It’s almost fitting that the first round of the NFL playoffs is now called «Super Wild Card Weekend» because things got definitely got super wild over the weekend. I mean, there was a game on Nickelodeon.
I was expecting things to get crazy when the playoffs started with the Bills picking up their first playoff win in 25 years, but I wasn’t expecting full crazy. The first round of the playoffs never goes full crazy, but that’s what we got.
Here’s a quick rehash of what happened:
- The Browns won their first playoff game since 1994 by embarrassing the Steelers.
- The Seahawks lost to a team that had zero healthy quarterbacks.
- Tom Brady almost got out-dueled by Washington’s fourth-string quarterback.
- The Ravens somehow held Derrick Henry to just 40 rushing yards.
- Sean Payton got slimed.
And that’s just a small taste of everything that went down during the NFL‘s first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend.
We’ll be covering all things playoffs in today’s newsletter, which isn’t good news for Mike Vrabel or Mike Tomlin, who made two of the most bizarre coaching decisions of the weekend. By the way, if you’re still trying to think of a New Year’s resolution, I have an idea: You can share this newsletter with everyone you know. Just click here to grab the link and then send that link to everyone on your email list or just sign them up without telling them, and if you do that, then we’ll all have a fun 2021.
1. Today’s Show: Wild-card winners and losers plus full recap
It’s Monday, which can only mean one thing: I stayed up until 3 a.m. last night recording a podcast with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson and this one was extra special, because not only did we podcast, but we also went live on YouTube, Periscope and Twitch during the fourth quarter of the Browns-Steelers game so everyone could witness Wilson’s meltdown in real time (Wilson is a noted Steelers fan).
One thing we do every week is hand out our weekly winners and losers from Sunday’s action. For our losers this week, Wilson got introspective and crushed his own team, Brinson went full Dennis Green on the Bears and I gave it to a coach who apparently doesn’t know when to not punt.
- Winner: Lamar Jackson. By starting his playoff career 0-2, Jackson was getting dangerously close to Andy Dalton territory, but he was able to get the postseason monkey off his back with a win over the Titans. After the game, he apparently decided he didn’t want to shake hands with any Titans players, which I respect. Jackson was apparently still upset about the Titans walking all over the Ravens’ logo during the pregame when the two teams played back in Week 11.
- Loser: Steelers. As the resident Steelers homer here at CBSSports.com, Wilson was in agony for four straight quarters watching his beloved team get pummeled. I’m somewhat surprised he didn’t also name himself a loser for cheering on a team that closed the season by losing five of six games.
- Winner: Sean Payton. In the first ever Nickelodeon game, not only did the Saints get the win, but Sean Payton lived up to his word and got slimed after game. If you want to know what it looks like for an NFL coach to get slimed, be sure to click here.
- Loser: Bears. All season, Brinson insisted that the Bears aren’t a good team and as it turns out, the Bears are exactly who Brinson thought they were. THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE. They backdoored their way into the playoffs, but then the Saints quickly knocked them out of the playoffs by throwing them out of the same backdoor they came in.
- Winner: Browns fans. Waiting 18 years between playoff berths doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but I’m guessing most Browns fans thought it was TOTALLY WORTH THE WAIT after what happened on Sunday. Not only did the Browns destroy the Steelers, but they may have forced Ben Roethlisberger into retirement, which is something Browns fans have been hoping would happen for at least the past 10 years.
- Loser: Mike Vrabel. The first thing they teach you in coaching school is to NOT punt when you have a fourth-and-2 from the opponents’ 40-yard line in the fourth quarter of a game where you’re trailing. I’m guessing Vrabel skipped that lesson. Last year, this man said he would cut off his reproductive organ if the Titans won the Super Bowl. This year, he’s calling for a punt in a situation where no one ever punts. He’s clearly gone soft.
Not only did we list our winners and losers, but we also recapped every game from Sunday. If you want to listen — and you definitely should — you can click here. There’s also a separate podcast in the feed covering Saturday night’s games.
2. Killer B’s: Two lengthy playoff droughts come to an end
Before the weekend started, the Browns and Bills had two of the four longest active droughts in the NFL without a playoff win, but that all change during the wild-card round after both teams won.
- Bills 27-24 over Colts. Heading into the wild-card round the Bills were in a 25-year playoff drought that dated back to December 31, 1995 when they beat the Dolphins 37-22 in a home wild-card game. Following that loss, the Bills would lose their next six playoff games before finally bringing the drought to an end against the Colts. With the Bills now in the divisional round, they’ll be looking to end another drought: If they beat the Ravens, they’ll be headed to the AFC title game for the first time since the 1993 season.
- Browns 48-37 over Steelers. With just one win, the Browns basically just exorcised nearly every demon they’ve ever had. Not only did the Browns pick up their first playoff win since the 1994 season — when Bill Belichick was their coach and Nick Saban was their defensive coordinator — but they also won their first game in Pittsburgh since 2003 (They had been 0-17 there since 2004). Like the Bills, the Browns will now head to the divisional round looking to end another drought: If they somehow manage to beat the Chiefs, they’ll be headed to the AFC title game for the first time since the 1989 season. In an odd coincidence, that was also the last time the Bills and Browns were in the playoffs together.
The wins by both Buffalo and Cleveland mean that there are now only two teams left in the NFL that haven’t won a playoff game this century: The Bengals and Lions. Cincinnati’s last playoff win came during the 1990 season while Detroit’s came one year later in 1991. Every other team in the NFL has won at least one playoff game since 2000.
3. Mike and Mike: Two worst coaching decisions of the weekend
Fans of the Steelers and Titans actually had a lot in common this weekend. Besides the fact that both of their teams lost, I’m guessing both fan bases spent 30 straight minutes yelling four words at their television, «WHY ARE YOU PUNTING?»
Two of the most perplexing decisions of the wild-card round came from Mike Tomlin and Mike Vrabel and they both involved punts. Here’s a quick look at the two decisions.
Ravens 20-13 over Titans
Situation: Titans facing a fourth-and-2 at Baltimore’s 40-yard line with 10:03 left to play
Score at the time: Ravens lead 17-13
During the offseason, the Titans gave a combined $166 million in contract money to Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, which would make you think that they’d trust their stars to convert a fourth down in the clutch, but no, Vrabel decided to punt FROM BALTIMORE’S 40, which made no sense, because the Titans defense was struggling in the second half after a dominant first half. To put into perspective bad this decision was, just consider this: Over the past four years, there had been 75 situations where a team was trailing in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-2 or less between their opponent’s 35 and 50. In those 75 instances, the trailing team went for it EVERY SINGLE TIME. Vrabel became the first to actually punt it. Although Henry got bottled up on Sunday, he still averaged 2.2 yards per attempt. Tannehill averaged 6.3 yards per pass attempt. If the Titans had gone for it and converted, that would have put them in a position to win. Instead, Vrabel waved the white flag.
Browns 48-37 over Steelers
Situation: Steelers facing a fourth-and-1 from their own 40-yard line with 15:00 left to play
Score at the time: Browns lead 35-23
After Vrabel punted in the first game, I thought for sure that would be the worst punting decision of the weekend, but then Tomlin came in and one-upped him. First of all, Tomlin should have sent his punt team home after the Browns jumped out to a 28-0 lead. Tomlin basically surrendered the game when he decided to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter. The decision made no sense because the Steelers had been on a roll in the second half. After scoring a touchdown on their first two possessions to cut the lead to 35-23, the Steelers had a chance to trim the lead even more by converting on fourth-and-1, but Tomlin didn’t trust his offense. The decision ended up blowing up in his face because the Browns put the game away when they scored a touchdown on their ensuing possession following Pittsburgh’s punt.
4. Crazy facts from Super Wild Card Weekend
When there are six games being played over the course of a weekend, it’s hard to keep track of them all, but someone has to do it, so I did. There were plenty of records set over the weekend, so let’s take a look at some of the craziest nuggets from the wild-card round:
- The Browns’ defensive TD on the first play from scrimmage marked just the second time a defense has ever scored on the first play from scrimmage in a postseason game (The only other team to do it was the 1965 Colts).
- The Browns scored 28 points in the first quarter, which is the most any team has scored in the first quarter of a playoff game since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.
- Ben Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards, which is the second-highest total in NFL postseason history (Tom Brady threw for 505 in Super Bowl LII). Big Ben also completed the most passes in a game in NFL history (47).
- John Harbaugh won his ninth road playoff game, which is the most postseason road wins by any coach in NFL history.
- Lamar Jackson’s 48-yard TD run was the second-longest TD run by a quarterback in postseason history. Jackson also had the second-most rush yards by a QB in a playoff game with 136 (Colin Kaepernick holds both records).
- The Rams led at halftime and then won the game, which means Sean McVay is now 37-0 in his coaching career when leading at the half.
- Rams running back Cam Akers finished with 176 yards from scrimmage, which is the second-highest total a rookie has ever had in the Super Bowl era, trailing only Timmy Smith, who had 213 in Super Bowl XXII.
- Tom Brady (43 years, 159 days) became the oldest person in NFL history to throw a playoff touchdown, passing George Blanda, who was 43 years, 108 days old when he threw a TD pass in the 1970 AFC title game.
