Saturday was for upsets, Sunday for common sense, even if common sense took us a little bit closer to the edge than we would have wanted.
The Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars were the protagonists of a snooze of a game, which still – somehow – ended the way we all expected it to, with a Jaguars win. The highlight of the game might have been all the publicity and actual joy Manny Jacinto, who plays Jason Mendoza on The Good Place, took at seeing the team his character so loves win a playoff game.
On the flip-side, the New Orleans Saints made us suffer a bit as they let the Carolina Panthers get closer and closer in a game we really, really didn’t want Cam Newton to win. (Spoiler alert: Around here, we’re not big fans of Cam. And yes, we do know routes). But the Saints prevailed in the end, and we took one, or five deep breaths.
Let’s recap Sunday’s Wild Card match-ups:
The Jaguars Bore Us To Tears as They Beat the Bills
It was physical, it was tough, and it was the kind of game that reminded us of the defensive battles of old. What it was not, was pretty, especially not on offense. It wasn’t particularly entertaining, either.
There might have been an unplanned nap or two in my Sunday.
For the Bills, who made it to the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, to even be playing in this game in Jacksonville was a big deal, but for the Jaguars, who hadn’t won a playoff game in 10 years and hadn’t hosted one in 18, this was also a big deal and the nerves played a big factor in this game, especially at the beginning.
And, in that regard, at least, we could say home-field advantage helped.
Still, we could say that, in the first half, the Bills strategy of shutting down the run and forcing Blake Bortles to pass worked – as Bortles looked out of his depth and the game seemed in reach for the Bills (sadly, they could never quite figure out scoring themselves). Bortles, however, found his grove, at least for one very, very long drive in the third quarter that ended with a fourth-down pass for a TD.
Brilliant? Not even close. But effective, for Bortles, who did the bare minimum his team needed to win and nothing more.
Can Jacksonville’s brilliant defense hold up against a more impressive team? Can Bortles do more than he did this week against the Steelers defense? We shall see. For now, as much as this result made sense, it left me feeling not so hot about the Jaguars.
But hey, at least Jason enjoyed it!
Saints Hang On Despite a Late Panthers Push
I can sum up what happened in this game in one line: The Panthers dared Drew Brees to beat them, and he did.
Which, honestly, at this point, shouldn’t we all know Brees is capable of that? He does own five of the nine 5k+ passing yards seasons in NFL history. It’s not like Brees can’t throw.
The game was noteworthy for other things, like Carolina maybe, perhaps, failing to follow concussion protocol by not sending Cam Newton to the locker room after he seemingly stumbled jogging out of the field. The Panthers claimed he fell because of an eye injury, and he was cleared and came back to the game after missing just one play, but from where we were standing, it seemed like it might have been in the player’s best interest to get checked out in the locker room.
We’re no fans of Newton’s histrionics around here, but he’s a superb players and the team and the league must put his personal welfare over a game, playoff or not.
Of course, the game is also noteworthy because in the end, the Saints won not just because of Brees – their usual way of winning – but because of a defensive stand in the final minute. Yes, the Saints won because of their defense, and that’s why they look like they might be able to beat the Vikings next week, even on the road.
It’s hard to pick against Brees, but it’s even harder to pick against a complete team, and this year, for the first time in a long time, the Saints look like just that.
The NFL Playoffs continue next weekend, with the Falcons facing the Eagles on Saturday at 4:35 PM, followed by the Patriots hosting the Titans at 8:35 PM. On Sunday the Jaguars will face the Steelers at 1:05 PM and the Vikings will host the Saints at 4:40 PM.