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NFL Wild Card Review: Biggest Takeaways from Opening Round

The 2022 NFL Wild Card Round opened with a surprisingly close game between Cincinnati and Las Vegas. Fans saw a few other close games throughout the weekend, but several of the contests turned into disappointing blowouts. The league should consider reducing its playoff field back to 12 teams after both seven seeds got humiliated in their matchups. In this article, we’ll examine some of the biggest takeaways from the weekend.

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NFL Wild Card Round Takeaways

Takeaway: Zac Taylor could ruin the Cincinnati Bengals

As Herm Edwards infamously said when coaching the New York Jets, “you play to win the game.” Taylor played ultra-conservative with a seven-point lead and 3:29 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders. The third-year Bengals head coach played to not lose instead of trying to snuff out Las Vegas’ comeback hopes.

All Cincinnati needed was a first down, and Joe Burrow could’ve gone to victory formation. Instead, the Bengals ran the ball twice and attempted a safe pass short of the sticks. Las Vegas got the ball back and marched right down to Cincinnati’s nine-yard line. Luckily, Derek Carr failed to convert on three straight plays, and Germaine Pratt intercepted his final pass.

Maybe Taylor got cold feet in his first playoff appearance, but the former quarterbacks coach must play more aggressively in the future.

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The Bills asserted their dominance over New England in the freezing cold.

Takeaway: The AFC East has new overlords

Maybe this is overdue or overdone because the Buffalo Bills won the AFC East last year in dominant fashion, but something about beating Bill Belichick by 30 at home in the playoffs struck a chord with me. New England looked completely outmatched for the magnitude of playing in Highmark Stadium’s freezing conditions in the postseason.

The Bills opened the night by scoring 27 points before New England finally booted a field goal home ahead of halftime. Mac Jones couldn’t close the gap, and the Patriots’ defense got blown to tatters by Josh Allen. Buffalo scored on its first seven possessions, and Allen completed 21 of 25 attempts for 308 yards and five touchdowns.

Buffalo won 47-17. It’s the second time in Belichick’s tenure where New England failed to win a playoff game in three consecutive years.

Takeaway: Philadelphia’s defense had an awful game plan (or none at all)

The Fox broadcast read several quotes from Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon about his plan to stop Tom Brady and his adjustments after Tampa Bay beat the Eagles in Week 6. How’d that go? The Buccaneers held a 17-0 lead at halftime and led 31-0 before Philadelphia finally got on the board.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, two teams put head coaching interview requests in for Gannon. Those franchises might want to rethink their directions and target more accomplished coordinators and former coaches like Todd Bowles (who shut out Philadelphia for 48 minutes) or Leslie Frazier.

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San Francisco survived a sloppy game in Dallas.

Takeaway: Dallas not disciplined enough to win

What an unnecessarily dramatic finish in Dallas between the third seed Cowboys and six seed 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo threw a game-changing interception with under ten minutes remaining, breathing life into the Cowboys.

Garoppolo’s untimely interception gave Dallas a short field, which led to a touchdown that trimmed the lead from 13 to six. Yellow laundry rained down frequently for the game’s remaining eight minutes. Both teams tripped over their own feet with the final straw being Dak Prescott scrambling too far and running the clock out before getting a final shot at the end zone.

Dallas committed 14 penalties for 89 yards in the 23-17 loss. San Francisco lost 58 yards on nine penalties.

Takeaway: Kansas City’s offense is back

Don’t look now, but the Chiefs averaged 36.5 points over their past six games. Patrick Mahomes and company are hot at the right time!

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