Hell Is Frozen Over: Bills and Browns Win Playoff Games
The opening round of the NFL Playoffs brought the drama and a few upsets to satiate the appetites of football fans across the nation.
We were treated to four upsets across the weekend that included the fifth seeded Ravens defeating the fourth seeded Titans, the fifth seeded Buccaneers taking out the fourth seeded Washington Football Team, the sixth seeded Rams stealing one from the third seeded Seahawks, and the Cleveland Browns with the biggest upset of the slate coming away with the victory over the Steelers, despite being undermanned due to multiple players and coaches being on the COVID-19 Reserve list.
The matchups for the Divisional Round are set now, and in the AFC we will see the Ravens go to Buffalo to square off with the Bills on Saturday in primetime and the Browns head to Kansas City for a date with the defending Super Bowl champs. In the NFC we get the Rams at Green Bay on Saturday in the early game, and Brady v. Brees III on Sunday night as the Bucs and Saints play for a chance to reach the NFC Championship Game.
Now that we know who will be there, let's take a look at how they got there.
(2) Buffalo 27 - (7) Indianapolis 24
Game MVP: Josh Allen
Josh Allen has ascended to the elite tier of NFL QBsJames P. McCoy/Buffalo News
The Colts and Bills kicked off the playoffs in the first game of the weekend, and it didn't disappoint. Buffalo came away with a 27-24 win and Indianapolis had opportunities in the fourth quarter to score to tie or go ahead. The Bills defense made just enough plays to keep their team ahead as neither offense was able to keep momentum for too long throughout this one. A few costly drops by Colts receivers prevented the team from extending some promising drives and ultimately attributed towards their offense falling flat.
As for Buffalo, we saw a healthy dose of what got them there in the first place: Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. Allen and Diggs hooked up for 6 receptions and 128 yards including a decisive fourth quarter touchdown that helped the Bills to the win. Allen ended the day with 324 yards passing to go along with two passing touchdowns and also picked up 54 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. Another MVP caliber performance from a dark horse candidate to take home the award this season.
Buffalo will get Lamar Jackson and the Ravens next round and will see a much different style of offense than the Philip Rivers led Colts. Lamar, or Big Truss as some call him, is starting to play closer to the MVP-level we saw out of him last year, and that could spell disaster for the Bills Mafia on their Cinderella run. Baltimore loves to run with both Jackson and their talented rookie back J.K. Dobbins, and a key for Buffalo should be establishing their rushing attack to prevent Baltimore from being able to control the pace of the game.
If Baltimore gets their run attack going, and the Bills have a few three-and-outs early in the game, Buffalo's defense runs the risk of getting gassed out too early, which would allow Lamar to run all over them in the second half. Zack Moss and Devin Singletary only had 10 combined carries in the game against the Colts, which should increase next week against the Ravens.
(6) Los Angeles 30 - (3) Seattle 20
Game MVP: Darious Williams
Darious Williams came up with a pick-six in the Rams upset WWally Skalij/Los Angeles Times
The Rams weren't given much of a chance in this game. With John Wolford having to start the game and then exit early with an injury, it forced Jared Goff into the game despite recovering from a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Wolford left with a neck injury and was brought to the hospital but thankfully has since been released. Neither of the quarterbacks were particularly effective, but Goff managed to hit Robert Woods late in the game for a 15 yard score to put the game out of reach.
It was Cam Akers who stepped up for his ailing QBs, as he amassed 131 yards on the ground, 45 yards on two catches, and a touchdown on the day. Russell Wilson again looked very average and was only able to post 174 yards passing in this must-win game. Wilson threw for two touchdowns but also had a pass intercepted and brought back for a touchdown by Darious Williams in the second quarter. Chris Carson did his job for Seattle, averaging 4.8 yards per carry while finishing with 77 yards on the ground.
Sean McVay's Rams will draw the top seed in the NFC next round in the form of the Green Bay Packers. At least Goff will have another week to nurse his thumb, but unless he's able to throw downfield more effectively against Green Bay, the Rams could struggle to keep pace with one of the league's highest scoring offenses.
(5) Tampa Bay 31 - (4) Washington 23
Game MVP: Tom Brady
Tom Brady continues his winning ways in the playoffs with TampaBrad Mills/USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay came into this game the heavy favorites against Washington. On last week's episode of FindBet's podcast The Catch, The Catch,we discussed how we thought the Football Team would put up a better fight than one might think. Behind the play of backup QB Taylor Heinicke, Washington was never out of the game until the closing moments. Although Brady and the Bucs will head to New Orleans for a duel with the Saints, an interesting storyline will be if Heinicke has played himself into consideration to enter the 2021 regular season as the Football Team's starting quarterback.
Washington has a few young core players in Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Cam Sims on the offensive side of the ball and are really just needing a consistent presence at quarterback to solidify their attack. Already boasting one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, the Football Team could take a big jump next year if they're able to build on the foundation they have begun to lay under Ron Rivera.
As for the Buccaneers, it shouldn't be understated that they went into Washington and took care of their business. It's not as if they overlooked Washington, but let's be real, Brady had Drew Brees and the Saints in his peripheral as he was staring down Chase Young during this game. TB12 is looking very comfortable in Bruce Arians's offense at this point in the season and has been able to successfully utilize any combination of the weapons at his disposal to result in victories throughout the season.
As they figure out how to best implement and deploy the talents of Antonio Brown, the Bucs have the look and feel of a Lamborghini roaring down an open highway. The only problem with a sports car going at exceeding speeds is that a little speed bump could cause a wreck. A healthy Michael Thomas and Drew Brees to pair with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray awaits Tampa, and that's a big speed bump.
There has never been anyone better at winning playoff games than Tom Brady, and this is probably the most talented offense he's played with during his 20 year career. The Bucs got a strong performance from Leonard Fournette against Washington, as they saw him rack up 93 yards on the ground with a touchdown and added 39 yards on four catches.
Tampa will surely need a similar day from their rushing attack against New Orleans as Sean Payton will probably be sending blitzers to disrupt Tom Brady and try to slow down their passing attack. The Bucs would greatly benefit from a healthy performance from Fournette or Ronald Jones to help them come out on top next round.