Winners and Losers Wildcard Weekend
By Lee Wakefield & Peter Mann
Well, that was interesting, wasn’t it? Winners and losers had fewer games to choose from this week but there were still plenty of candidates.
There were some very efficient quarterback performances. There were a bunch of defensive touchdowns. It proved that some teams simply peaked too early in the season. Despite only six games, there was a whole load of storylines to dive into, as we did on this week’s podcast.
So without further ado, let’s dive into it!
Winners - Lee Wakefield
What a weekend. What a season. What a Head Coach, and City, and… What a quarterback! It is all coming up Lions at the moment.
Ford Field was absolutely alive for this game. Of course, the whole internet discourse was absolutely wild in the build up to this one.
In the lead-up, it was all about Matt Stafford’s so-called homecoming. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this was the first Detroit Lions home playoff game in 32 years. Ford Field would have been wild regardless, the Stafford factor only added to the spice, it didn’t solely make it.
The Lions saw off the Rams. Jared Goff and Dan Campbell laid down a marker and to be honest, they don’t feel done yet. Not this year, or for a while. The Lions have laid the foundations to be good for a long time.
And my god, these fans deserve it.
How can this team not sit at the very top of the winners’ column this week? It quite simply picked itself.
Dan Campbell caught the imagination of fans around the league almost since he stepped foot in Detroit. However, the same cannot be said for Jared Goff, but even if this season ends against the Bucs next week, Campbell’s words in his post-game speech will always ring true.
Draft a QB in the first round just as your current, aging QB appears on the decline.
This will motivate your aging, Hall of Fame quarterback to play better, whilst making them an attractive trade target.
The Old QB will train the young guy up and then you trade the old dude to the Jets before turning the keys over to the young guy.
That appears to be the fool-proof, four-stage plan to success for Packers General Managers over the past few decades.
Jordan Love has come into his own recently and on Sunday night he looked so poised and comfortable in his first ever playoffs game. Don’t let the final score fool you, this wasn’t very close either. Peter’s prediction of 30 points apiece was correct, but it was a completely different sort of game.
What makes this even more impressive is that Love not only won in style in his first ever playoff game, he did so as a seventh seed and in Jerry World, where the Cowboys hadn’t lost in forever.
The 49ers are up next and if Love wills Green Bay to another win, then we might as well pencil him in for his move to New York in 2033 right now.
This is absolutely quintessential Baker Mayfield, isn’t it?
Counted out by the Browns. Discarded by the Panthers. And a stop-gap for the Rams. But then offered a lifeline in Tampa Bay.
Get us through a year whilst we deal with the dead money from Tom Brady retiring and we’ll give you $4m for the pleasure, is probably not the exact phrasing that Jason Licht used when Mayfield signed, but it’s exactly what the situation was.
That being the case, Baker Mayfield did what he’s always done. He set out to prove people wrong.
He’s done this ever since college; he became the Heisman Trophy winner. He was the number one overall pick. He brought the playoffs back to Cleveland.
You cannot count him out. Not completely anyway, as he’s always liable to get up off the canvas and come out swinging.
Baker has won a playoff game. On the road, in Philadelphia of all places. He’s playing well and truly, because of the situation he came into last spring, is playing with house money.
I’ve always thought of Baker as a fun player, someone who will not always be the best quarterback, but someone who can give you a chance. He thrives on big moments, his character only gets larger in the bigger stages.
Will he be phased about playing the Lions next week? Absolutely not, it will be box office television.
Losers - Peter Mann
Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys continue to flounder when it comes to the post-season. That record continued over the 2023 Wild Card weekend when falling at home, against the fancied Green Bay Packers.
Even Green Bay probably didn’t expect the nature of the Cowboys’ capitulation; their offense pretty much failed to do anything in the first half until the dying seconds of it, and their defense shipped some 27 points, twenty of which arrived in the second quarter alone.
In fact, the Cowboys didn’t get going until the fourth quarter, by which time it was all but too little, the Packers moving forward on the back of a 48-32 win; the meek way in which they folded shows that America’s Team, under McCarthy and Prescott, aren’t going anywhere.
McCarthy’s post-season record overall is a disappointing 11-11, and leading that Cowboys, it’s 1-3, of which two of them arrived in embarrassing, first-round losses, and it’s stats like that will give Cowboys owner Jerry Jones something serious to think about during the off-season.
As for Prescott, his post-season record with the Cowboys is at 2-5 and, should McCarthy bite the bullet, what with Prescott – against the Packers, the interceptions in the post-season continued to pile up, meaning he’s now thrown seven in seven games.
The sudden downfall of the Miami Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa, another franchise fancied to go all the way to the big one, well they’ve been pretty much on a slide since the December wins against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys; since then they’ve lost three straight.
A New Year’s Eve trouncing off Super Bowl favourites Baltimore Ravens was followed by defeat to Buffalo Bills and, most recently against Kansas City Chiefs – three big games, three even bigger losses as they dropped their seeding, the divisional title, and then exited at Wild Card, over three, successive weeks.
Tua’s stats against Kansas are somewhat on the poor side with 1 TD, 199 yards, 20/39 completed, against Patrick Mahomes who put out 1 TD, 262 yards, 23/49 completed; the Dolphins just haven’t been at the races, and it’s showed.
Small mercies would come in that they ‘only’ conceded two TDs to the Chiefs, but the number of yards given away, 262-188 passing and 147-76 receiving, will mean that Mike McDaniel and his coaching staff will have some soul-searching to do – yes, they’ve some great players in Miami, but they need to be linked together to succeed.
Los Angeles Rams
It’s a toss-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and LA Rams for the third loser this week and, although the Eagles collapsed to a 32-9 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it has to be the Rams and Matthew Stafford (did the Real Slim Shady get in his head) for ‘letting’ Detroit Lions win their first post-season game since the early nineties.
Detroit even petered out in the second half, gave up quite a bit in yardage, and only registered a field goal midway through the third, but the Rams’ offence just couldn’t find a way through a determined Lions defence.
Yes, it’s been a surprising campaign for both franchises, but Sean McVay’s game plan just didn’t really hold water and, when the game was headed into the fourth quarter, decisions became a little questionable at best, they lost the football perhaps when it mattered most.
They can come back from this, one-point loss (24-23) to the Lions, but it’s a gut-wrenching one to take to say the least, unless you’re a Lions fan that is.
Feature Image Credit: AP News
NFL, CFB & NFL Draft
Lee Wakefield IS A defensive line enthusiast, Chargers Sufferer, and LONG-TIME writer and podcaster with a number of publications. @Wakefield90 on Twitter/X