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Neil Reynolds' Wraps Super Wild Card Weekend

It's been a busy few days covering the NFL with back to back to back studio shows bringing you Super Wild Card Weekend. As well as being in our new studio with Jason Bell, Phoebe Schecter and Ndamukong Suh; we connected you with the likes of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Vikings defender Josh Metellus, Chicago Bears wide receiver D.J. Moore, locker room reaction from Houston Texans running back Devin Singletary; as well as insight from the Around the NFL Podcast heroes and NBC's Peter King.

So, it's been a busy few days and that means I'm running on fumes and will be giving you the abridged version of my 'The Wrap' column this week, working through all six games with 10 takes in chronological order.

  1. J. Stroud is already a star!

After he threw for more than 4,000 yards in the regular season, we already had an idea that Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud was pretty special. Well, he announced himself on the playoff stage in spectacular fashion with a 45-14 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns. The lights were bright and Stroud didn't even blink as he completed 16 of 21 passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Stroud has energised a whole team and a whole city, making Houston's season a massive success, regardless of what happens when they go to Baltimore in round two.

  1. Chiefs freeze out the Dolphins

In one of the coldest games in NFL history (the wind chill made it feel like -34 degrees Celsius), the Kansas City Chiefs found an all-too-familiar remedy for success in 2023. Play great defense, rely on the leg of Harrison Buttker and get just enough out of Patrick Mahomes. It sounds weird but it worked to the tune of a 26-7 win against a disappointing and seemingly-disinterested Dolphins team. With that experience on their side, these Chiefs remain dangerous as they head to Buffalo; even without the offense matching the heights of previous years.

  1. Love shines on big stage

Much like C.J. Stroud the previous evening, Jordan Love shone on the big stage as the Green Bay Packers became the first seven seed to win a playoff game in NFL history, defeating the hometown Dallas Cowboys 48-32. That scoreline is deceiving. This was a thrashing. The Packers led 48-16 in the fourth quarter and their starters were on the bench. Love channelled his inner Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes to throw three touchdown passes, Romeo Doubs went for over 150 receiving yards and Aaron Jones topped the century mark and scored three rushing touchdowns. Like Houston, this year has to be considered a success in Green Bay. Next up is the San Francisco 49ers.

  1. McCarthy in trouble

Dallas had won 16 regular season home games in a row heading into Sunday night. But they were never competitive in this contest and the one that really mattered got away from them. They looked tight and nervous and blame for that has to fall on head coach Mike McCarthy and his quarterback, Dak Prescott. No one should feel safe in Dallas now. Owner Jerry Jones is starving for Super Bowl success and 28 seasons have now passed since he last held the Vince Lombardi Trophy. McCarthy has tamely exited the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Dallas but this one could be different because the likes of Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Mike Vrabel are on the open market.

  1. Sweet victory for Goff and the Lions

How sweet Sunday's 24-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams must have felt for the Detroit Lions? The atmosphere was off-the-charts raucous as the Lions registered their first playoff win in 32 years. Jared Goff spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Rams but was cast aside as they faced his opponent on Sunday night, Matthew Stafford. Goff played a clean game with 277 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions; guiding Detroit into the second round. The Super Bowl dream remains alive in the Motor City.

  1. Rams put a positive season into the books

There can be no shame in the way the Rams went out on Sunday night. Matthew Stafford threw for 367 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and dazzled us with his full array of passes. And Puka Nacua backed up his strong and record-setting regular season with nine catches for 181 yards and one touchdown. Stafford is definitely on the back nine of his NFL career, but nights like Sunday remind us he has a great deal left to give and the Rams should have him stick around.

  1. The Josh Allen Show

Not for the first time, Josh Allen powered the Buffalo Bills to victory; accounting for four touchdowns in a 31-17 handling of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen – who led the NFL with 44 offensive touchdowns in the regular season – was controlled and careful with the ball, but also brilliant when necessary; as indicated by his 52-yard scoring run and three touchdown passes. The Bills let far too many teams hang around and that could bite them this coming weekend against Kansas City, but it is also true that whenever they need a play; Allen is the one to deliver it.

  1. Uncertainty in Pittsburgh

The Steelers did well to reach the playoffs this season, posting yet another successful campaign. But they were undone by two things… the absence of brilliant pass rusher T.J. Watt and their lack of an elite quarterback. That is an area that could be addressed as soon as this coming offseason and I think Pittsburgh should be in the market for a veteran if the dominoes fall that way. Kenny Pickett hasn't shown me enough in his two years in the league. I do know the problem is not head coach Mike Tomlin and I don't actually blame him for walking out on a question about his future with one year left on his current deal. The Steelers remain led by one of the best coaches in modern NFL history.

  1. Mayfield marches on

Baker Mayfield enjoyed a career year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2023, throwing for more than 4,000 yards, leading his team to a division title and earning close to $3 million in bonuses. He was bold and outstanding in throwing for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a surprising 32-9 beatdown of the Philadelphia Eagles. It has been a value-packed one year deal for player and team. No matter what happens at Detroit in the Divisional Round, the Bucs and Baker need to come together on a long-term deal.

  1. A stunning fall from grace

After opening the year 10-1, the Philadelphia Eagles were in position to head back to the Super Bowl as the number one seed in the NFC. But Sunday's embarrassment in Florida means the Eagles ended up losing six of their last season. They lost more than that. They lost trust in each other and they lost the support of a passionate but sometimes-harsh fan base. And now they've likely lost their confidence heading into a difficult offseason. This was one of the most stunning falls from grace I have ever seen. Apart from Devonta Smith at receiver, the offense became predictable and stagnant. The defense was a comedy of errors, giving up big plays galore while adding in plenty of missed tackles, bad angles and blown assignments. As in Dallas, very few should feel safe in Philly and this was not the way brilliant warrior Jason Kelce would have wanted to retire. There is a lot of work to be done in this coming offseason.