The NFL’s very first “Super Wild Card Weekend” is now in the books and has a lot to be taken away from it. NFL owners agreed this past offseason to expand the NFL playoffs to 14 teams with three wild card spots per conference. Blowouts, revenge games, and Nickelodeon all headlined a week of crazy football this past weekend and there are many takeaways from the NFL’s first “Super Wild Card Weekend”. Without further ado, here’s what we learned from the first week of the NFL Playoffs:
Big Ben may have played his last down of football
Not many teams have imploded in the dramatic fashion that Pittsburgh did this season. After starting the season 11-0, the Steelers went 1-4 in their last five games including losses to the nameless team of The Washington Football Team as well as to the 4-11-1 Bengals. In the first round of the playoffs, they already had a seemingly favorable matchup to defend their position as one of the AFC’s elite teams.
They were facing the Browns who hadn’t won a playoff game since the ’90s when Bill Belichick was their head coach and to make matters worse, they were playing without head coach Kevin Stefanski due to COVID. Easy win right? You would certainly think so, but Pittsburgh got blown out and found themselves down 28-0 quickly before catching up in garbage time a bit just to eventually lose 48-37.
Ben Roethlisberger is now 38 years old and the Steelers have more questions than answers with their supposedly league-best defense giving up 48 points and the offense a mess at all parts. This may have been Big Ben’s last chance at one last Super Bowl ring. Shall Roethlisberger decide to retire, we’ll see if Pittsburgh moves up big in this draft to get their quarterback of the future.
Lamar Jackson is determined to prove everybody wrong… again.
Last year, Lamar Jackson won NFL MVP and burst onto the scene as an NFL superstar. Many regarded Jackson as a glorified running back who could only scramble and had severe issues passing the football. Jackson later went on to prove his doubters wrong as he threw for 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions in the 2019 season. Definitely not bad for a running back.
However, the Lamar Jackson critics didn’t get starved of content for too long as the league MVP was bounced in the team’s very first playoff game by Tennessee and Derrick Henry. After that, the headlines essentially made themselves. Fans and the media were quick to blast the youngster for his inability to win in the postseason and criticize him for his inexperience.
Then this season in week 11, the two teams met up again for a revenge match. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Titans won that game as well and in the same game, the entire Titans team decided to go showboat on the Baltimore logo.
This past weekend, the Ravens finally got their revenge by beating the Titans 20-13, and Jackson shut down the narrative that he can’t win in the postseason. Jackson once again is determined on proving everybody wrong and certainly now has his eyes set on bringing Baltimore home a ring.
The Rams can contend without exceptional quarterback play
Jared Goff was fairly average for Los Angeles this past weekend in the wild-card win versus the Seahawks. However, it’s becoming more and more clear that average play is all the Rams really need out of him. Goff was 9/19 for 155 yards, a touchdown, and an interception against Seattle. Under a 50% completion rate is pitiful and a 1:0 TD:INT ratio is fairly pedestrian for any quarterback.
However, the Rams run game carried the offense as Cam Akers popped off for 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground off of a workhorse workload of 28 carries. Additionally, the defense managed to sack one of the league’s most elusive quarterbacks in the pocket, Russel Wilson, five times. The Rams also returned an interception for a touchdown and Jalen Ramsey continued to be dominant.
With an explosive run game and the league’s best defense who can terrorize an opposing offense in more than a few ways, Jared Goff may not have to do much to bring his team to a Super Bowl.
The NFL is smartly playing the long game
One extremely interesting decision by the NFL came this past weekend as they had the Bears versus Saints wild-card game streamed on Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon playing an NFL game is odd considering they’re a kids programming network with viewership consisting almost entirely of young children.
However, it was a genius marketing move by the NFL and other leagues should follow in their footsteps. In doing this, the NFL found a way to connect football and their league to a younger audience. They even had Spongebob make an appearance on an extra point and explained penalties with Sheldon, the main character and a young boy from another TV show aimed at younger audiences. They also paralleled moments in the game with clips and pictures from Spongebob and other Nick shows.
The NFL perfectly connected the game of football and their league to younger viewers and in doing so is already recruiting for the next generation of NFL fans. If the NBA and MLB want to ensure longevity in their success and viewership numbers, they would be wise to follow after the NFL’s steps.
Leave your thoughts in the comments down below about your biggest thoughts and takeaways from the “Super Wild Card Weekend”! Thank you for joining us here today at The Sports Wave!