Round on Saturday at 8:15pm EST.
Dallas (24), Detroit (20) – This was the best game of the weekend. The Cowboys, specifically QB Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett, finally have a come from behind playoff win (the Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead) and can’t be accused of choking.
There’s lot of discussion about a non-call made by the refs – actually, they threw a flag and announced a pass interference penalty against Dallas, then changed their minds and took it back. Things went downhill for the Lions from there – coach Jim Caldwell decided to punt, and the punt only went 10 yards, giving the Cowboys prime field position for their go-ahead touchdown drive. The Lions got the ball back with 2:32 to go and QB Matt Stafford proceeded to fumble the ball twice. Up until that point, he’d played one of his best games of the season.
Dallas Coach Jason Garrett made some aggressive play calls on offense, despite the Lions defense playing lights out through the first three quarters of the game. As the Lions begin their off-season, look for one of the big story lines to be if they are able to resign Ndamukong Suh (yes, the same man that stepped on Aaron Rodgers last week, was initially suspended for this game, which was then reduced to a fine). Despite some of his questionable on-field antics, the boy can play football and is looking to get paid when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Also notable – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and a bunch of (we’re assuming) rich guys celebrated in Jerry Jones’ (Cowboys owner) press box and got caught on camera. Chris, can we remind you that you represent a state full of Eagles and Giants fans, all of which hate the division rival Cowboys? I don’t know much about politics, but I’m questioning this life choice.
The Cowboys now visit the Packers next week at frigid Lambeau Field to play their Divisional game on Sunday at 1:05pm EST.
Baltimore (30), Pittsburgh (17) – Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they were without the services of running back Le’Veon Bell after he injured his knee in their week 17 game, which resulted in an unbalanced offense. The Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, came up with some crazy blitzes to keep Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on his toes, or maybe more accurately, on his back – the Ravens’ front seven sacked him five times. (In comparison, Big Ben had been sacked just twice in the last four regular season games.) He actually had to leave the game for a series of plays because he suffered whiplash from one of the hits.
After another sub-par December reminiscent of the month that preceded their last Super Bowl run two years ago, Ravens QB Joe Flacco decided it was time to really play football. He now has a crazy 13:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last five playoff games. The Steelers need some upgrades on the defensive side of the ball over the off-season.
The Ravens will face the top-seed Patriots next Saturday at 4:35pm EST, which will be their fourth trip to New England in the last six post-seasons.
Indianapolis (26), Cincinnati (10) – For the fourth year in a row, the Bengals have lost their first-round playoff game with quarterback Andy Dalton under center. In fact, in these last four play-off games, they’ve only managed to score six (6!) points in the second halves combined and Dalton tied an NFL record for the most consecutive playoff losses by a quarterback to start his career. The Bengals were without the services of wide receiver AJ Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham (and loss two of their top defensive players during the game), so offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tried to establish the run game with Jeremy Hill.
The Bengals could not put any pressure on Colts QB Andrew Luck. Luck came through with a few of his signature clutch plays and made the throws he needed to in order to win the game, Dalton did not. Fans of less fortunate teams must be wondering how the Colts could get so lucky to go from Peyton Manning as a QB to Andrew Luck. The Colts threw the ball 44 times compared to only 9 run plays – not great balance, but with Luck as your QB, it worked in this situation. However, it could cause problems if they want to go deeper in the playoffs and have to face an opponent in colder weather. The Colts have not played as well on the road this year and don’t have much of a pass rush, but you can’t really count them out.
The Colts travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos next week in the Divisional Round at 4:40pm EST on Sunday. The Colts and Broncos faced off in week one of the regular season – the Broncos won by 7 points, but the Colts almost staged a comeback.
OK, that’s what we’ve got for you this week. Follow us on Twitter to see when we publish new posts, re-tweet interesting things, or get a little weird and dedicate posts to players’ adorable babies. That’s not stalker-ish at all, is it?
– Val and Michelle