1. Texans 31, Bengals 10 – It was an impressive all-around game from Houston that allowed them to dominate Cincinnati at home in the Texans’ first playoff game in franchise history. Even with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates under center, the Texans had little problem, mostly due to piling up 188 rushing yards, including 153 from Arian Foster. Yates played well in his first playoff game, throwing for 159 yards and one touchdown without an interception. Houston also impressed on defense, as Andy Dalton threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by rookie defensive end J.J. Watt. Cincinnati never got into a rhythm on offense, and scored just a field goal after the first quarter of play. It was an all-around game exhibited by the Texans, and they will need more of that on Sunday afternoon, when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
2. Saints 45, Lions 28 – This game was a story of two halves; in the first half, Detroit couldn’t have played much better. They were matching up well with New Orleans’ potent offense, and had a 14-1o halftime lead. But the second half was a totally different story, as the Saints out-scored the Lions 35-14 and won the game running away at home. New Orleans amassed a playoff record 626 yards of total offense, led by 466 passing yards and three touchdowns from Drew Brees. The running game was equally important for the Saints however; New Orleans out-gained Detroit on the ground 167-32. The Lions played well for the most part, and getting back into the playoffs for the first time since 1999 was a huge achievement. But Detroit simply could not keep pace, and the Saints now march on to a battle of offense vs. defense against the 49ers in San Francisco.
3. Giants 24, Falcons 2 – Many people (including myself) thought this game would be a lot closer than the final score, but as usual the Falcons were overestimated. Atlanta continued their string of recent playoff disappointments, and the Giants rolled in their first playoff game since 2008. Eli Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, and the Giants’ running game had 172 yards on the ground. The Big Blue defense dominated the Atlanta offense throughout, and Matt Ryan once again came up small; he is now 0-3 for his career in the playoffs. It was a complete performance for the Giants, as they had 442 yards of total offense to the Falcons’ 247, and held the ball for over 34 minutes. New York is the healthiest that they have been all season, and they are playing with renewed confidence and aggressiveness. The Giants face a tough task this upcoming Sunday evening, as they travel to Lambeau Field to take on the 15-1 Green Bay Packers. In their regular season match-up, the Packers won 38-35 at Metlife Stadium, so another great game is likely in store.
4. Broncos 29, Steelers 23 (OT) – The best game of the Wild Card weekend was saved for last, as Tim Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to give the Broncos the upset win over the Steelers. Though Denver was at home, few expected the the Broncos to win, as they backed into the AFC West title because of tiebreakers with an 8-8 record after losing their last three games of the regular season. The 12-4 Steelers, on the other hand, have more combined playoff experience on their roster than any other team in the NFL. But only one team has Tim Tebow, and that’s all that seemed to matter. After three straight bad games, Tebow was magical, throwing for 316 yards on just 10 completions with two touchdowns, to go along with a rushing touchdown. He out-played his injured counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, and saved his most impressive play for the overtime period. One play was all it took for the Broncos to punch their ticket to Foxboro for a rematch against the Patriots.