NFL Playoffs Captivate Sports World

Bills receiver Khalil Shakir hauls in a catch. Photo taken by Jamie Germano.

Bills receiver Khalil Shakir hauls in a catch. Photo taken by Jamie Germano.

Sean Martino, Assistant Sports Editor

Millions of Americans tuned into the NFL Playoffs this weekend to see how their favorite team would fare. After a grueling 17-game regular season that saw the rise of new storylines like player safety and new quarterbacks taking the league by storm, it was finally time for Wild Card Weekend, the first round of the playoffs. Six teams from each conference squared off, with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs each earning a bye week. Let us take a look at some results and analysis.

The first game of the weekend pitted the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers. Both quarterbacks were making their playoff debut. For Seattle, Geno Smith suited up. He is a league veteran of ten years who was a career backup but found a home in Seattle as the starter this season. For San Francisco, Brock Purdy took the field. He was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and is a remarkable 6-0 since taking the starting spot in Week 14. The 49ers were heavily favored in this game and delivered. Purdy led the high-flying San Francisco offense to a 41-23 victory. The 49ers advanced to play the Cowboys on Jan. 22.

The second game of Saturday’s slate saw the Los Angeles Chargers square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chargers got off to a quick start, intercepting Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence four times in the first half to take a 27-7 lead into halftime. But, the second half was all Jacksonville as they roared back to a 31-30 win. This historic comeback cemented the Jaguars as serious Super Bowl contenders. The Jaguars advanced to play the Chiefs on Jan. 21.

Sunday’s action kicked off with the Miami Dolphins taking on the Buffalo Bills. Miami’s quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, was ruled out with a concussion, so rookie Skyler Thompson made his playoff debut. Superstar quarterback Josh Allen led the Bills. The Bills looked like they would coast to victory after taking a 17-0 lead, but Miami scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead midway through the third quarter. Miami put up a valiant effort to make the heavily favored Bills earn every point, but it was not enough as the Bills pulled away for a 34-31 win. The Bills advanced to play the Bengals on Jan. 22.

Junior Henry Lambert was surprised to see the score so close.

“I thought the Bills would handle the Dolphins easily, but luckily for them, they still won,” said Lambert. 

Next, the New York Giants took on the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had a strong regular season with a 13-4 record but were on upset alert going into the game. The Giants played a nearly flawless game in a hostile road environment. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns to put the Giants in position to win. The Giants’ defense was able to get a critical stop late in the fourth quarter, as Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins made some questionable decisions. The Giants escaped with a 31-24 victory and advanced to play the Eagles Jan. 21.

The Baltimore Ravens visited the Cincinnati Bengals to cap off Sunday’s slate. This bitter division rivalry was an intense battle of attrition. Bengals linebacker Sam Hubbard made the play of the game with a 98 yard fumble return for a touchdown to give the Bengals the 24-17 win. The Bengals advanced to play the Bills Jan. 22.

Freshman Lincoln Hundley was disappointed in Baltimore’s loss.

“Injuries to Lamar Jackson and other key players made this loss disappointing but expected,” said Hundley.

The last matchup of the weekend was the Dallas Cowboys against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa quarterback Tom Brady is attempting to win his eighth Super Bowl these playoffs. However, it was not meant to be as he played poorly, which led to a 31-14 defeat for the Buccaneers. The Cowboys advanced to play the 49ers on Jan. 22.

Wild Card Weekend saw fantastic games across the league. The deeper the teams get into the playoffs, will only raise the stakes and intensity of each game. Check out some great divisional matchups beginning Jan. 21.