Today kicks off the Wild Card weekend. Eight teams looking to keep their hopes alive and better their chances of winning a Super Bowl. This weekend has delivered us some incredible memories over the years. How can we forget the Music City Miracle, where the Titans stunned the Buffalo Bills on a kickoff return to end the game? Or the greatest comeback in NFL history, when the Bills came back to beat the Houston Oilers after being down 35-3 at halftime?
Some of the greatest moments the NFL has provided us have happened in the first round of the playoffs.
This one feels strangely different though. For the first time in recent memory, the playoffs are completely wide open. No team, maybe besides the Saints, has a distinct advantage over the others. While previous years we have seen teams go on epic runs before the playoffs start to propel themselves deep into the playoffs, this year many teams limped in.
All this uncertainty on who is going to win and who is not has created a certain buzz around this year’s playoffs, and it’s exhilarating!
The Super Bowl is ripe for the taking. This weekend, one team could build the foundation for a run at that title. Looking at the eight teams playing this weekend, Seahawks vs. Cowboys, Bears vs. Eagles, Texans vs. Colts and Chargers vs. Ravens, all of them have a common thing, a great quarterback who has either proven themselves or is on the cusp of proving himself.
You have two quarterbacks who have already won a title, three young guns who are looking to cement their name atop the elites in the league and two veterans where one is just happy to be back in the moment and the other possibly looking at his final run. Finally, there is the lone rookie, who if you had to name the one you thought was going to be starting in the playoffs, this one would have been at the bottom of many lists.
With that, there has to be a couple feeling the pressure of the moment. Some know just how hard it is to get back to this spot, where others are dreaming of many more years just like this one. So my question then is, who is feeling it the most?
Who is feeling that pressure of win now? The pressure of a whole team and city on their shoulders. That need to exercise some demons or to make your name known around the league.
Who is not feeling the pressure:
First off, it is definitely not Nick Foles from the Eagles or Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is a proven quarterback in the league already. If it wasn’t for the dismal team around him, he would probably be a perennial MVP candidate. Nick Foles on the other hand, is doing something that is just not seen. Not only did he fill Carson Wentz’ shoes perfectly last year, but he has also done it again this year and brought Philadelphia back to life and into the playoffs. Just three weeks ago, the Eagles were all but out of the playoffs. With a little help from the Vikings and some more magic by Foles, they find them back in it and as dangerous as ever. Win, lose or draw, this weekend both of those guys will still go home with the respect they deserve.
Secondly, Lamar Jackson is having the time of his life right now and is probably immune to any kind of pressure that is involved with the game. He has fun performing at this level. You can tell through his play that no matter what the situation is, he is going to play loose and have a good time doing it. He is a rookie who in my opinion, is the reason why the Ravens have exceeded my expectations by making it this far.
Pressure is rising:
Unlike the above mentioned, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck are probably feeling a little uncomfortable right about now. For Trubisky, he knows he is not the main guy. Unlike Drew Brees or Patrick Mahomes, the Bears’ success is not necessarily based on his performance. It would certainly help the situation, but the Bears will win with defense and managing the ball. Something he does well and that comes naturally to the second year quarterback. It is natural to feel some kind of pressure when it comes to your first playoff appearance, but I do not think it’s overwhelming for the young man just yet. He will be back.
Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson are both coming off devastating injuries and both are probably just happy to be in this situation. For Luck, this is not his first rodeo when it comes to playing in the playoffs. He has brought a team all the way to the AFC Championship before. Unlike Trubisky, Luck is the offense. The Colts win or lose based off how Andrew Luck plays. For a quarterback who is coming off of shoulder surgery that made him miss an entire season, to finally be back in the playoffs, he has to be feeling some kind of pressure to get past the first round. To show this regular season was not a fluke and that he can still play. Watson is pretty much in the same situation as Luck, only this will be his first time playing in the playoffs. It is a home game, which always helps calm the nerves just a bit, but you know he has to be wanting to win a game in front of the fans in Houston.
Just might crack under the pressure:
This leaves us with just two quarterbacks left. Dak Prescott and Phillip Rivers.
Prescott plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Being the quarterback for “America’s Team” always delivers some kind of pressure to win. Winning a playoff game is a whole different type of pressure though. It is a well-known fact the Cowboys are absolutely dismal in the playoffs in recent years. After this season full of hype and lofty predictions of them being a Super Bowl contender by some experts, the pressure is on for him to lead them past the first round and probably further. You also have to think Prescott is considered the weak spot on this team right now. A loss this weekend will only make that chatter worse. It could also cost Jason Garrett his job, and do not forget Jerry Jones is his boss. There is no one more unpredictable than Jones. He could just go out and find a quarterback this off-season who will get the job done.
Though Prescott is feeling the pressure in “Big D”, there is no one right now who is dealing with what Phillip Rivers has to be dealing with. Not only is he making a great run in a new city, Los Angeles, but he is also still the figurehead of this offense and team. Putting up great numbers all season, Rivers has pushed back father time, at least for this season. He made a run with one of the most talented Chargers teams he has been a part of. We have seen this story before though. Talent busting out the seams, but never really able to put it together when it comes playoff time. Rivers knows his time is limited in this sport. This may be his last shot to quiet the nay-sayers who say he doesn’t deserve the golden jacket of the Hall of Fame by hoisting the Lombardi trophy and go out on top.