Wildcard Weekend lived up to it's name

The good, bad and ugly from NFL Wildcard Weekend

Kiel Leggere, Philadelphia Eagles website

Wildcard weekend in the NFL always brings something extra. Whether it's both wildcard teams advancing in the AFC, or unexpected play, decisions, or injuries. Here's how I saw it play out:

The Good

-Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is going to get PAID! Foles has taken the backup role the past two seasons to new heights. Last year, he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win after Carson Wentz got hurt. This season, he's taken over and done a great job again. He's managed to get them to a Divisional Round matchup against the Saints next weekend after they were left for dead. His performance against that Bears defense makes you believe he may be able to pull off the same magic he did last year.

-In the Sunday games, Chargers/Ravens and Eagles/Bears, there were no touchdowns scored in the first half. While some of you may consider this a bad thing, I happen to think the opposite. All four teams have good defenses. Sure there may have been missed opportunities by the offenses, but those good defenses contributed to that.

-The Cowboys had a 100-yard rusher (Ezekial Elliot) and receiver (Amari Cooper) in a playoff win for the first time since 1995 (Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin). 1995 was also the last year they won a Super Bowl. Is this a sign of things to come?

The Bad

-Eagles Corner Crevon LeBlanc stripped Bears receiver Anthony Miller of the ball. It was ruled an incompletion. Upon review, it was ruled a catch and fumble. However, because NOBODY recovered the ball, it was called incomplete and the Bears got the ball back at the previous spot, which led to a field goal before halftime.

-Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson had a bad game. He went 14/29 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was also harassed constantly by the Chargers pass rush to the tune of seven sacks that lost 55 yards. A bad game for sure, but I fully expect to him do big things in the future.

-Eagles rookie corner Avonte Maddox was taken advantage of three times on huge plays, two of them on the Bears touchdown drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter. He bit badly on double moves like any young and overly-aggressive corner usually does. Luckily, it didn't cost them the game.

The Ugly

-Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the first quarter. He had to be carted off the field and immediately went in for surgery to correct the injury. He could be seen gripping the hand of head coach Jason Garrett in the moments before being carted off. Shame bell for those of you posting videos of the injury.

-Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski may have played his final football game after badly pulling his hamstring on a 57-yard field goal attempt just before halftime. The Seahawks didn't attempt a kick in the second half and failed miserably on an onside kick in the fourth quarter. It's sad considering this was the fifth playoff appearance in his 19-year career.

-Bears kicker Cody Parkey hit the uprights four times earlier this year in a single game. Kicking the potential game-winner against the Eagles, he hit the upright, then the crossbar, and the ball bounced outside the crossbar for a miss. What an awful way to lose a playoff game!

Wow! What a Wildcard Weekend! There were so many good performances and some bad ones too. Only one home team/favorite (Cowboys) won their games this weekend. The AFC had the five and six seeds win their games. Herm Edwards said it best. If you're a football fan and you didn't like this weekend's games, might want to check your pulse.

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The Rockets have won 6-straight games. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rockets have done some pretty amazing things over the last couple weeks. While most teams and fan bases may not put much credence into a six-game win streak, things hit a little different in Houston these days. With the team looking so woefully inept last season, things got off to a rocky start this year. They were 1-16 and were on a 15-game slide prior to finding a winning formula. While some may make an argument for the who’s and why’s of the recent bout of success, I have my own opinions.

First up is Garrison Mathews. He's a 25-year-old shooting guard who's played in 92 games thus far in his career over three seasons but is still considered a rookie. He's the closest thing this team has to a 50/40/90 (percentages of field goals/threes/free throws) player as anything on this roster (48.8/42/80). He has the fifth-highest Player Efficiency Rating (14.33) on the team in only 10 games played. He's the kind of smart and efficient player that can stick around and contribute to a future playoff team here, while also helping the core guys grow.

Guard Armoni Brooks is another underrated Rocket during this recent uptick in play. He has a +19 plus/minus rating over the last few games, shooting 35% from three in the six-game win streak. Brooks is considered a rookie despite playing in 20 games last year and starting five of them. While the only stat that's gone up for Brooks has been his free throw percentage, he's managed to carve himself some playing time this season. He may earn himself more playing time if he continues to be a positive when on the court.

Jae'Sean Tate gives off P.J. Tucker vibes. Kevin Porter Jr and Jalen Green are copies of each other to me. Christian Wood should be traded to make more room for Alperen Sengun to play bigger minutes, so he develops. Sengun is a guy I believe can be a solid Robin to Green's Batman. KPJ is interesting because he and Green can either work or be a disaster. It really depends on his development as a point guard. The veteran players brought in should all have a singular focus: helping the younger guys develop, while helping create a winning culture in the organization. Sure, those guys want to come in and win, but they're also professionals and understand what's asked of them. Anything outside of that should be eliminated.

Ultimate success for the Rockets will come down to 3 key factors

Green is seen as the unquestioned future of this franchise, but guys like Sengun, Tate, Brooks, and Mathews seem like good fits to keep around Green. They should turn into complimentary pieces. Keeping young players around Green, and potentially KPJ, will help them grow together. We've seen what happens when a young team is put together and grows together. I'm not saying they'll become a Warriors, Patriots, or any other recent dynasty, but the possibilities are there. This roster can turn into something special if given the right time, opportunities, and environment to grow in.

I often wonder what would've happened to those early '00s Clippers teams if they had been cultivated properly? Could they have given the Lakers, Blazers, and Kings more of a threat? This Rockets team reminds me of them, with this collection of talented young guys. I hope they can realize their potential as a group. Imagine what this fan base would do if the Rockets actually turned into a group of homegrown winners like the Astros did?

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