Last year, with the playoff field expanding to 14 teams and the first weekend growing to six games, the NFL coined a new term: Super wild card round.
There’s wasn’t much super about this year’s six-pack of games.
Of the half-dozen contests, four were blowouts, with margins of 16 points (Bucs over Eagles), 21 points (Chiefs over Steelers), 23 points (Ram over Cardinals), and 30 points (Bill over Patriots). Each outcome felt like even more of a splattering than the final scores would indicate.
Two games were close, with the 49ers winning in Dallas by six points and the Bengals beating the Raiders by seven. Both of those games could have been worse; the 49ers led by 16 in the second half, and the Bengals led by 14 in the first half and by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The weekend also saw a resurgence of home-field advantage, with the hosts going 5-1. Last year, the home teams in the first round went 2-4.
In both conferences, the games between the No. 2 seed and the No. 7 seed weren’t competitive, raising fresh questions as to whether it makes sense to have more than 12 playoff teams. Although the seventh-seeded Colts gave the Bills a run for their money in 2020, the other three games between second and seventh seeds haven’t been close.
The good news is that the wheat and the chaff have been separated, and that the remaining teams are the best eight in football. On Saturday, the Bengals face the Titans and the 49ers visit the Packers. The next day, the Rams take on the Bucs and the Chiefs host the Bills.
Hopefully, divisional round weekend will be the “super” that the super wild card round wasn’t.