- Josh Allen became the fifth player in NFL history with a pass TD, rush TD and receiving TD in his postseason career (Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman and Nick Foles are the others). Allen picked up the receiving TD last year and then added the passing and rushing touchdowns on Saturday.
- The Bills’ win over the Colts was the first playoff game in NFL history to feature two 300-yard passers and no turnovers by either team.
- The Colts became the first team in playoff history to lose after totaling more than 450 yards of offense with zero turnovers.
Hopefully you can use these 10 facts to impress your friends this week.
5. Early odds for the divisional round
Coming tomorrow, I’ll be ranking the divisional round games from most watchable to least watchable, which is going to be difficult, because they all seem very watchable. For today, the only divisional round information I’m going to pass along are the early odds. If you’re thinking about betting on these games, sometimes it’s smart to do it early, because the point spread will sometimes make a major jump (I’m looking at you Browns-Chiefs)
Saturday, January 16
(6) Rams at (1) Packers, 4:35 p.m. ET (Fox)
Opening line: Packers -7
Current line: NO CHANGE
This game will likely come down to how well Aaron can avoid Aaron. If the Packers can’t slow down Aaron Donald, it could be a long day for Aaron Rodgers. Of course, even if the Rams defense plays well, one problem for L.A. is that no one seems to know who their QB is going to be on Saturday.
(5) Ravens at (2) Bills, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
Opening line: Bills -2.5
Current line: NO CHANGE
There’s a 30% chance of snow on Saturday night in Buffalo, which could make things interesting, because if there’s enough snow to hamper Lamar Jackson’s ability to run, that would definitely be a good thing for the Bills.
Sunday, January 17
(6) Browns at (1) Chiefs, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
Opening line: Chiefs -9.5
Current line: Chiefs -10
This line has already moved once and it might move some more and that’s mostly due to the fact that Andy Reid is nearly unbeatable off the bye. Also, Patrick Mahomes‘ mouth is probably watering at the thought of facing Cleveland’s secondary.
(5) Buccaneers at (2) Saints, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Opening line: Saints -3.5
Current line: Saints -3
The Saints swept the Buccaneers 2-0 during the regular season and this game will mark the 22nd time that two teams are facing each other in the playoffs after one team swept the other during the regular season. In the previous 21 instances, the team that went 2-0 during the regular season went 14-7 in the third meeting.
6. NFL Draft order partially set: Top 22 picks are locked in
The Jets didn’t make the playoffs this year, but they still managed to be one of the biggest winners of the wild-card round and that’s because the Seahawks lost. If you’re wondering why that matters, it’s because the Jets have Seattle’s 2021 first-round pick thanks to the Jamal Adams trade. If the Seahawks had won over the weekend, the Jets’ pick would have been in the high-20s, but the Rams decided to do the Jets a favor and beat Seattle, which means the Jets will be getting the 23rd overall pick.
With that in mind, here is the official order for the top 24 spots in the draft:
1. Jaguars (1-15)
2. Jets (2-14)
3. Dolphins (4-12) (via HOU)
4. Falcons (4-12)
5. Bengals (4-11-1)
6. Eagles (4-11-1)
7. Lions (5-11)
8. Panthers (5-11)
9. Broncos (5-11)
10. Cowboys (6-10)
11. Giants (6-10)
12. 49ers (6-10)
13. Chargers (7-9)
14. Vikings (7-9)
15. Patriots (7-9)
16. Cardinals (8-8)
17. Raiders (8-8)
18. Dolphins (10-6)
19. Washington (7-9)
20. Bears (8-8)
21. Colts (11-5)
22. Titans (11-5)
23. Jets (via Seahawks)
24. Steelers (11-5)
There will be four more spots decided after the divisional round and those four spots will go to the teams that lose this weekend.
7. The Kicker!
It’s not often a rookie comes through in the clutch in the playoffs, but that’s exactly what Tyler Bass did for Buffalo. In their three-point win over the Colts, Bass nailed two field goals, including a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter that set the NFL postseason record for longest field goal by a rookie. The kick put the Bills up 27-16 and ended up providing the game-winning points.
On the other hand, Rodrigo Blankenship found out the hard way that kicking in the postseason can be rough for a rookie. Blankenship hit the upright on a 33-yard field goal in what was easily the most excruciating miss of the weekend. However, that doesn’t put a damper on Blankenship’s overall year, especially when you consider that he had one of the best rookie seasons of any kicker in NFL history.
Alright, this newsletter has gone on long enough, I need to end it so I can get back to watching Nickelodeon. I haven’t turned that channel off since the Bears-Saints game ended.