NFL Wild Card Weekend Takeaways

jaguars stadium
"Panoramic view of Everbank Field" by CFariello is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The first round of the NFL playoffs is in the books, with some memorable individual and team performances that we’ll be talking about all week. The action started with a bang on Saturday afternoon, and finished off with a showdown on Monday Night Football.

After a whirlwind of excitement, let’s take a deep breath and look at three main takeaways from the Wild Card Weekend slate.

A Chargers Collapse For The Ages

On paper, the Los Angeles Chargers were viewed as the superior team in their matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night. Despite both teams starting young quarterbacks participating in their first playoff game, the Chargers came into the contest with more brand-name talent and higher upside.

On the field, that expectation bore out, as Los Angeles jumped out to a 27-0 lead. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence seemed to have notable postseason jitters, as he tossed four first half interceptions. Jacksonville wasn’t able to get anything going, and it seemed like the Chargers were going to be able to sleepwalk into the Divisional Round.

However, the Chargers weren’t able to force any additional turnovers, and their offense stagnated in the second half. The Jaguars mounted a furious comeback that seemed impossible before halftime, and kept creeping closer to Los Angeles on the scoreboard. Jacksonville took their first and only lead as time expired, when kicker Riley Patterson drilled a field goal to give them a 31-30 victory. Since the end of the game, there have been calls for Los Angeles to shake up their coaching staff.

Reserves Keeping Things Interesting

Heading into the weekend, most people felt like the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens had very little chance of claiming victories in their respective matchups. Both teams were forced to start reserve quarterbacks who didn’t light up the scoreboard during the regular season. It seemed like a formality that the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals would move on to the next round.

At the end of the day, that is what ended up happening, but Miami and Baltimore provided legitimate challenges. Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson finished the game with pedestrian statistics, but threw the ball well for large portions of the game. Miami star receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle dropped a few perfectly delivered passes from Thompson that left yards out on the field. Thompson did make some mistakes, but did not seem intimidated by the stage.

Similarly, Ravens signal caller Tyler Huntley also acquitted himself nicely for most of their tilt. With a limited supporting cast around him, Huntley was able to move the ball downfield with his arm and with his legs. Unfortunately, he had a costly fumble that gave the Bengals the lead once and for all, but was as effective as the Ravens could’ve hoped considering the circumstances.

Will The GOAT Call It Quits?

The Dallas Cowboys soundly defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to close out Wild Card Weekend, and it has left many to speculate about the future of the greatest quarterback of all time. Without the benefit of a running game and with the prospect of consistent pressure in his face, Tom Brady was not able to get Tampa Bay’s offense into gear.

It seemed like he wasn’t on the same page with star wide receiver Mike Evans for much of the evening, as Brady looked to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible.

Offseason discussion will now commence about whether Brady will return to the NFL for another season, and whether that will be in Tampa Bay if he does.