NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend

NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend: Good, bad & ugly

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Wow! What a weekend of football! This was perhaps the best Wildcard round I've seen in quite some time. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Derrick Henry is a cyborg. The Titans' running back is listed at 6'3 and 247lbs. How a man that size moves the way he does is unreal. He pounded the Patriots defense into submission to the tune of 182 yards on 34 carries. But my favorite play of his was the screen pass he took 22 yards to set up his only rushing touchdown of the game. Catching the ball was a knock on him and he showed he could do so on that play.

-In that Titans/Patriots matchup, Mike Vrabel got the best of Bill Belchick and used a Belichick-esque knowledge of a loophole to aid him in bewating his former mentor and coach. The rule allows teams to take penalties and run clock outside of five minutes left in a game. On 4th&5, they took the clock from 5:52 and didn't actually punt until 4:51. A delay of game and a false start helped them run the time off. Brilliant strategic move!

-Russell Wilson is elite. He hasn't had a good offensive line, no a true number one receiver, and only had a number one running back when Marshawn Lynch was there his first go round. Yet he's managed to get his team to double digit wins in all but one of his eight seasons, the only time they missed the playoffs at 9-7. He led the Seahawks to a 17-9 win over the Eagles and look to be a problem for the NFC. Don't look now, butrookie DK Metcalf is emerging as his number one target after that 160 yard performance.

The Bad

-Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady went 20/37 for 209 yards and threw an interception. The Titans made him look very average. Granted, he doesn't have the same type of weapons he used to have in the past, but there are other quarterbacks who don't have weapons and manage to do more. Speaking of the Patriots...

-What happened to that vaunted defense? The Titans manhandled them. They ran 40 times and only attempted 16 passes. Sure the final score isn't indicative of a dominant win, but having that big of a run to pass differential shows that one team knew what they were good at and stuck to it.

-With the Eagles down 17-9 in the 4th quarter, Doug Pederson decided to go for it. He dialed up the right play, backup quarterback Josh McCown threw a good ball, but Miles Sanders dropped it. They were in field goal range, but knew they needed a touchdown and two point conversion.

The Ugly

-Carson Wentz left the Eagles after their second possession of the game. It appears as if he suffered a concussion. He was scrambling and threw a pass to Boston Scott when Jadeveon Clowney hit him. As Clowney landed on him, it seemed to have mashed Wentz's head into the ground.

-Saints coach Sean Payton decided to go for the 10 second runoff at the end of the regulation instead of using their last timeout. It brought the clock down to 11 seconds instead of 21 seconds. This didn't cost them the game, but it would've been nice to have more time to possibly take shots at the end zone from the Vikings' 31 yard line with extra time.

-Josh Allen should look in the mirror when he looks for reasons why the Bills lost to the Texans. He made several boneheaded plays that cost his team a chance to advance. Perhaps the most puzzling was his alley oop lateral to his fullback that they miraculously managed to not lose the ball on. I've never seen a play that dumb in quite some time.

This was the first time the NFL had not one, but two overtime games in Wildcard round. Every game was decided by one score, every game was competitive, and every game had us on the edge of our seats. The top four teams in rushing yards per game all made the playoffs (Ravens, 49ers, Titans, and Seahawks). Two had byes, the other two advanced in road wins. If this doesn't emphasize why the run game is still very important to today's game, I don't know what will. The ages of the remaining quarterbacks in descending order: 36, 31, 31, 31, 28, 24, 24, and 22. Goes to show you that age doesn't matter, it's all about how you play the game. Also shows that the younger guys are stepping up and ready to take the throne from the older guys. These next couple weeks should be fun to watch!

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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