Ben Tagliabue – NFL Playoffs Week In Review: Wild-Card Weekend

Last weekend the NFL Playoffs kicked off with the Wild-Card Round, and it certainly lived up to its namesake with entertaining results that were undoubtedly wild. This is quick recap of the games as well as look ahead to what we can expect in the impending Divisional Round.

Kansas City Chiefs 44
at Indianapolis Colts 45

Despite losing All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles on the opening drive of the game, the Chiefs quickly asserted dominance in the first half – and by early in the third quarter had built a 38-10 lead. However, this merely set the stage for 2nd year Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck – a former 1st overall draft pick – to rally his team on a furious comeback for the ages. While Luck’s game wasn’t perfect, he threw for 443 yards including 4 touchdowns and 3 intercepts, he proved himself as a big-time match winner with huge plays when the Colts needed it most – including the ridiculous awareness, instincts and luck, to recover his running back Donald Brown’s fumble and then run it in for a score of his own.

New Orleans Saints 26
at Philadelphia Eagles 24

The Saints travelled to Philly in what was billed to be a showing of two of the most dynamic and potent offenses in the League. However, as it turns out it was defence that proved to be the key on the day as the Saints managed to hold the much vaunted Eagles rushing attack to a measly 80 yards and the Eagles’ suspect secondary picked off superstar QB Drew Brees twice. The difference proved to be Saints Kicker Shayne Graham, who nailed 4 field goals. First-year Philly Head Coach Chip Kelly should be proud of his effort in steering the wayward Eagles of 2012 to the playoffs and the unearthing of potential franchise quarterback Nick Foles, but will no doubt be disappointed by this outcome.

San Diego Chargers 27
at Cincinnati Bengals 10

The Chargers visited Cincinatti as underdogs. This, in hindsight, seems a bit foolish as we all knew that they were headed there to contend against Andy Dalton and what is becoming his annual aggressive pursuit of mediocrity in the playoffs. In his three years as an NFL quarterback, Dalton has three playoff losses and has failed to get his team above the 13 point threshold on all occasions. This is a shameful effort as the Bengals possess one of the most complete playing rosters in the NFL. My good friend from, Dave Dameshek, is one among many of the analysts that are drawing the following conclusion from Dalton’s most recent playoff blunder: the offseason will involve a search for a better quarterback, or at the very least some competition at the position – a nightmare scenario for Bengals fans as this is a roster that is ready to win now.

San Francisco 49ers 23
at Green Bay Packers 20

The Packers, who were considered invincible at Lambeau field in the playoffs until an upstart Michael Vick first defiled their home field in 2003, have yet another home playoff loss to add to their poor playoff record at home in recent years. The 49ers’ dynamic quarterback Colin Kaepernick extended his streak of dominance over the Packers – a streak that includes a comprehensive 45-31 victory in the playoffs last year – in part due to a strong rushing attack and a stout defence that held opposing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a mere 177 yards passing and one touchdown, not to mention a 33 yard field goal from Kicker Phil Dawson as time expired to seal the win.

The Week Ahead:
On Sunday, the NFL’s Divisional Round kicks off with two games, followed by two more games on Monday – all of which can be viewed on One HD if you so desire.

First up Sunday we have the New Orleans Saints visiting the Seattle Seahawks, a match that pits the Saints explosive offense against a rugged Seahawks defence that is led by cornerback Richard Sherman and what is dubbed as the “Legion of Boom”. Furthermore, this game showcases the NFL’s two shortest starting quarterbacks – a fact that the game commentators will no doubt talk on at length.

Next up Sunday the New England Patriots will weigh in as heavy favourites at home against an Indianapolis Colts team that had its defence exploited last week by none other than Alex Smith of the Chiefs. Tom Brady should have a field day, although it would be a grave error to disregard what is brought to the table by Andrew Luck.

On Monday we begin with the Carolina Panthers hosting the San Francisco 49ers, a game which will be contested by two very similarly built teams – robust defences and strong rushing attacks led by two hybrid quarterbacks in the form of Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.

Finishing off Divisional Round, the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning-led offensive juggernaut will play at home against AFC West Division Rival, the San Diego Chargers – a team who handed the Broncos one of their few losses this season only a month ago. The playoff campaign of the Broncos’ future Hall-Of-Fame quarterback is of the “Super Bowl or bust” variety given his historic season. Manning will be looking for a second Super Bowl ring in order to help dispel talk of his poor cold weather performance and relative abundance of playoff failures in years past.

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