Close-knit games continues in the NFL playoffs


Mishal Nizar

The NFL playoffs brought the heat to hungry teams looking to add the Superbowl on their bucket list.

Last weekend, the NFL started their postseason with four wildcard games. The games were played by the Bills (5) versus Texans (4), Titans (6) versus Patriots (3), Vikings (6) versus Saints (3), Seahawks (5) versus Eagles (4). All the wildcard games ended up being close, with two of the games going to overtime and ending up as one-score games.

The Bills and Texans game looked to be competitive before the game started, but the Bills controlled the Texans in the third quarter 16-0. However, the Bills’ inexperience started to show in the later second half. The Texans defied the odds and tied the game up with eight points in the third quarter and 11 points in the fourth quarter to go up 19-16. The Bills charged down the field as time was dwindling. They tied the game with a field goal at the end of regulation.

In overtime, both teams started slowly with both having to punt the ball, but on the Texans’ second drive, Deshaun Watson made an incredible play dodging defender to set up Ka’imi Fairburn up for a field goal to win the game for the Texans 22-19.

The Titans versus Patriots were the game that, on paper, seemed the least competitive. The Patriots were the previous Super Bowl champions and had a much better chance to win with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on their side. Both teams scored on their opening possessions. The Patriots kicked a field goal, and the Titans scored with Ryan Tannehill to Anthony Firkser. The score was 7-3 with the Titans up at the end of the first quarter.

The Patriots made the game closer with another field goal and Julian Edelman rushing touchdown, but Derrick Henry scored a rushing touchdown for the Titans to make the score 14-13 at the half. The game slowed down in the second half and the Patriots’ chances looked bleak as they got the ball with under a minute left in the game on their three-yard line. Tom Brady made a weak pass and the Titans defense returned it for six.

The Titans ended up winning the game from Derrick Henry’s amazing running game and Mike Vrabel’s strategic coaching, 20-13, in a huge upset. Tom Brady’s future in New England is not known as there have been rumors of him moving on from the team. This would be a lackluster last performance for Brady after a disappointing performance in the playoff game.

Sunday’s games provided two thrillers that went down to the wire. The action started with an instant classic between the 13-3 New Orleans Saints and the 10-6 Minnesota Vikings. The Saints came into the game hoping to end their two-year streak of playoff heartbreak but came up empty-handed once again.

2 years after the Minneapolis Miracle, which saw the Vikings defeat New Orleans on the last play of their playoff matchup, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found tight-end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone in overtime to seal a 26-20 win and a trip to San Francisco to play the 49ers.

Both teams only scored a field goal in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Saints running back Alvin Kamara found the end zone from the four-yard line. The play was set up by all-around player Taysom Hill, who replaced Drew Brees as the quarterback for one play, which was a 50-yard completion to rookie Deonte Harris.

After another Vikings field goal, the Saints had two more chances to increase their 10-6 lead, but Drew Brees threw an interception and kicker Will Lutz missed a 43-yard field goal before half time. Instead, it was the Vikings who took the lead behind a five-yard rush from Dalvin Cook. In the second half, Cook found the end zone again from one yard out to give the Vikings a 10 point lead.

The Saints were able to recover in the fourth quarter after a 20-yard reception by Taysom Hill, followed by a Will Lutz field goal to set up overtime. The Vikings received the opening kickoff in overtime. After a four-minute drive, Cousins found Kyle Rudolph for the game-ending touchdown and continued the Saint’s misery. With Drew Brees entering free agency this year, the New Orleans Saints hopes of winning another Super Bowl seem to be getting further and further away.

The second game on Sunday involved less scoring but just as much tension as the game from earlier in the day. The 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles had willed their way into the playoffs after battling demoralizing injuries all season. Their luck came at the right time by winning their last four games of the regular season to get in the playoffs.

The 11-5 Seattle Seahawks came into the game just as banged up, but still a favorite to knock out the Eagles. The game quickly killed hope the Eagles had of advancing to the next round. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz had his head drilled into the turf after a helmet to helmet hit delivered by Seahawks outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

The hit went unpenalized by the referees, stirring up a ton of controversy over whether Clowney should’ve been ejected from the game. Wentz was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return to the game. With this hit, the Eagles had no choice but to go to 40-year-old journeyman Josh McCown. McCown was also playing in his first playoff game, despite having played in the NFL since 2002.

The recipe for disaster did not completely demoralize the eagles, however, who were led by their rushing tandem, Boston Scott and star rookie Miles Sanders. The game went to halftime with the Seahawks leading 10-3 after a Marshawn Lynch five-yard run, his first playoff touchdown since originally retiring in 2018. The Eagles were able to snag another three points starting the second half after a Jake Elliot field goal, but Seattle quickly countered with another touchdown. A 53-yard reception by rookie sensation D.K. Metcalf put the Seahawks up 17-6.

The Eagles responded with another field goal to cut the lead to eight points. The Seahawks were forced to punt. The Eagles got a chance to force overtime, but McCown was sacked by the notorious Clowney. This put the game away for Seattle and closed out the Eagles season.

The loss raises questions about the durability of the Eagles franchise quarterback Wentz. He had his season ended by injury in all three of his past campaigns. The Seahawks will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers for a trip to the NFC Championship game against the winner of Minnesota vs San Francisco.

Predictions (Jose Collado)

  • 49ers 24-17 Vikings: Although the Vikings defense has continued to step up, they will be simply overpowered and unable to keep up with the 49ers’ historic defense.
  • Packers 31-21 Seahawks: Seattle seems to have Green Bay’s number when it comes to their regular showdown. However, this year is different. The Packers defense, led by Za’darius Smith, improved compared to years prior and will be up to the challenge of stopping MVP candidate Russell Wilson. The Seahawks will have a hard time outscoring the legendary Aaron Rodgers.
  • Chiefs 31-24 Texans: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is looking for redemption after last year’s heartbreaking AFC Championship loss to New England. The explosive Chiefs’ offense will have no problem putting up points on the Houston defense. Also, Mahomes will once again prove why he belongs up there with Rodgers, Brady, and Brees as the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • Ravens 21-17 Titans: MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson and Ryan Tannehill lead both teams into their first playoff. Despite Tannehill’s wild success from joining Tennessee, Jackson and the Ravens have been unstoppable this season. They look for continuing to batter defenses on their way to the AFC Championship game.

Predictions (Alex Bedore)

  • 49ers 31-21 Vikings: Though the 49ers are a young team, the Vikings level of talent is not up to par with that of the 49ers. The defensive line with Deforest Buckner and Nick Bosa will prove to be too much for the Vikings and Kirk Cousins. His history of performing poorly in prime-time games will continue.
  • Packers 24-21 Seahawks: This looks to be one of the closer games on paper, as both teams have similar records. Though the Packers defense is young and inexperienced, they are still good enough to stop a young Seahawks team. Aaron Rodgers, Devante Adams, and Aaron Jones will carry the load to win a close game for the Packers.
  • Texans 24-21 Chiefs: This might be an upset pick for many, but as we have seen, the Texans are good enough to come back from large deficits. The Chiefs look like a good team, but they have had struggles during the regular season against non-playoff teams. The Chiefs also have a lot of wins, but the division opponents they played against are all relatively bad. It will probably be a pretty close game, but Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will defy the odds in this game.
  • Ravens 28-10 Titans: This game does not look like it will turn out to be a successful one for the Titans. Although they upset the Patriots, they do not have a reliable quarterback or receivers to carry the offense. The Ravens’ amazing running game with Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram, as well as their great three tight ends set, will be too much for the Titans to handle.