Super Wildcard Weekend Recap - The Browns make their statement

Well, that wassssssss an electric finish to the weekend. Okay there were a couple of dud games (Chicago are so so so so so bad and it’s embarrassing they even made the playoffs), but there was more than enough drama to paper over those cracks. SUPER wildcard weekend lived up to the hype, and delivered two of the longest winless streaks in playoff history being broken. Let’s get into it.

Baker's Magic Night Derails The Steelers

Super Wildcard Weekend Recap, Divisional Round Power Rankings
Credit: Adam Hunger (Associated Press)

Well, I for one woke up feeling dangerous this morning. It’s rare that you call a shot correctly in anything in this world of sports, but with the Browns I’m proud to say that I did. Team of Destiny?! Baker’s boys overcame every adversity possible and ended the most miserable of streaks in Pittsburgh. Not only was this Cleveland’s first playoff game since 2002, but it became their first playoff win since 1995, AND was the first time Big Ben has EVER lost at home to Cleveland. The Browns hadn’t beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh since 2003, but you wouldn’t have known it with how Cleveland blitzed the shell-shocked Steelers to the tune of 28-0 in the 1st quarter. The Browns became the first squad to score 28pts in the 1st quarter of a playoff game SINCE THE 60s… and the game was eerily reminiscent of SuperBowl 48, where the Seahawks scored a safety on the opening play of the game and annihilated Peyton Manning’s Broncos 43-8. The Browns kept their foot on the pedal and rode that early momentum all the way to the victory. 

Now for the men responsible for the win… Obviously Chubb and Hunt led from the front, Jarvis Landry caught everything and put his body on the line as per usual, and the Browns oft-maligned defense created numerous turnovers and gave great field position to their QB. Speaking of which… I absolutely love Baker Mayfield. I know he’s polarising, but that’s part of the charm. Us against the world. He’s perfect for Cleveland. I don’t need my superstars to be squeaky clean. I want a bit of trouble, a bit of character, a bit of “I’m gonna take it personally if you refuse to shake my hand.” Baker’s collegiate escapades are a long time ago now, but I for one would have been going mad if he’d grabbed a Browns flag and planted it on the logo at Heinz Field last night, ala at Ohio State all those years ago. After that performance, nobody could have blamed him. But – give Baker credit – his maturity shone through last night. The post game interview, where he cited 4th stringer Blake Hance (“a guy called Blake who LITERALLY I introduced myself to in the locker room before the game…”) for stepping up and being part of the Browns win exhibited his exemplary leadership of this team for all to see.. It’s truly an incredible story to fight through the COVID protocols and still come out with a win. We could talk about the Steelers (Where does Tomlin go from here? Is this the end for Big Ben? Why do they have such an abject run game? Are they perhaps the… worst team in the division if Burrow comes back healthy and gets a couple nice pieces in the draft?!), but that feels wrong today. This is about the Browns.

I COULD NOT be happier for the people of Cleveland. Social media was ablaze with celebrations from around the world as 18 years of hurt (“It’s Coming Home” vibes…) were eradicated with one of the most dominant playoff wins in recent memory. Sure, it got a bit hairy in the 3rd quarter, but that’s to be expected – The Steelers are a good team. It just so happens that last night the Browns were a great team. Maybe – just maybe – they can jump in their “corvette corvette,” and ride all the way through Kansas City, and to the Super Bowl… In this season of all seasons… I’m not ruling it out.

Lamar Gets His Playoff Win, Ravens get Revenge

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel (USA Today Sports)

Something something dish served cold something something revenge game something something stay off our logo something something Lamar Jackson proving the doubters wrong something something. This was everything the Ravens wanted to be talking about post game, and their wish came true. The Derrick Henry stat line (40 yards on 22 carries) will dominate the headlines – and deservedly so – but don’t let that detract from the rollercoaster afternoon Lamar Jackson endured and came out victorious. This game encapsulated much of Jackson’s essence: likely to make a passing error at some point in the game, but equally likely to electrify the opposing defense to the tune of a 48yd TD run. With the admittedly egregious interception in the 1st quarter, Jackson started slowly but grew into the game and continued his blossoming late-season partnership with Hollywood Brown, who led the Ravens in targets (9), catches (7), and receiving yards (109). Mark Andrews and JK Dobbins had unusually quiet nights, but the latter will still get credit for the eventual game winning touchdown. The Ravens showed off how many ways they have to win games. Overcoming a missed Justin Tucker field goal – which stills feels like a “once in a blue moon” scenario – and readjusting to pick Ryan Tannehill off and seal the win shows the resilience of Baltimore. Sadly for the Titans, AJ Brown was wide open for a touchdown on the INT play, and Tannehill never looked his way. It’s a tough way for their season to end.

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Vrabel and the Titans this year, and I think they’ve still got some great pieces moving forward, but they really need some help on the defensive side of the ball. You could argue yesterday was as good as the Titans D has played in MONTHS, and yet it wasn’t quite enough to slow down the Ravens relentless rushing attack when needed. I’m over the moon for the success that Tannehill has had, and Henry’s season – until yesterday – was truly historic. IF Deshaun Watson, as is rumoured, vacates the Houston Texans, then surely the Titans have to smell blood and attempt to really make this division their own. The Colts are clearly no mugs, but even if they do draft Trevor Lawrence the Jaguars will take a couple of years to fully build the team they want. Tennessee can build their own dynasty if they play it right… but this year will go down as an abrupt end to a good campaign. This time Baltimore danced on Tennessee’s logo, as they moved on to face… 

Bills Mafia Smashing Tables And Colts' Dreams

Super Wildcard Weekend Recap
Credit: Jeffrey T. Barnes (Associated Press)

