The NFL playoffs are finally here – at least for those teams who did not earn a first round bye. Yesterday, the tournament started with two games and both saw the lower-seeded road team come away with a victory: The Tennessee Titans went into Arrowhead Stadium to upset the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 while the reigning NFC champions, the Atlanta Falcons, defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26-13.
Here are some quick-hit thoughts on the first day of action.
The Chiefs were a pretender – especially on offense.
Entering the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, Kansas City was one of the hottest teams of the tournament. However, the team flamed out pretty quickly after building a 21-3 halftime lead against the Titans. The most shocking revelation was the offense's inability to get anything going after intermission despite plenty of opportunities. Yes, Travis Kelce was out with a concussion but the team still had the NFL's leading rusher and one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the game at its disposal. They simply could not put it all together when it mattered the most.
It was a bad day for officiating.
The NFL playoffs feature crews consisting of the highest-rated officials of the regular season. One has to wonder how this rating systems works after watching yesterday's games: Seemingly endless reviews and botched calls did not necessarily make for smoothly officiated contests. The biggest issues came in the Titans at Chiefs game where Jeff Triplette missed key calls on both sides. Hopefully, the quality of officiating will improve going forward.
Los Angeles is not quite there yet.
The Rams exited the playoffs yesterday by losing at home against the Falcons. Overall, though, the NFC West champions have had a very good season. Sean McVay, in his first year as head coach after taking over for Jeff Fisher, was able to a) coach up the team's talent in a way Fisher consistently failed to do and b) lead Los Angeles to its first playoff berth since the 2004 season. Despite its early ending, the 2017 season should be considered a success for the Rams – a team on the rise that has a solid foundation to build upon.
The Titans are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Tennessee's victory at the ever-challenging Arrowhead Stadium was an impressive but far from perfect one. While the Titans displayed great mental toughness to come back from an 18-point halftime deficit and dominated on the ground – the team rushed for 202 yards while limiting its opponent to a mere 69 –, they also made plenty of mistakes. The AFC South runner-ups started the game slowly, turned the football over twice and failed to convert on its two two-point attempts. If the Titans are to advance to the AFC title game, they need to become more consistent.
Atlanta played a quiet but mistake-free game.
The Falcons beat the Rams by 13 points but did not play a particularly impressive game. The NFC's defending conference champions gained only 322 yards of offense as Matt Ryan and the passing attack had a relatively quiet day. And still, Atlanta did enough to leave the wild card round victoriously: Dan Quinn's team played a mistake-free game while simultaneously taking advantage of Rams' miscues. It may not have been spectacular but it worked.
New England has to be happy about Saturday's AFC result.
No matter how the AFC's wild card round shakes out, the Patriots as the conference's top seeded team will host the lowest remaining seed. The Titans' win in Kansas City ensures that New England will play one of the wild-card teams – either Tennessee or Buffalo – while also avoiding a rematch against a Chiefs team that won 42-27 in Foxboro earlier this season. Overall, the Patriots have to be pleased to avoid a highly talented Kansas City team.
Wild card weekend will continue later today: The first game of the day will see the Buffalo Bills, in their first playoff game of the century, will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The winner will determine who the Patriots will play next week. After the game, the New Orleans Saints host the Carolina Panthers in a matchup of NFC South foes.