NFL Wild Card Review: Games, Conclusions and Reflections
Could the defending champions repeat? Just how fierce are the Bengals? Are the Bills really contenders and what about those 49ers? We answer these and more!
With the first round of the 2022 NFL playoffs in the bag, one could be forgiven for being a bit dazed. It was definitely a weekend for the ages. Here we take a look at all that we learned during the Wild Card games of the 2022 NFL postseason.
Are the Rams 'Bucs Killers' and what's wrong with the Cardinals?
While it would be premature to say the Rams will upset the defending champions in the next round, the fact is if LA plays the way they did against Arizona, they will cause a whole host of problems for Tampa Bay. Sean McVay's game plan worked to a perfection with Matthew Stafford seemingly at ease in what was undoubtedly the biggest game of his career. Then there was Cam Akers and of course Odell Beckham Jr. who essentially lit up the night - including an incredible trick play. As for the defense, the Cardinals will surely have sore memories.
Where Arizona is concerned, there will probably be a number of questions about head coach Kliff Kingsbury. On the night Kingsbury didn't seem to be a man in control of his team. Its true that Kyler Murray didn't have his best game, but there were a number of suspect calls along with varying altercations amongst the team. Not a good look.
Do the Cowboys need change and what's up with the 49ers QB?
Before a ball was thrown, caught or kicked, there were questions surrounding Mike McCarthy's future with Dallas. With their loss to San Francisco the man who has overseen an 18-15 record in two years, now faces even more scrutiny. Considering that the Cowboys came into their Wild Card game having clinched the NFC East title with a 12-5 record, it's incredible to believe the manner in which they loss to San Francisco. That being said, McCarthy was backed by the franchise on Monday following comments made by executive Stephen Jones.
Watching the game against Dallas it would have been hard not to ask which team wanted to lose more. With both teams committing a host of errors it became more about which offense would finally get it right first than anything else. With that said Jimmy Garoppolo's role deserves some review. Granted Garoppolo performed credibly and undoubtedly contributed to his teams' surprise win, however, the myriad of errors which he committed in the latter stages of the game, will have some scratching their heads. As it stands the quarterback is also dealing with an injury which brings backup Trey Lance into focus. This could be a tough one for the 49ers coaching staff to fix.
The Chiefs could be a problem, while the Steelers have one
After there performance against Pittsburgh, it would seem that early season critique was wide of the mark. Sure it wasn't just tongue in cheek when Ben Roethlisberger his team were no match for Kansas City, but it was still something to watch Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce operate at a level that would suggest they know where they are going. Based on present form and their roster's healthy, expect this team to be one of the last standing when the dust settles.
Poor Pittsburgh. That's the way one could be inclined to feel when looking at what now faces the Steelers. With their quarterback's coming departure, it will be the first time in almost 20 years that the Pittsburgh will be confronted with the issue of what to do about the QB position. Sadly that's not the only area in which they need cover. Quite frankly the Steelers are in dire need of an overhaul in both the offense and defense. How they will do they remains to be seen.
The Bengals pack a bite while the Raiders need help
Underdogs? Surprise package? Those could be words used to describe the Bengals after their narrow win over the Raiders, but they wouldn't quite hit the mark. The Bengals are downright vicious and seemingly enjoying the fact. The scoreline against Las Vegas doesn't quite capture the danger that Cincinnati poses. While they may not necessarily go all the way, the way in which the likes of Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase seemed to be telepathically playing should be a cause for concern.
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Raiders Interim coach Rich Bisaccia would be right to feel hard done. Having had to face a number of off field and more over controversial situations, it would have been easy to right off the Raiders even before the playoffs. After a great win against the Chargers in Week 18, however, here they were in the biggest moment of their season. Unfortunately, they weren't able to replicate on the night. Indeed QB Derek Carr and Co. could only muster 19 points against a sometimes suspect Bengals defense. Expect sweeping changes when new management arrives.
The Bucs could repeat, and the Eagles might need a QB
Even though there were a few key players missing, it looked like the Bucs barely broke a sweat against Philadelphia. Tom Brady has become a name synonymous with victory, but the way in which he displayed his speed of thought against the the Eagles was truly something to behold. Indeed Brady looks as ready as ever such that it would a brave man who bets against them winning another Super Bowl if they keep this kind of level up.
While the majority of the focus will be on QB Jalen Hurts' sub par playoff debut, it must be said that Hurts was not the only culprit against the marauding Buccaneers. While the Eagles definitely should consider options in at QB the reality is they would probably do well to consider building around their talented play maker. True, Hurts has got to work on his passing game as it was exposed against the Bucs' unforgiving defense, however, he's already showed he can run so should he be able to improve, could the Eagles have something in the making?
The Bills vs Patriots rivalry went differently this time
If you've been paying attention then you will know that Buffalo are now AFC favorites - yes, as well as the Chiefs. Having just won their second consecutive AFC East title, the Bills came up against their bitter rivals the New England Patriots in their own stadium. It was the second time that the two were meeting this season but with understandably higher stakes. Josh Allen and his boys just about crushed the Patriots leaving now doubt that they are in fact serious contenders.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick definitely has his work cut out for him in New England before the next season. The 70 year old coach will not be pleased with what he witnessed when Buffalo took apart his team. If there was one thing that was clear to see, it was that the Patriots still have a ways to go before they will be challenging for championship. The Bills' staunch defense was simply too much for rookie Mac Jones who found himself overwhelmed at times. Looking forward the New England will have no choice but to strengthen in a number areas.