Handing out Grades to Each NFL Team from Wild Card Weekend
The Wild-Card Round is all wrapped up, and now, it's time to dish out some grades for the weekend's best and worst performances.
Here are the grades for each NFL from Wild-Card Weekend.
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In the first playoff game featuring two rookie starters at quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton struggled as the team lost to the Houston Texans 31-10.
Dalton set the tone for the offense, throwing three ugly interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown in the first half).
However, the offense was hurt by the lack of a rushing attack. Cedric Benson was held to two yards a carry (only 14 yards Saturday), and the team finished with 76 total rushing yards.
A disappointing effort from a unit that was impressive during the regular season.
The Bengals defense was beaten badly, especially by the Texans' rushing attack. Cornerback Chris Crocker was humiliated as Texans running back Arian Foster stiff-armed him multiple times on the way to a long touchdown he had no business scoring (he had no space to operate on the sideline).
The secondary also struggled to contain wide receiver Andre Johnson, who compiled 90 yards on the day.
My prediction: C
I may have been a little too excited about Dalton's numbers this time around.
The Houston Texans looked comfortable as they won in the franchise's first ever playoff appearance 31-10 over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Texans put on a complete team effort as the franchise protected its rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates' numbers may not have been flashy, but it was more than enough to get his team in a place to win.
Most impressive was the work of the running game, particularly Arian Foster. His long touchdown run (video included) was an exclamation on a completely one-sided domination Saturday.
A solid performance overall kept the Bengals guessing, almost completely shutting down quarterback Andy Dalton.
Defensive end JJ Watt made the game-changing play of the weekend (ignoring the game in Denver), intercepting a Dalton pass for a touchdown to give the Texans a lead going into halftime. The Texans wouldn't look back from there.
My prediction: B+
No turnovers for the Texans, and a solid game from the rushing attack (making up for a less than stellar performance in the two teams' meeting earlier in the year.
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The Detroit Lions struggled to keep up with the blistering pace of the New Orleans Saints, falling 45-28 Saturday night in its first playoff appearance since 1999.
This was a good performance. Not a great performance. Just good.
While the team moved the ball healthily, it's the times they couldn't keep moving the chains that will haunt this team. Given the ball in great field position after multiple Saints turnovers, the Lions just couldn't get anything going.
With that said, the Lions did get an eye-popping game and stat sheet from wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson was terrific as he caught 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions found some success stopping the Saints and its quarterback Drew Brees early, snapping up a pair of fumble recoveries to help its offense.
However, the key stat of Saturday's game: The Saints did not have to punt once all game.
My prediction: B-
New Orleans Saints
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The offense of New Orleans was on fire as it took down the Detroit Lions 45-28.
A great game overall from the Saints offense. They were unstoppable, with the only lapses coming from an inability to hold onto the ball.
Let me say it again: No punts. All game.
If they can hold off on bad turnovers, then the San Francisco 49ers may have a rough day ahead of them Saturday.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Scoring plenty of points in the second half, the Saints put the Lions in a tough spot which required the Lions to take risks they wouldn't have if the score was closer.
However, the Saints were atrocious in the pass defense against wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Saints had no answer for the star receiver as he lit them up for two touchdowns and over 200 yards. Fortunately for the Saints (or any other playoff team), Johnson won't be suiting up any more in this postseason.
My prediction: A
Darren Sproles was a huge difference maker, scoring two touchdowns and picking up some first downs Saturday.
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The Atlanta Falcons looked out of place Sunday, as they fell to the New York Giants 24-2.
Football is a game of inches, and the Atlanta Falcons could not get the yardage it needed as it was stuffed on two short fourth-down plays.
With results similar to the team's loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons will wince as they look at the tape from those critical plays.
Looking for his first win in the playoffs, quarterback Matt Ryan will have to think that he could have done more as the team's offense was shut out completely.
After an impressive pass rush led to a Giants' safety (the Falcons only points), the defensive unit struggled to keep pace. Beaten badly in the trenches, the Falcons could not contain either the Giants' passing game or rushing attack.
While they did struggle at times with poor defensive field position, the unit didn't do itself any favors with some very poor tackling form.
My prediction: D
New York Giants
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The New York Giants shook off a lackluster start to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 24-2.
It wasn't a fast start, but the Giants picked up the pace and got the job done. Dominating at the line of scrimmage, the team's offensive line was the catalyst for the team's success. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for over 150 yards combined, shredding several Falcon arm tackles.
Eli Manning played a very solid game to get his first home playoff victory of his career, throwing 277 yards and three touchdown passes.
No points and two stops on short-yardage fourth downs. An exemplary performance from a unit whose numbers were not so flattering during the regular season.
My prediction: C
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In the upset of the weekend, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the Denver Broncos in overtime Sunday, losing 29-23.
The Steelers offense showed too little Sunday until it was too late. While the Pittsburgh Steelers got some clutch play to get to overtime, they struggled to get rolling in the first half. These struggles are most likely the result of a sore ankle on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a lack of rushers due to injury.
Sunday, the Steelers got what they wanted based on their game plan. They played extra defenders near the box to prevent the run, giving single coverage to receivers who dared Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to beat them with his arm.
Completing five passes over 30 yards, including his game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime, the plan went up in flames. While the unit was admittedly hurt by numerous recent injuries, this surely has to be one of the worst losses for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
My prediction: F
I was a little off with my 27-9 prediction in the Steelers' favor.
The Denver Broncos pulled off the unthinkable, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in overtime Sunday.
Tim Tebow was helped by having single coverage on his receivers for most of the game, but he took full advantage, completing several long passes including the game-winning score (video included).
He was helped by a rushing game, which (including Tebow) added over 100 yards on the ground. Running back Willis McGahee was saved from major scrutiny after his fumble helped the Steelers get back into the game.
The defense (up until the end of the fourth quarter) did a very effective job pressuring Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, forcing him into an ugly interception (with a second one called off for an offside penalty).
The Steelers struggled with injuries, but the Broncos were very effective in ensuring there was no room for their opponent to build any momentum before the fourth quarter.
My prediction: F-minus-minus
I could not have been more wrong with this one. In addition to predicting a 27-9 final score, I envisioned a one-sided affair comparable to the biblical flood of Genesis. Needless to say, I was a bit off.
As many writers/analysts before me have learned the hard way, pick against Tim Tebow at your own peril.