NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend

NFL Wildcard Playoff Weekend: Good, bad & ugly

Getty Images

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!

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

After the Astros' offseason of shame and blame and firings and hirings, finally some actual baseball games! Okay, games with meaningless outcomes, but one way to move past almost Astros related conversation revolving around their cheating ways. Things could have been wild this weekend had the Washington Nationals not stormed Minute Maid Park to win the World Series four months ago. The Astros and Nats open the spring training game schedule Saturday and Sunday with a pair at the complex the two share in West Palm Beach.

Counting a couple of days with split squad games, the Astros play 31 practice games in Florida. With the more relaxed atmosphere of fun in the sun and the games not counting, you'd think opposing team fan heckling of the Astros shouldn't be too bad. The Astros' Grapefruit League schedule does not include the Yankees or Dodgers. The Yankees are on the other side of Florida, the Dodgers are in Arizona.

On the field the Astros have fewer concerns than most teams. Behind Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke the starting rotation is all question marks, but the candidate pool is deep enough to yield at least halfway decent answers. At least given all the run support that is likely.

The everyday lineup is essentially set, and still loaded. The only notable spring storyline is whether long heralded prospect Kyle Tucker wins the primary right field job. Tucker turned 23 years old last month. An overwhelmingly high percentage of great hitters in Major League history are established in the bigs no older than 23. Tucker isn't handed the job, because the Astros could not dump the final year and 13 million dollars of Josh Reddick's contract. They would literally have given him away had there been a taker. No taker. Reddick turned 33 on Wednesday. He was a bad player last season, so unless he has a salary drive bounce back of a season, Tucker is a huge disappointment if the primary right field job doesn't wind up his.

Don't be an Astropologist. The Astros blatantly, brazenly, and arrogantly cheated. It impacted games. How often and how substantially, open to debate. But it impacted games. If it had no impact on games, then the Astros and those complicit were the biggest band of morons in baseball history for going on with the scheme as long as they did. Besides, ineffectual cheating is still cheating.

All those whining about NY and LA and national media piling on. Stop. That just makes the whiners, and Houston, look provincially small. As if had the Yankees and/or Dodgers been nailed for cheating at the Astros' expense the same people now saying "Leave the Astros alone!" or "A bunch of other teams were doing it too!" wouldn't be screaming holy hell that "The Astros were robbed!" "Hang the Yankees in the town square!"

If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. The Astros did the crime. It's still their time to deal with the fallout. They and Astros fans, don't enforceably get to say, make it stop! If you're thinking, ok, ok, you're right but enough already! Understood. The furor will subside. But if your kid screws up he or she doesn't get to decide when he or she is no longer grounded.

It's still a fresh story. There have been no games to talk about yet, no player performances to criticize, no manager's decisions to second guess. That time is coming. As will be a bunch of wins for the 2020 Astros.

Huge game for the Rockets Saturday night at Utah. The Rockets running fifth in the Western Conference, behind the fourth place Jazz by two in the loss column. The season series rides on Saturday's outcome. It would be a massive win for the Rockets. With a loss, it's not a stretch to say they'd be unlikely to have home court advantage for even the first round of the playoffs.

Rockets add DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green

Again this season the Rockets shopped the buyout bargain bin to fill out their roster for the stretch run. Last season they added Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, two guys who gave them next to nothing in the playoffs. This year's contestants are 33 year old DeMarre Carroll and 33 year old Jeff Green. Carroll had fallen out of the rotation of a bad Spurs team, the Jazz released Green before Christmas. The Lakers and Clippers are not quivering.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the USA "Miracle on Ice" win over the USSR at the Lake Placid Olympics. No sporting event can ever plausibly spark American patriotic fervor the way that game and subsequent winning of the gold medal did. 2. $80 plus taxes and "fees" to watch Fury-Wilder II Saturday night? No thanks. Could be a heckuva fight though. 3. Most memorable fights I watched live: Bronze-Tyson/Holyfield II, the ear bite fight. Silver-Alexis Arguello/Aaron Pryor 1982 Gold-Marvelous Marvin Hagler/Tommy Hearns 1985. If never seen, absolutely watch on YouTube. Eight plus minutes of Oh My Goodness!

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome