What We Learned From the N.F.L.’s Wild-Card Weekend

It was a supersize wild-card weekend, with the N.F.L.’s expanded playoff format requiring six video games, moderately than 4, within the first two days of the postseason. There have been no surprises within the outcomes of the primary 5 video games, however most had been shut sufficient to supply loads of leisure.

Right here’s what we discovered:

  • It’s time for a brand new Lamar Jackson narrative. It was laborious to inform if the Baltimore Ravens had been a prime contender or a beneficiary of one of many N.F.L.’s weakest schedules over the ultimate 5 weeks of the common season. And after that they had consecutive seasons that every resulted in a disappointing playoff loss, there have been those that questioned whether or not Jackson’s run-heavy fashion might translate to postseason success. After watching Baltimore race for 236 yards on the bottom in a 20-13 win on the street in opposition to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, these narratives might be retired. Baltimore received’t shock anybody, however understanding what’s coming is lots completely different from understanding find out how to cease it.

    Along with his first playoff win and his crew’s protection enjoying effectively, Jackson ought to lastly be capable to chill out. That ought to terrify opponents, as a result of Jackson, who rushed for 136 yards on Sunday and 143 in final yr’s playoff loss to Tennessee, already owns two of the highest three playoff speeding performances by a quarterback in N.F.L. historical past.

This weekend, we stated goodbye to the next groups. Every crew has issues it may well stay up for and issues it may well work on heading into subsequent season.

12-4 | N.F.C. West champions

Within the first half of the season, the Seahawks appeared to have a Tremendous Bowl-quality offense and a high-school-level protection. Whereas Seattle ironed out lots of its defensive woes, it was Russell Wilson and the crew’s offense that seemed overwhelmed on Saturday — that occurs lots in opposition to the Los Angeles Rams’ underrated protection. The place does that go away the Seahawks? They should discover upgrades on the offensive line to guard Wilson and will most likely return and research the tape of the early-season video games through which they appeared much more aggressive with their passing sport.

11-5 | A.F.C. South champions

Derrick Henry had an unimaginable season, speeding for two,027 yards and changing into the primary participant to repeat because the N.F.L.’s speeding champion in additional than a decade. A mix of his working and Ryan Tannehill’s passing led the Titans to the fourth-most factors within the N.F.L. Whereas many will deal with Henry’s disappointing effort in Sunday’s loss, Tennessee’s greatest situation this season was its protection. The best method to assist Henry and Tannehill is to not make it crucial that they rating on each drive.

11-5 | A.F.C. Wild Card

There have been lots of positives for the Colts this season. Some shrewd low season strikes led to the crew having its greatest file since 2014 — and simply its second playoff look since then. Indianapolis is unlikely to get related turn-back-the-clock performances from quarterback Philip Rivers and cornerback Xavier Rhodes going ahead, however the crew’s buying and selling for defensive deal with DeForest Buckner and drafting of working again Jonathan Taylor ought to set the Colts up for extra success subsequent season.

8-8 | N.F.C. Wild Card

What a bizarre season. Chicago obtained off to a superficially robust begin, was badly uncovered by a midseason dropping streak, rallied to make the playoffs after which was overwhelmed by the New Orleans Saints. A No. 8 seed being crushed by a No. 2 seed isn’t precisely an endorsement of the expanded playoff construction, however the Bears might most likely be a related crew pretty shortly supplied that they admit Mitchell Trubisky just isn’t their long-term reply at quarterback.

7-9 | N.F.C. East champions

Chortle all you need in regards to the crew’s file — Washington matched the 2010 Seattle Seahawks for the worst file of a playoff crew within the 16-game period — however the Footballers are strolling away with their heads held excessive and their future trying shiny. The rookie defensive finish Chase Younger is a top-shelf disrupter and poised to guide his unit into relevance for years. On offense, the crew has discovered its solutions at working again (Antonio Gibson) and broad receiver (Terry McLaurin). And after a gutsy efficiency in opposition to Tampa Bay, the place he impressed together with his arm and his legs, Taylor Heinicke ought to get some critical consideration because the crew’s quarterback of the longer term.

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