WASHINGTON — I hope you all were paying attention to wild-card weekend. Chances are, you saw the first step of a Super Bowl run.
Of course, this is the typical narrative after this weekend, because these teams are the last ones we saw. The top four teams were idle and forgotten, or when last we saw them, they were resting starters to avoid any major injuries before the playoffs (such as the Patriots last week).
However, recent trends suggest there’s actually something to the hype. Six of the last nine Super Bowl champs (including three of the last four) were teams that played in the Wild Card round. Obviously, you want the bye week and home-field advantage in the divisional round. But in recent years, teams seem to be taking better advantage of the momentum that comes with entering the postseason on a roll and playing a high-stakes game instead of sitting home eating nachos.
Any one of the four Wild Card Weekend winners is capable of giving fits to the elite teams awaiting them in the divisional round. Indy and Carolina looked great against questionable competition, but they each ended the season hot. The Ravens and Cowboys look like teams capable of making a Super Bowl run.
So don’t be surprised if one or more of these teams takes their talents to the desert for Super Bowl XLIX.
On to the Wild Card Recap:
At full strength, this would be a better matchup. But Carolina is remarkably healthy and Arizona is so ravaged by injuries that they had to start a guy with one career win as a starter (and has a 2 TD, 11 INT resume). This was a predictable outcome.
This game added an all new wrinkle to the NFL’s best rivalry. Baltimore won a playoff game in Pittsburgh for the first time ever, and they take the edge in the rivalry with a 15-14 record since 2001. This wasn’t about Le’Veon Bell being sidelined either; the Ravens won with defense and Joe Flacco was the best quarterback on the field. This isn’t the team New England wants to see coming off what amounts to a two-week bye.
There would be no elephant exorcism. Andy Dalton had another playoff no-show and Cincinnati still hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. Marvin Lewis — who joins Jim Mora as the only coaches to lose their first 6 playoff games — needs to navigate these Bengals deeper into the postseason jungle before ownership starts thinking there’s a better man for the job.
Oh, and Indy might have some history with the guy playing QB in Denver. Prepare to be boxed about the ears with a lot of Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck hype.
Welp … Tony Romo finally has his positive playoff moment. It took some help from the refs and the biggest comeback in both teams’ postseason history, but he’s got it. And now Dallas is making their first playoff trip to Green Bay since the Ice Bowl in 1967.
Meanwhile, Detroit ties a league record by losing their eighth straight playoff game and Matthew Stafford is now 0-18 all time on the road against teams that finished regular season above .500. So basically Romo passed the “Really Good QB That Can’t Win The Big One” baton to Stafford.
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