Takeaways from all the NFL Wildcard Games

0
876

#5 Buffalo Bills @ #4 Houston Texans

Result: Houston W 22-19 OT

 

J.J. Watt provides the spark

With just under 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, down 16-0, J.J. Watt delivered on third and long with a sack that changed the entire energy of the game. Nothing had gone right for Houston prior to that play, and the timing of his sack gave the entire Texans team the boost they needed to fight back for the 22-19 OT victory. Watt, originally thought to be out for the season with a pectoral tear, only had the one sack but provided quality pass-rush throughout the game and got better as the game went on, with multiple pressures on Buffalo’s QB Josh Allen in the 2nd half.

 

Watson earns his first playoff victory

It wasn’t pretty, but Deshaun Watson delivered in the clutch and willed the Texans offense into success in the 2nd half of the football game.

Despite being sacked 7 times, and the Texans offense being limited to less than 85 total yards in the 1st half, Deshaun Watson finished the game 20/25 for 247 yards, 1 TD passing, along with 55 yards and a TD on the ground.

This was only Watson’s 2nd playoff appearance and yet he showed the ability to make in-game adjustments, finding star WR Deandre Hopkins for 6 completions for 90 yards in the 2nd half after failing to find him for a completion in the 1st.

 

The future looks bright in Buffalo

Buffalo should be disappointed, but not ashamed of their playoff showing. They’ve now been in the playoffs 2 out of the last 3 years, and they will be a popular AFC East champ pick heading into 2020.

The majority of the night Josh Allen looked unfazed by the atmosphere in his first-ever playoff game (minus the impromptu lateral in the 4th quarter), and he should only continue to improve heading into year 3 of his career next season. If you’re inside the Bills headquarters, you have to be thrilled with the investment of their 7th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft thus far.

The Bills have a nice nucleus of talent on both sides of the ball moving forward, led by RB Devin Singletary, TE Dawson Knox, LB Tremaine Edmunds, and 2019 first-team All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White.

Buffalo finished this season with the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense and the 8th ranked rushing attack.

Look for the Bills to continue to add play-makers on the offensive side of the ball to improve their 26th ranked passing attack this offseason via free agency and the 2020 NFL draft.

 

 

#6 Tennessee Titans @ #3 New England Patriots

Result: Titans, 20-13

 

Mike Vrabel, Derrick Henry make a statement

First-time playoff coach Mike Vrabel stuck to the formula that led the Titans into the playoffs by feeding NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry 34 rushes for 182 yards. Henry, along with the Titans offensive line dominated the point of attack throughout the entirety of the game. After leading the NFL in rushing with 1540 yards during the regular season, Henry’s 200 plus all-purpose yards in the game indicates that he’s showing no signs of slowing down and will be a major challenge for Baltimore to stop next week in the Divisional round.

 

Tom Brady’s last dance?

If you’ve paid attention this season, you have noticed that Tom Brady’s production has slipped. Some will point to his age (42), others will point to his lack of supporting cast. For the first time of his storied career, he’ll enter this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. You’d have to assume that if he chooses to come back, the Kraft family will allow it. Is father time finally catching up to Brady? His status will be a major storyline this offseason.

 

Ryan Tannehill has found a home

Including the playoffs, Ryan Tannehill is now 8-3 as the starter for the Titans after taking over Week 7 of the regular season. The Titans offense has exploded across the board since he took over, averaging roughly 35 points per game and ranking top 5 across the board in all major offensive statistic categories.

Saturday’s game was more about Derrick Henry and the defense of the Titans, but the stability that Tannehill has brought to the QB position since he’s taken over has been season-altering.

Regardless of whatever happens next week in Baltimore, look for Tennesee to sign the NFL’s highest-rated (117.5) regular-season passer to a 2-3 year extension this offseason.

 

#6 Minnesota Vikings @ #3 New Orleans Saints

Result: Minnesota W 26-20 OT

 

Dalvin Cook enables entire Vikings offense

The NFL’s 9th leading rusher (1135 yards, 13 TDs) from the regular season showed up in a big way on Sunday. He paced Minnesota’s offensive attack with 28 rushes for 94 yards with 2 TDs. He also caught 3 passes for 36 yards. When Dalvin Cook is balling, the Vikings are a problem for any defense. Cook’s 53 regular season receptions are indicative that he’s a complete NFL running back, and the 49ers will likely put 7-8 defenders in the box next week during the Divisional round in efforts to slow him.

Cousins wins a big game

Kirk Cousins won his first playoff game on Sunday. Redskins fans everywhere are groaning.

Based on the first few weeks of the season, media articles everywhere we’re writing off the Vikings season and subsequently doubting Kirk Cousin’s ability to win big football games. The MNF 23-10 flop against the Green Bay Packers is still fresh in all of our minds.

Let’s take a step back and reflect on his regular-season passing statistics.

307-444, 69.1% completion rate

3603 yards passing

26:6 TD/INT ratio

107.4 passer rating

As star WR Adam Thielen put it this week, when the pressure is on, Cousins delivers. We’ll see if he can continue his excellent season next week in San Francisco.

 

Vikings D championship ready

The Vikes finished the regular reason ranked #14 in total defense. The Saints came into Sunday sporting the league’s 9th best offense averaging roughly 374 yards per game.

The defense answered the bell on Sunday, holding future HOF QB Drew Brees to under 210 yards passing, star RB Alvin Kamara to under 25 yards rushing, and the undisputed best WR in the league in Michael Thomas to only 70 yards receiving.

Even with franchise CB Xavier Rhodes suffering a down year, the Vikings still have a front seven to be dealt with led by DE Everson Griffen, DE Danielle Hunter, and LB Anthony Barr.

Along with the long-time All-Pro caliber Safety Harrison Smith, this defense will have the opportunity to earn more respect next weekend with their matchup against the Jimmy Garoppolo led #1 seed 49ers.

 

Drew Brees will be back

Despite missing 5 games due to a thumb injury, Drew Brees did not show any significant signs of slowing down this season.

His quickness with his passing release and overall supporting cast is much better than what Tom Brady has, which should allow him to have at least one more season leading the Saints.

Brees finished 2019 completing 74% of his passes with a sterling 27-4 TD/INT ratio.

Will New Orleans go all in for the 2020 season with Drew Brees, or will they be a darkhorse candidate to draft a QB this spring?

#5 Seattle Seawhawks @ #4 Philadelphia Eagles

Result: Seahawks, 17-9

It’s unfair, but Wentz will face backlash from Eagles fans

Carson Wentz has a history of injuries dating back to his rookie season, with the most notable being his 2017 ACL Tear, and 2018 back injury. Wentz went down last night after what many felt was a targeting play by Jadeveon Clowney. Personally speaking, this SHOULD NOT be a concern to Eagles fans as this was a shot to the head and unrelated to his past injuries. Had any other QB taken that hit (regardless of their injury history), they too would have been sidelined. Football is football. Eagles fans, don’t look to deep into this.

DK Metcalf’s rise to greatness continues

If you’ve paid attention to the NFL Draft, you know that many people thought D.K. Metcalf should have been a Top-10 selection, but instead he fell to Seattle, who took him with the 64th overall selection (last pick of round 2). Metcalf’s draft stock was hindered by those who wondered whether he was a true WR or just a big freakish athlete with straight-line speed. During the game Chris Collinsworth mentioned how Russell Wilson raved about DK Metcalf’s study habits, referring to them as “hall of fame study habits and work ethic.” Metcalf was a major reason as to why Seattle won this low-scoring affair. Metcalf finished with 7 receptions for 160 yds, and 1 TD