NFL Wild Card Weekend Winners and Losers
NFL Wild Card Weekend: Top Winners and Losers
The NFL Playoffs were kicked off last Saturday and Sunday, and as is usually the case with the opening round of the post-season, fans were witnesses to lots of drama and intriguing story lines coming out of this year's Wild Card Weekend.
The match-ups were promising, and most lived up to their expectations: the Houston Texans vs. the Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts vs. the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC, and the Green Bay Packers vs. the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins vs. the Seattle Seahawks representing the NFC.
As with every opening round every season, the spotlight grew brighter. With the pressure on, some players made names for themselves and some stars continued their rise to the top while others fell. In some cases, decisions were made that affected the future of the franchise. Some teams' seasons were abruptly ended while the others continued on their quest for the ultimate NFL prize: the coveted Super Bowl title.
Overall there were many winners over the weekend, which means there were many losers as well. So which players, coaches and teams came out on top and which ones were sent home, left on the outside looking in for the remainder of the post-season, asking themselves, “What if?” for the next several months?
Rant Sports takes a look at the ten biggest winners and losers from the opening round of the post-season, otherwise known as Wild Card Weekend.
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Winner: Anquan Boldin
Before his Baltimore Ravens took the field against the Indianapolis Colts, veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin told his quarterback that he felt like he could rack up 200 yards receiving that day. After not catching a pass the entire first half, his prediction looked pretty foolish. However, Boldin exploded in the second half, finishing the day with five receptions for a franchise playoff record of 145 yards and a touchdown as he helped lead his team to a Wild Card victory.
Winner: Houston Texans Arian Foster and J.J. Watt
The Houston Texans are 8-0 when Arian Foster runs for more than 100 yards, and he did just that in the Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend. Foster rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. He had a great day, but he wasn't the only member of the Texans to have a huge showing; the Houston defense, led by J. J. Watt, was outstanding in shutting down the Bengals as well.
Winner: John Kuhn
It's been a very quiet season for fullback John Kuhn in the Green Bay Packers' pass happy offense, but Kuhn stepped up when it mattered most. With his team taking on the rival Minnesota Vikings, Kuhn managed to find the end zone twice, sealing the victory for the Pack.
Winner: Ray Lewis
In the final home game of his career, Ray Lewis put on a defensive show. In his first game back from an injury which forced him to miss the last two and a half months of play, he led his team against the young and inexperienced Indianapolis Colts with an impressive thirteen tackles. Most importantly, it was Lewis' experience and leadership that anchored the team in their playoff victory.
Winner: Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch opened up the first round of the playoffs with an impressive statement. In the Seattle Seahawks win over the Washington Redskins, Lynch rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries, good for 6.9 yards per carry. He also added a touchdown. The Atlanta Falcons may have their hands full stopping Lynch next weekend.
Winner: Russell Wilson
In the year of rookie quarterbacks, Russell Wilson is the last one standing. Though his numbers were solid but not out of this world on Sunday, he played smart and led his team from behind to survive the first round of the playoffs. Wilson has quietly had a very impressive rookie season, and if people didn't notice before, they certainly noticed on Sunday.
Loser: Minnesota Vikings
Once it was announced that starting quarterback Christian Ponder would be sidelined for their game vs. the Green Bay Packers Sunday, most fans considered this game to be over before it began. As a result, the Vikings were forced to start Joe Webb, who hasn't thrown a pass in a regular season game all year. However, the fault doesn't rest solely with him, it rests with the fact that the coaches failed to prepare him all season long. They knew that Webb wasn't going to be the type of quarterback that they could slide into the system, yet did nothing about it all year. His style of game is vastly different than that of Ponder's, but they tried to force him to be something he's not. Would they have won with Ponder at the helm? It's hard to say, after all the Packers looked very strong, but they certainly would have done better if Webb had been better prepared and if the offensive gameplan fit his type of game. Regardless, the Vikings will have all off-season to ask themselves, "What if?"
Loser: Marvin Lewis
After his team's loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' playoff record is now 0-4. One has to wonder how much more patience the organization will have with Lewis and his lack of post-season success. In his ten years with the franchise, Lewis has yet to win a playoff game, and Saturday's loss did nothing to help his future with the team. Could he be the next coach let go?
Loser: Robert Griffin, III
Despite his valiant attempts to carry his team on his back, Robert Griffin, III's season ended in disaster, beyond the Washington Redskins' Wild Card loss. He put up a good fight, though most will tell you he had no business playing on his injured knee at all. Nevertheless, he did, and as a result his future, at least next season, is uncertain. The rising star has been diagnosed with partial tears to both his ACL and LCL and could be out for 12 months or more. It's a terrible way for RGIII's phenomenal rookie season to come to an end. Hopefully, he will be able to return sooner than we think, but sadly, it's not looking good.
Loser: The Washington Redskins
No team lost more this weekend than the Washington Redskins. After jumping out to 14-0 lead, it appeared as though they would be heading to the next round of the playoffs. However, things turned terribly wrong when their franchise quarterback RG III re-injured his already ailing knee. Though hindsight is 20/20, everyone associated with the decision to keep him in the game should be blamed for the team's loss of their quarterback next season, including Mike Shanahan to the team doctors, and deservedly so. Even worse, Kirk Cousins, the back-up, has proven that he is more than capable himself, but they still allowed Griffin to play despite the fact that every fan across the nation could see it was not a good idea, and as a result, the team lost the game and possibly their future. It was a terrible decision, and as a result, they went from being the team of the future to one without their rising phenom and probable Rookie of the Year. They took a gamble, one they shouldn't have taken, and lost. Badly.