NFL Wild Cards: It Was a QB Weekend
Wild Card Weekend was a big one for quarterbacks to prove themselves.
Obviously, some did; some didn't.
Cam Newton came into Carolina's game against Arizona with three losing seasons in his first four and a playoff loss last year at home over San Francisco. The Panthers did come out on top against depleted Arizona, 27-16, as Newton threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The former Auburn Tiger will try to win his second playoff game next weekend in Seattle.
The Seahawks are ... umm ... not depleted, especially at quarterback, so good luck with that.
Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have nothing to prove. Both have won Super Bowls. Flacco had an agenda, however, as the Ravens had never won a playoff game in Pittsburgh. That changed on Saturday, as he outplayed his Steeler counterpart and the Ravens won, 30-17. Flacco threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the victory as his quest for a second Super Bowl title continues. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC Championship game next week with a win over another Super Bowl hero, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots.
The last time we saw this act was in the AFC title tilt two seasons ago.
Andy Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Cincinnati had lost the previous three opening-round games, and they kept the streak alive. Andrew Luck and the Colts had designs of moving into the second round for the second straight season. They did. Indianapolis won, 26-10, advancing to play Denver next weekend. Luck threw for 376 yards while Dalton was held to 155 yards, and Cincinnati sports fans are left to ponder a cold winter unless the Bearcats and/or Musketeers light it up in college hoops.
In the final game of the weekend, Detroit's Matthew Stafford was looking for his first playoff victory, but the pressure was squarely on Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys to win their first playoff game since dinosaurs walked the earth, or something like that. Detroit started fast and Stafford played well, but then this happened:
Now, that's how you play D ... in the WWE.
Romo led the Cowboys back from a 20-7 third quarter deficit and Dallas advanced 24-20 as Romo silenced his critics for another week.
Next weekend, the quarterbacks have less and less to prove.
The Ravens are a great road team, and the trip to New England, the AFC's top seed, will need a great road performance. Both Flacco and Tom Brady have been there an done that, so keys to victory in this one will likely be found elsewhere.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should also benefit from familiar conditions to pump ... clap ... them up, while Romo is looking to get out of the second round for the first time in his career.
Finally, Andrew Luck will match stats with Peyton Manning for the first time in the playoffs. Sooner or later, chances are Luck will lead the Colts to the promised land, but for the past year, Denver has sets its sights on Super Bowl redemption. Just as they did when they met Indianapolis in Week 1:
That may be a more compelling sub-plot than the quarterback match-up. Revenge has a way up upstaging other stuff.
Just remember, the key is to savor it later.