The 2023 NFL Super Wild Card Weekend is off to an action-packed beginning, with five highly-competitive games having been played over two days.
All but one of the contests finished with a one-score victory. The AFC Divisional Round brackets are now set, but the NFC rankings will be up in the air until the conclusion of the Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night game.
The AFC Divisional Round will feature the four-seed Jacksonville Jaguars on the road against the one-seed Kansas City Chiefs, who had a bye in the first round.
The three-seed Cincinnati Bengals advanced for the second year in a row and will head to upstate New York for a rematch with the two-seed Buffalo Bills.
Last time these teams met, Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hard hit by the Bengals’ Tee Higgins that resulted in the cancellation of the game after just 10 minutes of play.
Four-seed Jacksonville defeated the five-seed Los Angeles Chargers after overcoming a 27-0 first-half deficit. The Chargers were unable to mount any offensive attack in the second half as the stout Jacksonville defense found a rhythm.
A missed field goal and a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Chargers’ defensive end, Joey Bosa, gave too many opportunities for the Jaguars, who triumphed 31-30.
The Bengals hosted the six-seed Baltimore Ravens, who were without star quarterback Lamar Jackson for the sixth straight week.
Backup Tyler Huntley was efficient but not extraordinary, with the exception of an attempted QB sneak in the fourth quarter that Huntley fumbled away. The loose ball was collected by defensive end Sam Hubbard who returned it 98 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
The Bengals won by a final score of 24-17, the lowest score of any of the five games.
Buffalo met a feisty seven-seed Miami Dolphins team who were without both their starting and backup quarterback options. QB Skylar Thompson was no match for the Bills’ Josh Allen, who hit 23-of-39 passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
The Bills defense was ruthless against the Dolphins’ pass protection, laying down four sacks and 11 QB hits.
Miami struggled with clock management late in the game, being forced to burn all three timeouts to avoid delay of game penalties and significantly limiting opportunities to come back in the game. The Bills won 34-31.
The two NFC games kicked off with an opening-day grudge match between two staunch division rivals: the two-seed San Francisco 49ers and the seven-seed Seattle Seahawks.
The game started out closely contested, and Seattle took a slim 17-16 lead just before halftime, but the magical season of QB Brock Purdy continued as the last player drafted in last season’s draft continues to dazzle in the 49ers’ offense.
The San Francisco defense is playing like a championship-caliber unit which helps to give the rookie QB beneficial field positioning.
The 49ers triumphed 41-23, which was the most lopsided score of the weekend. San Francisco will host the winner of the Dallas at Tampa Bay game on Monday.
Brian Daboll has resurrected the New York Giants from one of the worst teams in the league to a fearsome unit that bullies opponents. Such was the case when the six-seed Giants defeated the three-seed Minnesota Vikings 31-24 on the road.
Despite the booming SKOL chants, QB Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley ran away with the victory. The two players combined for 131 of the Giants’ 142 rushing yards, while the defense forced the Vikings to lean on Kirk Cousins because Minnesota rushed for only 61 yards in the game.
The six-seed Giants’ reward is a road trip to face the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.
The Divisional Round games begin on Saturday, January 21 at 3:30 p.m. CST with Jacksonville at Kansas City. The NFC matchup between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles will take place at 7:15 p.m. CST.
The action continues on Sunday, beginning at 2:00 p.m. CST with the Bengals at the Bills. Either Dallas or Tampa Bay will travel to San Francisco to play the final game which begins at 5:30 p.m. CST.