Wild weekend unfolds in the NFL

Four out of the five NFL Wild Card games this weekend were decided by a touchdown or less. The Cowboys and Buccaneers kick off tonight from Tampa Bay in the final NFC Wild Card game of the weekend.

By

Sports

January 16, 2023 - 3:25 PM

Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson (19) is being sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive end Boogie Basham (55) and defensive end AJ Epenesa (57) in the first half of the NFL wild-card football game at Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY, on Sunday, January 15, 2023.

The Buffalo Bills blew a 17-point advantage before recovering to win Sunday. That narrow escape came less than 24 hours after the Jacksonville Jaguars overcame a 27-point deficit and pulled off one of the most stunning comeback victories in playoff history.

No lead is safe and the drama abounds so far in the NFL playoffs.

A loaded Sunday schedule saw the Bills escape with a 34-31 win over the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants upset the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 and the Cincinnati Bengals hang on to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 as wild-card weekend continued.

One more game in the round remains: Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

All three of Sunday’s games were decided in the final minutes. In the nightcap, Sam Hubbard returned Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley’s fumble 98 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter in a stunning turn of events that led the Bengals to their win.

Huntley tried to go over the top of the line for the go-ahead score. But he was stood up by Germaine Pratt and stripped by fellow linebacker Logan Wilson.

The ball went right to Hubbard at the 2, and the defensive end took off down the field for the longest fumble return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history. It also was the longest go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter in the postseason.

In Sunday’s opener, Bills quarterback Josh Allen shrugged off a three-turnover outing by throwing two touchdown passes 3:11 apart in the third quarter. He finished 23 of 39 for 352 yards and three TDs, but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

Cole Beasley scored the go-ahead touchdown with a 6-yard catch, and Gabe Davis extended the lead to 34-24 with a 23-yard TD reception after Buffalo squandered its early 17-0 advantage.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones became one of the stars of wild-card weekend by leading sixth-seeded New York to its road win over No. 3 Minnesota. Jones — playing in his first playoff game — threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 78 yards in a stellar all-around performance. Saquon Barkley rushed for two scores, including the tiebreaker midway through the fourth quarter.

On Saturday, rookie Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 while the Jaguars capped their comeback by beating the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30.

The No. 1 overall seed in the AFC was claimed by Kansas City with its 31-13 win over Las Vegas in Week 18. The NFC’s top spot was taken by Philadelphia. Those teams got the weekend off before playing in the divisional round next weekend.

Here are some other things to know during the postseason:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN/ABC

SATURDAY, JAN. 21

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:30 p.m. EST, NBC/Peacock/Universo

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m. EST, Fox/Fox Deportes

SUNDAY, JAN. 22

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills, 3 p.m. EST, CBS/Paramount+

Dallas/Tampa Bay at San Francisco 49ers, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox, Fox Deportes

WHAT’S THE FORMAT FOR PLAYOFFS?

This is the third straight year of the current playoff format, which includes the top seven teams from both the AFC and the NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn’t win their division are the wild-card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round — that’s the Chiefs and Eagles — while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during the wild-card weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each playoff round. That means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team will always travel to the highest-seeded team.

Related