Despite a tumultuous pandemic and lower television ratings, the NFL playoffs are in full swing, and the college football playoffs went off pretty much as planned. The NFL’s Super Wild-Card weekend drew millions of TV eyeballs, albeit fewer than a year ago.
Alabama won yet another national championship under coach Nick Saban, his seventh. While the early TV numbers were discouraging, 27% behind last year’s LSU-Clemson title game, the fact that the playoffs survived the pandemic is by itself a victory. Things looked so bleak last spring and early summer.
Social media stirred with excitement for good reason. Washington’s QB Taylor Heinicke (one announcer actually inadvertently called him Taylor Heineken) was impressive. He mounted a pulsating comeback against Tom Brady’s Bucs but it fell short. Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield secured their first career postseason wins. The Bills, (#BillsMafia) and the Cleveland Browns (Dawgpound) clinched their first playoff victories since the mid 1990s and Alabama’s Devonta Smith broke more college football records by the day including 12 receptions, 215 yards, and 3 TDs in the first half of the national championship.
Yes, a great deal of fervor and storylines unfolded the past few days. So let’s scope out Twitter to see how the media felt about football:
Hannah Storm (@HannahStormESPN)
- After the national championship, Hannah Storm expressed her respect for Alabama’s football program and for their long-time and celebrated head coach, Nick Saban. She admires Saban not just for his results, seven national championships (six with Alabama and one with LSU). More importantly, she says, it’s how Saban “consistently prepares these young men for their futures.”
- Turning to the NFL, Storm was proud of the way in which QB Heinicke handled himself and performed in a competitive playoff game against the Bucs. Like many NFL aficionados watching the primetime Saturday night game, Storm felt that Heinicke made the most of his moment by demonstrating his “never give up” mentality. Storm tweeted out: “Just like Rivera, Smith…battling!”
Author’s Note: Head coach, Ron Rivera, went through cancer treatment this past fall. Additionally, after 17 surgeries, starting QB, Alex Smith, was able to overcome a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg and got back to action earlier in the 2020-21 season. It’s hard not to root for them.
Jim Rome (@jimrome) CBS Sports Network
- Jim Rome was one of the most active media members on social media the last few days. Rome referred to Buffalo Bills QB, Josh Allen, as a “legend” for leading the Bills to a victory over the veteran filled Indianapolis Colts roster. Furthermore, he labeled the Rams defense as a “Super Bowl defense” for the way in which they halted Russell Wilson, never letting the Seahawks get into an offensive rhythm.
Author’s Note: On Sunday evening, Jim Rome very well could have been the happiest Browns fan alive. Below is his reaction and quotes after Cleveland pulled off the upset:
“BEST. DAY. EVER.”
“BEST DAY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!”
“THESE MIGHT BE THE HAPPIEST MOMENTS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.”
Mina Kimes (@minakimes) NFL analysts-ESPN
- Mina Kimes’ Twitter account was buzzing. She was in awe of Josh Allen’s arm talent, claiming that Allen can “toss the ball a bazillion yards as casually as a little kid flicking a booger.” Kimes was also impressed with the way in which Josh Allen is able to absorb contact from physical NFL defenders. Moving onto the later games, Kimes expressed her sympathy for Rams QB, John Wolford, after he suffered a hit to the head in the first quarter of their game against the Seattle Seahawks. Wolford was taken to the hospital and Kimes felt awful for him because he missed such a big opportunity in what was his first career playoff start.
- Kimes was also captivated by Heinicke. She even tweeted, “The Heinicke era has begun.” As for Browns RB, Nick Chubb, she considers him to be the best of the best at his position: “Nick Chubb is already insanely good. Nick Chubb with that offensive line is unfair.”
Kirk Herbstreit was on the title game broadcast and from my perspective did an outstanding job. Before the kickoff, Herbstreit expressed his appreciation for the night on his Twitter platform:
Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) ESPN
- “Thank you College Fball for getting us here. The sacrifices by the players & coaches- the restrictions- the new schedules & protocols- the constant testing- the isolation. Thank you for all of it & MORE- Think about where we were as a country in June- Just incredible- Sincere gratitude!”
Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) ESPN
- As a lifelong Browns enthusiast, Sarah Spain was exuberant on Sunday evening. She was “very much enjoying [the] performance by Roethlisberger” who threw a whopping 4 INTs. Her joy continued as the Browns continued to put up even more points on their way to a 48-37 victory. On the college side, Spain was in awe of Alabama WR Devanta Smith’s performance in the first half of the title game. But she was disappointed to see the Tide’s other star wideout, Jaylen Waddle, on the field: “Why is Waddle out there? I love his heart, but folks should be looking out for him. He was in there, he was a part of this, now just chill and get yourself healthy.”
Author’s Note: Jaylen Waddle suffered a season-ending ankle injury earlier in the season, and he’s projected to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Social media asked why Waddle would risk the health of his ankle not being 100% during the championship game. NFL stars, Patrick Mahomes, A.J. Brown, Jalen Ramsey, and Darius Leonard, also tweeted out messages encouraging the receiver to remain on the sidelines.
Rich Eisen (@richeisen) NFL Network
- Rich Eisen was delighted by the Sunday afternoon Nickelodeon broadcast of the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints game. Eisen found the addition of Spongebob, the Slime, and the colored animation on the turf to be quite fascinating. He was also thrilled that Saints head coach, Sean Payton, kept his promise to be slimed postgame. Eisen is looking forward to a Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees and to a Baker Mayfield vs. Patrick Mahomes matchup in the Divisional rounds this coming weekend. Will the games live up to Eisen’s expectations?
Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN)
- Dianna Russini had a great deal to say with regard to the Baltimore-Tennessee game on Sunday afternoon. She was impressed by how much head coach Mike Vrabel has improved the Titans over the course of the past few seasons. Russini referred to reigning NFL MVP as “unbelievable” and claimed that “Lamar Jackson makes football so much fun. It’s an added bonus that he’s the kind of person who so many people love to be around.”
Author’s Note: This rivalry is quickly becoming one of the hottest in the NFL. From dancing and stomping on each other’s logos in the middle of their respective fields to skirmishes on the sidelines and from heated exchanges to battles at the line of scrimmage, both the Ravens and Titans surprisingly had a similar agenda. For the Ravens, it was to stop Derrick Henry (RB) from running over them. For the Titans, the mission was to prevent Lamar Jackson (QB) from running around them. The Ravens persevered.
Chris Fowler (@cbfowler)
- Chris Fowler gave props to Taylor Heinicke for his prowess on the field Saturday night. He admitted that he, himself, had never even heard of QB Heinicke before the matchup. He was also happy to see that the Cleveland Browns finally got rid of their playoff struggles by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dick Vitale (@DickieV)
Vitale predicted a 34-31 Alabama win over Ohio State. While his score may have been off, Alabama did not let Vitale down. Like Kirk Herbstreit, DickieV is a huge fan of the way in which Nick Saban conducts himself and the Alabama team as a whole:
- “Love Kirk Herbstreit’s comment about the mentality of the Alabama football TEAM. Their players he stated are ALL about winning & fighting for CHAMPIONSHIPS. Unselfish & dedicated to wearing the Bama jersey with PRIDE ! It all starts with fantastic leadership which =’s SABAN!”
- Vitale also gave Ohio State QB, Justin Fields, credit for not giving up and continuing to throw TD passes and run for big yards despite the Buckeyes being down by multiple possessions (as much as 4 TDs). He even exclaimed “I hope the Jets watched that throw by Fields.”
Courtesy of the National Football League, below is the Divisional Round matchups for the slate of games this upcoming weekend, January 16th and 17th: