January 9, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
Even though the Redskins’ season has ended there is still a month of professional football left.
But it didn’t look like the best of the league battling it out this past weekend when eight teams played four terribly lopsided and boring Wild Card games. With the field now cut in the half, the path to the Super Bowl continues next weekend, when the remaining teams will face off for a spot in the conference championship games.
Unsurprisingly, the Oakland Raiders were the first team eliminated. After a dominant season, the No. 2 team in the AFC West suffered a devastating loss when quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in a Christmas Eve game against the Colts. With a broken fibula and recovery timetable of 6-8 weeks, it was no question their star quarterback would miss the rest of the season. Without him, the Raiders were blown away (24-6) in their regular season finale against Denver, and again on Saturday against the Texans (27-14).
The match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions was even harder to watch. Detroit, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, is one of the only original (non-expansion) NFL teams that has never won a Superbowl. They continued that disappointing history in Seattle, where they were only able to score two field goals against an 11-5 Seahawk team. The home team outscored their visitor 16-0 in the fourth quarter en route to a 26-6 victory.
Pittsburgh versus Miami was probably the worst game of the weekend, with the Steelers dominating the entire game and leading 20-6 by the half. Like Oakland, the Dolphins were without their starting quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), and were led instead by veteran backup Matt Moore. Playing in sub-freezing temperatures, the Dolphins were out of their element–and it showed.
Their lone touchdown came late in the fourth quarter, but a rally was short lived as the score was quickly followed by a failed two-point conversion. Missed opportunity foiled them again when then failed to capitalize on a Ben Roethlisberger interception during Pittsburgh’s next possession. Miami ended the game with an incompletion and back-to-back sacks–a sad but fitting ending to a poorly played game which the Steelers easily won 30-2.
At first, the final game of the weekend seemed to be the most evenly matched of the weekend, with the Green Bay Packers (10-6) hosting the No. 5 seeded New York Giants (11-5). While the Pack had redeemed their season by winning six straight, the G-Men had steadily racked up wins all year, including three of their last five.
New York appeared to have the upper hand first, shutting the home team out 6-0 through the middle of the second quarter. But after allowing two quick touchdowns–including a Hail Mary pass on 4th & 2 with six seconds left in the half–the momentum quickly shifted. After the break the Giants were able to capitalize on good field position to score their sole touchdown in the third quarter and pull within one. But the game quickly spiraled out of control after that, with Green Bay scoring 24 unanswered points to end the Giants’ season and punch their ticket to the Divisional Round.
After a completely forgettable Wild Card weekend, the Divisional Round is shaping up to be a true test of talents. In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons (11-5) will host Seattle, while the Packers will see if their win streak can extend to Dallas, where the Cowboys (13-3) have been one of the best teams in the league all season.
On the AFC side the Texans will face a much tougher match-up against the perennial playoff contender New England Patriots (14-2) who have the best record in the league and rarely lose at home, while the Steelers will head to Kansas City to face the 12-4 Chiefs who are ready to put their playoff losing streak to rest.
With better teams and a conference championship spot on the line, here’s hoping the next round of playoff games are worth tuning in for.