In a Super Wild Card Weekend for the history books – with broken records and upsets aplenty – six teams saw their Super Bowl aspirations vanish into thin air, whilst those that remain continue their pursuit of a trip to Las Vegas next month. As the final eight teams prepare for the next step in their journey, we Decyfr this week’s NFL action.
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 9, 2024
Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans
Final Score: 14 – 45
It was a clash of QB’s in Houston this week as 16-year-veteran Joe Flacco took on rookie C.J. Stroud – with a spot in the Divisional Round on the cards. Despite Flacco’s recent string of elite performances, and the NFL’s best defense, the Cleveland Browns were a step behind the Houston Texans throughout – trailing 24-14 at the break, due to Stroud’s 236 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately for Browns fans, that was just the beginning, as the Texans completely dismantled the Browns in the second half too – with their defense recording pick sixes on back-to-back drives. The Texans offense was similarly as effective, as wide receiver Nico Collins finished with 96 yards and a touchdown while Stroud finished with a passer rating of 157.2 and became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game. First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans will look to continue Houston’s monumental turnaround in a tough matchup against the AFC’s number one seed, the Baltimore Ravens, next week.
Player of the Game: C.J. Stroud, Quarterback, Houston Texans.
Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs
Final Score: 7 – 26
Temperatures of minus-four degrees Fahrenheit weren’t quite what Tyreek Hill had imagined for his return to Arrowhead – but with the Miami Dolphins seeking their first playoff win since 2000, it was all to play for against the reigning Super Bowl Champions. To start the matchup it was clear that Miami still hadn’t re-found their early season form, as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled to kick-start their high-powered offense – throwing for less than 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Kansas City Chiefs, on the other hand, found considerably more success moving the chains – as star quarterback Patrick Mahomes connected with wide receiver Rashee Rice eight times for 130 yards and a touchdown, while running back Isiah Pacheco went for 89 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Pair that with kicker Harrison Butker overcoming the cold to convert all four of his field goal attempts, and the Chiefs capped off a defiant 26-7 victory. Kansas City now travel to Buffalo to take on a Bills team looking for their seventh-straight win. With the loss, Miami now hold the NFL’s longest drought without a playoff win.
Player of the Game: Rashee Rice, Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs.
Tyreek 🆚 Tyreek
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 12, 2024
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Final Score: 48 – 32
The Green Bay Packers went head-to-head with the Dallas Cowboys in a matchup between two of the NFL’s most storied franchises. Heading into the contest, Dallas’ 8-0 home record during the regular season had fans and players alike feeling particularly confident against the NFC’s number seven seed. That was until third-year quarterback Jordan Love put on a passing masterclass, as Green Bay took a shock 27-0 lead before the half. Alongside Love’s impressive final stat line of 272 yards, three touchdowns and a 157.2 passer rating, the Packers rushing attack was stellar once again – with running back Aaron Jones recording 118 yards for three touchdowns. Conversely, the Cowboys offense struggled to get going until it was too late – with Dak Prescott throwing two interceptions before Dallas could put points on the board. By the end of the game, Prescott had thrown the ball a massive 60 times – accumulating 458 total yards. With the upset, the Green Bay Packers become the first seven seed to win a playoff game in NFL History and turn their attention to their clash with the well-rested San Francisco 49ers – following their first-round bye. Meanwhile, the humiliating home loss for the Cowboys has raised a number of concerns in the building – leading many to question just how secure head coach Mike McCarthy’s job is.
Player of the Game: Jordan Love, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers.
Los Angeles Rams @ Detroit Lions
Final Score: 23 – 24
Three years after their blockbuster trade, Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff faced off against their former teams in Super Wild Card Weekend’s headline matchup. Despite a dominant start from the Lions in their first home playoff game since 1993, Stafford’s elite connection with rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua – alongside two sacks from linebacker Ernest Jones – took the game down to the wire, with only a point splitting the two teams. Both quarterbacks put on a clinic in an attempt to show the world who won the trade, with Goff throwing for 277 yards and one touchdown, while Stafford put up 367 yards for two – largely owing to Nacua’s rookie record-breaking 181 receiving yards. Not only did the Lions claim their first playoff win since 1991 they also sent their former quarterback home empty handed – resulting in an emotional night of celebrations for Lions fans across the globe. All of whom will be on the edge of their seats next week when Detroit play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round.
Player of the Game: Puka Nacua, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Rams.
Stafford 🤝 Goff
— Decyfr Sport (@DecyfrSport) January 12, 2024
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills
Final Score: 17 – 31
After a 24-hour delay, due to unprecedented weather conditions, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally arrived in Orchard Park ready to face the NFL’s hottest team. Having won five-straight games to secure the AFC’s number two seed, the Buffalo Bills – led by star quarterback Josh Allen – were firing on all cylinders to start the game, with two passing touchdowns to tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid. Additionally, Buffalo’s ground game was outstanding, with 179 total yards – 52 of which came on the second-longest quarterback run in playoff history by Josh Allen. On the other side of the ball, Buffalo’s defense thwarted any ground attack by the Steelers – holding running back Najee Harris to only 3.1 yards per carry. That said, quarterback Mason Rudolph managed to rebound from a rough start to finish with 229 yards and two touchdowns. The win ensures the Bills reach their fourth-straight Divisional Round when they face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night – marking yet another playoff battle between Allen and Mahomes. For the Steelers, however, it’s another disappointing exit with just three playoff wins in the last 10 years.
Player of the Game: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Buffalo Bills.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Final Score: 9 – 32
After starting the season 10-1, the Philadelphia Eagles looked unstoppable and set to retain their place atop the NFC. However, five losses from their last six games saw them lose the NFC East title and fall to the conference’s fifth seed. Desperate to regain their form, Phladelphia travelled to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay had a lightning-fast start to the contest – capitalising on multiple defensive woes by the Eagles, to forge a 10-point lead in the first quarter. A lead that was topped off by wide receiver David Moore who took a 44-yard pass for six points. Having said that, a Dallas Goedert touchdown late in the first half ensured that the Eagles were only a score behind at the break. The second half was less evenly matched, however, as Baker Mayfield had a night to remember – throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns to join Tom Brady as only the second QB in team history with over 300 yards passing in a playoff game. Tight end Cade Otton also had an impressive performance, with eight receptions for 89 yards. Furthermore, even Jalen Hurts’ 250 yards – with receiver Devonta Smith accounting for 148 yards of those – wasn’t enough to stop Tampa Bay’s defense from ensuring a second half shutout. Tampa Bay will now travel to Detroit to face the Lions, while Philadelphia and head coach Nick Sirianni face questions about the team’s complete collapse.
Player of the Game: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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