The first weekend of NFL playoff action is over as the wild card round concluded with Sunday's games: In the first matchup, the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the visiting Buffalo Bills 10-3. The second game of the day saw the New Orleans Saints hold off their NFC South rival Carolina Panthers for a 31-26 victory.
Here are some quick-hit thoughts on the final day of wild card action.
Jacksonville's passing offense could be their undoing...
The Bills have a talented defense but they were not the whole reason by the Jaguars struggled offensively yesterday and finished with only 10 points. The unit had a hard time getting into any rhythm all game long as quarterback Blake Bortles failed to deliver a spark as a passer and the Bills were able to concentrate on stopping the run as a result. While Bortles was dangerous on scrambles and finished with more rushing than passing yards – 88 to 87 –, Sunday's game showed that Jacksonville's offensive attack, particularly the aerial aspect of it, should not be trusted to carry the team.
...even if their defense is highly dangerous.
While the Jaguars' offense struggled to consistently move the football versus Buffalo, the defense played another good and physical game. Granted, the Bills are no offensive powerhouse but Jacksonville consistently made life hard on its opponent. Overall, the team gave up only 3.6 yards per play (263 yards on 74 plays) and finished with two takeaways. If Jacksonville's offense continues to be inefficient, the defense – similar to the 2015 Denver Broncos – will have to keep games close moving forward.
The Saints looked like the NFC's best team – at times.
In a few years, Drew Brees will rightfully enter the Hall of Fame and against the Panthers he once again showed why. The soon-to-be 39-year old was in control and spread the football around to his plethora of weapons – all while the defense came up big when it needed to. The Saints looked like a serious Super Bowl contender on Sunday, even though not all was perfect: The team's ground game was uneven and the Panthers were able to hang around until the end. Still, at times New Orleans looked like the NFC's most complete team.
Buffalo's offense needs to reevaluate moving forward.
Despite losing in Jacksonville yesterday, Buffalo should be happy about its season considering that it ended the 18-year postseason drought. That being said, the Bills need to take a hard look at themselves moving forward, especially at their offense. Sean McDermott's team failed to reach the endzone – some questionable red zone play calling did not help – and quarterback Tyrod Taylor, before leaving the game with a concussion, had another uneven performance. Jacksonville's defense played a role in that but part of it also was the problems that plagued the Bills offense all year long.
Graham Gano pulled a 2015 Stephen Gostkowski.
The 2015 AFC title game saw the Patriots lose at the Broncos by one point – one that was missing ever since kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked an extra point. Yesterday, the Panthers also missed a chip-shot field goal that might have changed the dynamic of the game. Of course, as was the case two years ago, the missed kick is not the lone reason for Carolina's demise but it would have undoubtably put the visitors in a better position. Instead, the Panthers had to play from behind all game long and ultimately saw their game-winning drive stall down by five while in field goal range.
With the wild card round in the rear-view mirror it is time to turn the page and look ahead at the upcoming divisional round matchups – among them the New England Patriots' playoff opener against the Tennessee Titans.