The NFL season appears to be flying by. When it only just seems as though the regular season had ended, we are already onto the Divisional round matches after the Wildcard games were decided at the weekend.
What have been some of the biggest talking points from both on and off the field over the past week or so?
Martavis Bryant’s wonder catch
For all those who are yet to see Martavis Bryant’s catch against the Cincinnati Bengals, you are missing out.
The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver came up with one of the best catches in NFL history as he used a forward somersault to keep control of the ball with his legs and ensure a touchdown after getting on the end of a Ben Roethlisberger pass. Bryant’s athleticism granted the Steelers a valuable 15-0 lead, which helped them towards an eventual 18-16 win.
NFL expert Neil Reynolds was an admirer and even went as far to suggest it was a better catch than Odell Beckham Jnr’s stunning one handed reception last season against the Dallas Cowboys. I challenge any NFL fan to decide on which one is better.
Vontaze Burfict banned
Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker Vontaze Burfict made the headlines for the wrong reasons this week. Burfict was handed a 3 game ban by the NFL for repeatedly violating player safety rules.
The ban came after he targeted wide receiver Antonio Brown in the head with a blindside hit during Sunday’s wildcard match up with the Steelers. Brown suffered a concussion and there is talk that Pittsburgh’s star man could miss their next game against the Denver Broncos.
Burfict has previously been fined $50,000 for a similar hit on Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams in week 17. The Bengals will now be without Burfict for the start of next season, unless he is successful with his appeal.
Peyton Manning to return
This may be considered old news in the fast moving world of the NFL, nevertheless, it is big news.
Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak confirmed last week that Manning will start at quarterback for the team’s Divisional Round game this upcoming weekend.
Manning will return as a starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers after he replaced Brock Osweiler in the 3rd quarter of the final regular season game against the San Diego Chargers. His performance in week 17 led his team to 20 points from the final 1 ½ quarters.
While Bronco fans will be hopeful his experience will shine through, many are likely to be disappointed not to see Brock Osweiler given a chance in the playoffs. He has impressed since replacing Manning and cannot be blamed for his two interceptions in an unforuntate game for him against the Chargers.
What could have been for the Minnesota Vikings
It was the stuff of nightmares for kicker Blair Walsh and his Minnesota Vikings teammates. After giving his side a 9-0 lead with three field goals, Blair Walsh missed a 27 yard attempt with 26 seconds to play at a point where the Vikings were down 10-9 to the Seattle Seahawks.
After battling hard in -21degrees Celsius conditions, the Vikings left with nothing to show for their efforts.
While the Vikings slumped, the Seahawks went on to rally in the 4th quarter, scoring 10 points to take them to the Divisional Round. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson pulled off an incredible play when he recovered a fumbled snap before finding Tyler Lockett, whose 35 yard gain set up a three yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin.
This proved to be the longest gain in a match that could have finished so differently.
Megatron considering retirement
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson could soon retire after he last week stated: “I am currently evaluating options for my future”.
Johnson, known as ‘Megatron’, has spent nine years with the Lions in the NFL and has so far made 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns.
Despite not having his best season in a Lions jersey, the 30 year old receiver still managed to record 88 receptions for 1,214 yards and 9 touchdowns.
He has made an astonishing $113million over his career and is still owed $51million over the next three years as part of a seven year extension that he signed in 2012.
It appears the brutality of the NFL could have finally taken its toll on Johnson, although there are still plenty of signs to suggest he has what it takes to play on.
Super Bowl 50 is fast approaching. We can all look forward to this weekend as the NFL’s best come face to face.