The Buffalo Bills. The wonderful, exciting, refreshing, young, and VERY deserving Buffalo Bills (and #BillsMafia). Let me first say, I didn’t think this game would be anywhere near this close, so give credit to the Colts for that. However, Josh Allen and the Bills were clear and worthy winners, who really should’ve won this game by a wider margin. The Allen to Diggs connection – and I’m aware I say this every week at this point – is exceptional, plus their supplementary weapons always seem to make plays. Dawson Knox caught a touchdown, Cole Beasley is a spark plug, Gabriel Davis continues to make nice plays, and John Brown was back in the lineup adding another dangerous piece to Sean McDermott’s offense. I was so glad that 6,700 fans were allowed (responsibly) to be in attendance at Bills Stadium. After so long suffering under the Death Star empire of the New England Patriots, this was a well-earned coming out party for the Bills. They deserved this. They’ve been exceptional this season and would have been 14-2 if not for the Hail Murray incident. 

I wonder if this is the end of the road for Rivers, in the same vein as Big Ben, and maybe even Drew Brees whatever happens at the end of this year… But I hope all 3 of them give it another run. The league’s a better place with Phil Rivers late game attempted heroics that usually fall short. It’s still fun. The Colts defense is stellar, and poised challenges for the Bills that we haven’t seen many teams succeed against this year, but they didn’t quite have enough on the offensive side to overthrow the Bills Mafia’s crusade to a playoff win. Indy probably feels it’s in good shape with Johnathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. having very good rookie seasons, but they might have their biggest question mark at the QB position. Is it Rivers again? Are they trading for Carson Wentz?! It will be one of the biggest questions of the offseason. But, for now, the Bills move on to host the Ravens in what becomes arguably the “best” game of week of the playoffs. The Lamar vs Josh takes will be flying all over sports media this week. I can’t wait for this, and – sorry Baltimore – but I will be wholeheartedly cheering for the Bills to make it to the AFC Title game they deserve to be in.

Quick Hits on Rams vs Seahawks, Bucs vs WFT, & Bears vs Saints

  • I’m gutted for Russell Wilson.
  • The Seahawks are my biggest let down of the playoffs. I can’t believe how limp a performance that was from start to finish.
  • Sean McVay has proved once again this season that he IS that good of a coach. I don’t believe the Rams are talented enough on offense to be where they are, but they’ve coached exceptionally well and deserve the credit they’re getting.
  • Also, what’s McVay’s 40 yard dash time!? That sprint down the sideline on the pick 6 was rapid!
  • Shout out the AAF. Taylor Heinicke REPRESENTING for you. 
  • Heineken need to make Taylor Heinicke the face of their brand in the US IMMEDIATELY. This guy deserves some money after that performance on Saturday.
  • Washington – goodbye. You have been fraudulent all year. That defense is legit, but they will not be back in the playoffs next year without serious investment in the offense.
  • TB12 is not playing around. He’s fired up and wants this SuperBowl run…
  • Leonard Fournette – it’s nice to see the real you again.
  • Give me more football on Nickelodeon. It was superb. Nate Burleson is a genius with his analogies.
  • The Bears are terrible and a playoff spot was wasted on them. 
  • I’m so annoyed this wasn’t Cardinals vs Saints instead…
  • Brady vs Brees in the NFC divisional round… and the winner will likely go to Lambeau and face AARON RODGERS in the NFC Title game?! Aahhhhhhh you love to see it.
  • And – unrelated – as I finish typing this, Doug Pederson is out in Philadelphia. I wonder if you regret the decision to bench Jalen Hurts now, Doug? A shame to see the Super Bowl winning of a few years ago fall all that way to being out of a job. He’ll be back in the league, but may have to do a lot to rebuild his credibility after that debacle.

Divisional Round Preview

Super Wildcard Weekend Recap, Draftkings Divisional Round
Credit: Cliff Welch (Icon Sportswire)

THIS IS GOING TO BE EXCELLENT. This lineup? These four games? Oh boooooy. Yes please. Every single game has a “must-see” narrative. Josh Allen was the th overall pick and the  QB taken in the 2018 draft. Lamar Jackson was pick 32 in Round 1, and QB overall. Both have just gotten their first playoff win. Who will now take their team onto the AFC Championship game? You better believe Bills stadium will be rocking again. And yet are the Ravens the hottest team in football right now?! Maybe. Then we head to the Frozen Tundra… where it’s only maybe the league’s best offense against maybe the league’s best defense? Davante Adams vs Jalen Ramsey is elite level film study material for the rest of time. The soon to be MVP Aaron Rodgers will be determined not to go 1 and done this year, and despite the Rams’ fearsome pass rush, I just don’t believe Jared Goff (Or John Wolford) will be able to beat Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau. And then he gets the winner of Brady vs Brees… That trifecta of quarterbacks generates so much discussion… but personally I’d want to see Brady attempt to walk into Lambeau and knock off the Packers. Can’t say Tom hasn’t had experience in the cold before. AND THEN we also have Mayfield vs Mahomes. Go google what happened when they faced off as the QBs for Oklahoma and Texas Tech. 125 points, 1,708 yards, and a bucket load of drama. Browns vs Chiefs will be very different, but should still be electric at Arrowhead. Agh I want it all NOW. Predictions? Unofficially – pending injuries and COVID etc – Bills, Chiefs (but I’m cheering for the Browns), Packers, Buccaneers. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram and for this week those are both official Baker Mayfield fan accounts. Have a good one, stay safe, stay well. Cheers.

Callum Squires

NFL Analyst