The NFL's Super Wild Card Weekend kicked off with quite a bang. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills picked up wins in an all-AFC evening of activity.
The Bengals' win was particularly noteworthy, as it snapped a 31-year franchise drought of postseason victories. The Las Vegas Raiders, who scratched and clawed their way into the postseason, proved to be a worthy opponent and came close to sending the game into overtime.
Cincinnati prevailed, though, and proved that it is going to be a force in the AFC's race to Super Bowl LVI.
The Bills didn't have as much trouble with the rival New England Patriots. Buffalo scored seven touchdowns on its first seven possessions to roll to a 47-17 victory.
It marked the third meeting between Buffalo and New England, who split their regular-season series. Like Cincinnati, Buffalo is on to the divisional round.
Saturday Results and Recap
Cincinnati Bengals 26, Las Vegas Raiders 19
The Bengals set the tone for this one in the first half, answering Las Vegas' opening-drive field goal with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Joe Burrow to tight end C.J. Uzomah. A Trey Hendrickson strip-sack of Derek Carr on the ensuing possession led to a Bengals field goal and a touchdown lead that Cincinnati would never relinquish.
The Raiders never came closer than seven points the rest of the way, which forced them to play catch-up throughout the game. This was a problem because the ground game was working for Las Vegas.
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the game.
While the Raiders ground game hummed along, so did Burrow and the Bengals passing game. Burrow was on fire in the first half, and his connection with rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase worked throughout the contest.
Chase finished his first playoff game with nine catches, 116 receiving yards and 23 rushing yards.
The Raiders managed to keep the game close by keeping Cincinnati out of the end zone in the second half, though. The two teams combined for four second-half field goals, which set up Las Vegas' chance to tie on the final drive.
Carr drove the Raiders all the way to the Cincinnati 9-yard line but was picked off on 4th-and-goal to seal the win for Cincinnati.
The game wasn't without its fair share of controversy, though. By rule, an inadvertent whistle should have wiped out Tee Higgins' 10-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Cincinnati still might have scored on that drive, of course, but it will likely make for many water cooler discussions this week.
Mystery whistle or no, the Bengals will move on with their sights still set on the Super Bowl.
"There's not going to be a big celebration like when we won the division. We took care of business, and it’s on to the next round," Burrow said after the game on the NBC broadcast.
Buffalo Bills 47, New England Patriots 17
The Bills were in rout mode from start to finish against the Patriots. Buffalo ran roughshod a Patriots defense that was one of the league's best in the regular season.
The Patriots finished 2021 ranked fourth in yards allowed and second in points allowed. New England surrendered 27 or fewer points in 13 of their regular-season games. Buffalo reached 27 points by halftime.
Things went the Bills' way quickly too. After Buffalo scored on its opening drive, safety Micah Hyde picked off Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on a spectacular play in the end zone.
The blowout was on from there, and it was all Bills. Quarterback Josh Allen was superb, finishing 21-of-25 for 307 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 65 yards, while Devin Singletary added 83 yards on the ground.
Tight end Dawson Knox caught five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders also caught scoring strikes.
The Bills defense was equally impressive, limiting New England to 305 total yards and picking off Jones twice.
Unlike the Bengals game, there was no real drama in this one. It felt over when Buffalo had a 27-3 halftime lead, and the Bills finished things off over the final two quarters.
We're two games into Super Wild Card Weekend, and the home teams are 2-0.
Playoff Picture and Remaining Schedule
Updated Playoff Picture
Everything is open in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers await the results of this weekend, while all three wild-card games are still to go.
We don't yet know what the NFC divisional matchups might look like, but the lowest seed after Monday night will head to Green Bay.
With the Bengals and Bills winning Saturday, few options remain for the divisional round. The Bengals will be on the road next week, likely against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans. If the seventh-seed Pittsburgh Steelers manage to upset the Kansas City Chiefs, though, Cincinnati will visit Buffalo.
The Titans will host either Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, while Buffalo will either host the Bengals or head to Kansas City.
We'll find out how the AFC field falls on Sunday night.
Remaining Playoff Schedule
Sunday, January 16
1 p.m. ET: No 7 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Fox, Fox Sports app
4:30 p.m. ET: No. 6 San Francisco 49ers at No. 3Dallas Cowboys on CBS, Nickelodeon, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video
8:15 p.m. ET: No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs on NBC, Peacock
Monday, January 17
8:15 p.m. ET: No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams on ESPN, ABC, ESPN 2, ESPN+
Saturday, January 22
4:30 p.m. ET: Game TBD
8:15 p.m. ET: Game TBD
Sunday, January 23
3 p.m. ET: Game TBD
6:30 p.m. ET: Game TBD
Sunday, January 30
3 p.m. ET: AFC on CBS, Paramount+
6:30 p.m. ET: NFC on Fox, Fox Sports app
Super Bowl LVI
Sunday, February 13
6:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock