By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
The NFL playoffs have begun! With the expanded playoff field, there were two full days of football, with three games on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday featured two games for the NFC, bringing together two heated division rivals, a goat, and a hungry 7-9 team.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the expanded playoffs. I believe that the top two teams in each conference deserved a bye week. However, the expansion does let some of those fantastic teams who would just miss out on the playoffs in the old system, fight for the Lombardi. Let’s take a look at Saturday’s NFC battles.
Los Angeles Rams 30
Seattle Seahawks 20
The first NFC game on Saturday brought two teams from the same division together. One, the Los Angeles Rams, has the best defense in football. The other, the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, had a high flying offense at the beginning of the year but had struggled for their last few games. This game wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t clean. It was a divisional battle that we’ve all come to know and love.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had been in discussion for league MVP in the first half of the regular season but had stumbled in the second half. Seattle’s offense had become a shell of what they had been earlier in the year. Their defense, however, had improved greatly, which gave many Seahawks fans hope that their offense could match what their defense had been doing. That wasn’t to be.
The Rams defense took full advantage of the Seahawks’ offensive struggles. (In my opinion) Defensive Player of the Year, (hell, of the decade) Aaron Donald was on fire, sacking Wilson repeatedly, and taking away the Seattle run game completely. The #1 defense in the league was fantastic in this game, not allowing Seattle to get any momentum at all.
Los Angeles was having offensive troubles of their own. Starting QB Jared Goff had broken his thumb last time they played Seattle and was benched. Back up QB John Wolford started the game but left the game with a possible concussion after just a series. That forced the Rams to play Goff, which turned out just fine. Goff struggled at times but managed to keep the Rams ahead the entire game.
The Rams move on but had some significant injuries in this game, including Donald. We will have to wait to see how they respond next week.
#Rams DT Aaron Donald suffered a rib injury that knocked him out of the game against Seattle, but X-Rays were negative and the team is hopeful he can play next week, per @MikeGarafolo. Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp’s knee injury is not serious. He’ll be fine.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 10, 2021
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
Washington Football Team 23
The Saturday night game brought us what should have been the biggest mismatch of the Wild Card weekend. The goat vs the underdogs. Washington won the NFC East with a 7-9 record, so most thought this game was going to be a blowout. Then, starting QB Alex Smith was inactive with an injury, so that left back up QB Taylor Heinicke under center. It had the makings of a disaster for WFT. But, as we’ve seen in the past, 7-9 teams rarely go quietly in the playoffs.
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) January 10, 2021
This game was closer than any Bucs fan wanted it to be. Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady struggled a bit at the beginning of the game but started rolling quickly. The Bucs were up 8-7 at the half. But in the 3rd quarter, Washington was showing signs of life and refused to roll over and die. However, the 4th quarter showed why Washington had a 7-9 record and the Bucs cruised to the win.
Washington had one of the best defenses in the league this year. They are truly just a QB away from being a solid, if not even a very good team. Head coach Ron Rivera has this team headed up and they will be a lot of fun to watch.
As for Tampa Bay, they have everyone right where they want them. Brady, at 43 years old, has been playing fantastic football. Does he look like he did 8 years ago? No. But with the weapons the Bucs have given him, he doesn’t have to. Add to that a strong defense, and you have the makings of a king killer team. I think Green Bay and New Orleans would have preferred the underdogs to win this one.
While the AFC seems to have stronger teams this year, the NFC will be the conference that gives us more surprises. I can’t wait to see what happens next week.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG