Wildcard weekend was just that over this past Saturday and Sunday… Quite the Wildcard indeed. A team that went 7-8-1 on the season, the Panthers hosted a playoff game and won, over the QB depleted Arizona Cardinals on Saturday by a final of 27-16. Having said that, Arizona had many chances to get this game to a one score deficit late in the game, but the ugly turnover would then rear its ugly head. QB Ryan Lindley threw two interceptions deep in the red zone, when Carolina was up 27-14. The Panthers were more on edge in this game and proved to be the better team, pulling out the victory in the end. What could have been a different season for the Cardinals with a promising start at 9-1 and a number one seed in waiting, until, Carson Palmer goes down for the season. Then to make matters worse, even backup Drew Stanton-who filled in more than admirably for Palmer-but two major injuries to the top 2 QB’s, not to mention losing RB Andre Ellington to injury as well and now it becomes patchwork, unfortunately. The next man up mentality is the right one to have, but let’s be real in thinking a team can fully compete under those circumstances. It was a great season for Arizona, but leaves Cardinals fans left wanting more though. It was quite the opposite for Carolina. At one point 3-8-1 and the season seemingly done, but because of a fury a wins, to the right opponents and all of a sudden, teams need to start to worry about this Panthers team.
A huge test coming up for the Panthers though, as they have to go to Century Link and play the resurgent Seattle Seahawks, who soared to a #1 seed after being 6-4 at one point in the season, and having media and fans wonder if Seattle would even make the playoffs, but a 6-0 record the rest of the way and the L.O.B. rising to the occasion has certainly changed the perception from almost two months ago. A great matchup between two teams who both have it going in the mojo department right now. This will be the second time Seattle and Carolina match up this season. Week 8 saw the Seahawks trail most of the game, only to squeeze out the 13-9 victory over the Panthers. The hero of the game was Russell Wilson, scoring the game winning TD, with 47 seconds to go in the game. Hopefully this weekends’ game lives up to that Week 8 billing.
Then the Lions tried to steal a victory on the road on Sunday at Jerry World, only to see Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys finally pull out a much needed playoff victory, 24-20, after the drought of not making the playoffs and not winning a playoff game since 2009. The Lions continue their drought of not winning a playoff game since 1991, but seemingly had this game in hand. The Lions were off to a 14 point lead and 17-7 at halftime and had a chance to extend the lead to 24-7 in the third quarter, but failed to do so and only added 3 points to keep the Cowboys within 2 scores. Sure the flag later in the fourth quarter that was picked up after the referee had already made to penalty call was a killer for the Lions as well, but when you only score 20 points in a game, that’s tough to beat anybody in the NFL and relying on penalties calls to bail you out, means your club might not be quite ready for the big dance. However, with that being said, both Dallas and Detroit are certainly teams headed in right direction. Detroit won 11 games in a season, in more than twenty years and were in the division race until the end of the season. Enough said there. Dallas won 12 games, established a run game by drafting smart in the NFL draft and picking offensive lineman and not just relying on Tony Romo’s arm to get you to the next level. A great QB needs a great running game. Everybody knows that and the biggest proponent of that would be the one, the only, John Elway.
Next up for Dallas is a date with the Green Bay Packers from Lambeau Field… Just saying the name Lambeau resonates so much during playoff time, that I feel, instead of the usual 3 point spread the home team gets because of the home field, the Packers point spread doubles, because of the historical success on the “Frozen Tundra”. This is a different Cowboys team though. Very different. 8-0 on the road, going up against the Packers’ 7-1 home record during the regular season. I anticipate the divisional round being even better than the week before. Coming off a wildcard weekend that was maybe not as close, game to game, but certainly left plenty of good and bad memories, to extend for years into the future. One thing that isn’t so much a surprise is the 4 teams left in post season play: Green Bay, Seattle, Carolina and Dallas are in. I think when the season started, the only team that didn’t fit, of the four, would be Dallas, which changed its offensive scheme to be better fit for regular season and post season success.
Featured Image by: Matt McGee