The Divisional round of the 2017 NFL Playoffs proved to be utterly bonkers. Fans from all across the world were treated to a highly compelling slate of games.
If last-second touchdowns and upsets are your jam, this past weekend was sheer euphoria.
We break down the four reasons why this weekend was so fantastic:
The “Underdog” Defending Home Turf
Despite earning the No. 1 Overall seed in the NFC, Philadelphia was an underdog at home whilst hosting the No. 6-seeded Atlanta Falcons.
The absence of QB Carson Wentz directly correlated with Las Vegas being rather bullish on the Falcons. What Vegas didn’t take into account was the amount of disrespect thrown towards a very proud franchise.
Philadelphia’s stifling defense held Atlanta to less than 300 yards of total offense (281). Duly, Devonta Freeman had 7 yards on 10(!) carries. Dan Quinn’s team never fully got into a rhythm — largely due to the Eagles’ collective energy. Defenders were flying around the field, and rarely were out of position.
Back-up QB Nick Foles was widely considered to be the prohibitive weak link. He did just fine against the reigning NFC champs — going 23-of-30 for 246 yards. He managed the game well, and didn’t force any ill-advised throws downfield.
Squaring off against the Minnesota Vikings for a trip to the Super Bowl, Philadelphia will surely be pegged as an underdog yet again. We’ll see if the team can use this source of motivation to galvanize them for a chance to feature in the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 2004.
The Emergence Of ‘Sacksonville’
Ladies and gentlemen: The Jacksonville Jaguars are for real.
Sunday’s result firmly indicates that the Baby Jags have arrived as a real threat going forward within the AFC. The 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers really wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Jacksonville had firm control over the course of the entire game. It marked the second time this year in which the Jags went into Heinz Field and came away with a victory.
The Jaguars jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Jacksonville controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The trio of Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette, and T.J. Yeldon combined for 164 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Conversely, the defensive line held Le’Veon Bell to only 67 yards on 16 carries.
Jacksonville has athleticism all over the field — particularly littered across its young defense. Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Marcell Dareus are highly productive commodities up front. A.J. Bouye is one of the league’s best shutdown corners. Yannick Ngakoue is a budding star off the edge. Corner Jalen Ramsey plays as if he’s a 10-year pro, and the linebacker duo of Myles Jack and Telvin Smith is as athletic a group as one will find in the NFL.
The talent within this group is undoubtedly within the upper-echelon of the league. Assuming Bortles continues to play with consistency, this team has the look of being a true force in the AFC for a long time.
New England’s Dominance
New England is looking more and more like the odds-on favorite to win yet another Super Bowl.
Saturday’s dismantling of the Tennessee Titans was a sight to behold. The Pats systematically thrashed the Titans in virtually all facets of the game.
Tom Brady continues to turn the clock back — throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the 21-point victory. Tennessee’s bread-and-butter lies with running the football. New England held the vaunted unit to only 65 yards on the ground.
Even if New England has to face Minnesota in a de facto Super Bowl road contest, the Patriots are starting to hit their stride. Whether you love them or hate them, one simply cannot scoff at their potent level of play.
The Minneapolis Miracle
As opposed to describing the play, you might as well watch a clip of it:
A WALK OFF 61 YARD TOUCHDOWN FOR THE VIKINGS TO ADVANCE TO THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!!!!
CASE KEENUM’S 61 YARD TOUCHDOWN PASS TO STEFON DIGGS, AT THE DEATH, IS EVEN BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC!!!! UNBELIEVABLE WIN FOR THE @VIKINGS!!!!!
— 🏈🚢🎶TITANIC TD🏈🚢🎶 (@TitanicTD) January 15, 2018
The mass hysteria in Minneapolis was outrageous. Minnesota’s (lucky) come-from-behind victory is the type of stuff that only happens to a team ready to fulfill one’s destiny.
Whether it be an injury-free squad or a fluky play, any team needs a little bit of luck in order to go unscathed en route to a potential Super Bowl.
And we aren’t talking about any Super Bowl in 2018…we’re talking about one being played in Minneapolis. Never has the league seen a team play in the Super Bowl when hosted in its home stadium.
Seeing as Minnesota is one game away from making this a reality, the special hook-up from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs is that much more special.
Image Sources: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports, Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports