NFL Wild Card playoffs: Atlanta’s experience was key, Jacksonville stuck to what they know and Alex Smith may be done in Kansas City

FOUR more teams have fallen and just eight remain in the battle to reach the Super Bowl after Wild Card Weekend.

Atlanta, New Orleans, Jacksonville and Tennessee all advanced to the Divisional Round of the NFL play-offs with their wins over the weekend.

Here is what we learnt from the Wild Card Round.

A lot is made of home-field advantage in the play-offs.

The home crowd, no travel and playing in your own stadium can often make a difference when the margins are so fine.

But on Saturday, we saw the other side of the coin.

But the Chiefs and Rams felt the discomfort among their own fans when things weren't going their way.

The pressure seemed to be squarely on them instead of the visitors, especially Kansas City when their 21-0 point lead was gradually eroded away.

There really is no substitute for play-off experience as Matt Ryan and Co showed in Los Angeles.

The sixth-seeded Falcons ran out 26-13 winners at the LA Coliseum, dominating in all phases.

Ryan looked composed, Julio Jones stepped up, Devonta Freeman scored, the defence played magnificent and special teams forced two turnovers.

They simply handled the pressure better than the young LA Rams, who were the highest scoring team in the regular-season.

Quarterback Jared Goff, 23, and running back Todd Gurley, 23 will have any more play-off games over the years and be better for this experience.

If Atlanta go on to make the Super Bowl, they will be better than the all-conquering Falcons side from last season.

Last year's Falcons had a record-breaking offence that saw Matt Ryan crowned MVP, and eased through two home games in the NFC play-offs to reach the Super Bowl.

But this year's Atlanta team are the lowest seed and will have to win two more road games to make it to Minneapolis.

With everything they've been through already – the hangover from throwing away a 25-point Super Bowl lead, losing their offensive coordinator, moving to a new home and dealing with the re-emergence of division rivals New Orleans and Carolina – this team is tougher than 12 months ago.


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It's a fantastic achievement to make the play-offs again under those circumstances and says a lot about the character and leadership in the ATL.

Road games won't be a problem for this steely Falcons side, and in fact they will probably be favourites to win at No 1 seed Philadelphia on Saturday.

Alex Smith is looking over his shoulder in Kansas City with 22-year-old Patrick Mahomes ready to take over at quarterback.

The 10th overall pick in last year's draft might get his chance next season after Smith and the Chiefs' limitations were exposed in the play-offs again.

When Smith's favourite target tight end Travis Kelce left the game with a concussion, the Chiefs passing attack basically fell apart.

The Chiefs were pointless in the second half as they surrendered a 21-point lead to lose 22-21.

Smith steadied the ship in Kansas City over the last few years, but his time could be up with the talented Mahomes waiting patiently in line.

Jacksonville won't be winning any entertainment awards for their 10-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

It was the lowest scoring Wild Card game in history after three hours of defensive domination.

But that is who the Jaguars are and what has made them successful – strong defence and a punishing running game.

Their next opponents Pittsburgh know that well enough from October when the Jags picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times and Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards.

Quite amazingly, quarterback Blake Bortles ran for 88 yards but threw for just 87 in Sunday's low-scoring battle.

The NFL need to get a handle on their concussion rules once and for all this off-season.

Cam Newton went down in the loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night and clearly looked shaken up.

The Panthers quarterback should've been taken to the locker room and evaluated, according to the league's rules.

But after a quick pop into the medical tent on the sidelines, Newton was thrown back into the action.

Seattle were fined earlier this season for mismanaging Russell Wilson's concussion symptoms and Carolina can expect the same treatment.

Rules must be applied the same for all players and not different for a stars, especially when it concerns their safety and injuries that could harm their lives as well as football careers.

You'd think that a blizzard and some of the coldest temperatures seen on America's east coast might lead to a day off, especially when you're not playing that weekend.

Not in New England, though.

The Patriots practiced as schedule despite heavy snow in New England and despite the fact they had a first-round play-off bye.

"Every day is a work day," head coach Bill Belichick told the media.

That's the mentality of a team that has won five Super Bowls since the turn of the millennium.” target=”_blank” title=”Click to share on Twitter

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