Drama Builds as the NFL Is Down to Its Final Four
The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs has passed, and we're now down to the remaining four teams that are vying for a Super Bowl championship this season.
HOW ‘BOUT THOSE CHIEEEEFS?!?!? https://t.co/rWt2MIdoP2— Kansas City Chiefs (@Kansas City Chiefs) 1610995798.0
The reigning Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs, squeaked by with a win over the Cleveland Browns 22-17 even though starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes was knocked out for most of the second half with a concussion. The Chiefs backup QB, Chad Henne, was able to scramble for a first down late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for his squad.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers took care of the Rams with relative ease 32-18, as Jared Goff seemed limited while still recovering from a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The league's top defense was unable to slow down the Packers dual threat offense as Rodgers threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Jones ran for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills were able to limit the Ravens rushing attack and ultimately Lamar Jackson's ability to keep the chains moving. The wind played a factor in this game, forcing both teams to miss out on big passing plays and causing missed field goals. The weather certainly forced this game to be a lower scoring affair than we expected, but the result would have been the same. Bills took this one in a defensive battle 17-3.
Bills fans started donating to Lamar Jackson’s favorite charity overnight after he left the AFC divisional game wit… https://t.co/Dd4wVt0a9N— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) 1610902091.0
The Saints were not able to defeat Tom Brady's Buccaneers for the third time this season. Sweeping Tampa in their two regular season meetings, the Saints weren't able to get the passing game going in this one, which isn't something we're used to saying. Adding to their lackluster performance, the rumors of Drew Brees' imminent retirement makes this one even tougher to swallow if you're a fan of the Saints. New Orleans only lost 30-20, but they never really felt in the game.
AFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/21 at 6:40 PM EST
(2) Buffalo Bills at (1) Kansas City Chiefs -3
We are exactly where we should be at this point in the AFC, with the top two seeds in the conference fighting for the chance to head to the Super Bowl. This matchup is a tale of two very different organizations however. The Chiefs are the reigning, defending, undisputed Super Bowl champions with a super hero quarterback named Patrick Mahomes and an offense with more weapons than the Green Berets.
Everyone has that friend who always comes in way too hot... 😂 @Micah_Hyde | @Taronj11 https://t.co/N5D0ami2P7— Buffalo Bills (@Buffalo Bills) 1611017220.0
Buffalo is a small market team with a grassroots fanbase that hadn't seen a playoff win since the Clinton administration. Their claim to fame is losing four consecutive Super Bowls during the Jim Kelly era, and most recently they have been a team that's always been just good enough to avoid a top draft pick but never good enough to reach the postseason.
Enter Josh Allen, Brandon Beane, and Sean McDermott. In a few short seasons the Bills have gone from lovable losers to upstart dynasty much in the same vein as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Allen, like Mahomes, put up numbers that should position him as an MVP front-runner. Allen, unlike Mahomes, had to disprove a lot of doubters that had built up over the beginning of his NFL career.
Get you someone who looks at you the way Josh Allen looks at Stefon Diggs 😊 https://t.co/DzID71IYnD— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) 1610858845.0
Mahomes came out with guns blazing from the start of his career and has never looked back. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most think if Mahomes continues this level of play throughout his career, he may retire as the best to ever do it. But that's a long way from now, and right now Mahomes has a formidable opponent on his hands.
At this point, there's not telling what can happen. But the prospect of what can happen has us awaiting anxiously for Sunday night. As long as Patrick Mahomes is cleared to play after sustaining a concussion in the Divisional Round game against Cleveland, the Chiefs will feel confident going in to this one.
Josh Allen. Patrick Mahomes. A matchup we have all been waiting for… 👀 “If he flips the table and takes out the Ch… https://t.co/UOKDzBDOUh— NFL Network (@NFL Network) 1611000000.0
For Buffalo this is new and unexplored territory. We saw Josh Allen against the Texans last season fall on his face in his first playoff experience. Sure he's been great all year, and they just knocked off Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, but will the pressure of being one step away from the Super Bowl be too much for this untested group?
Prediction: Buffalo Bills 38 - Kansas City Chiefs 31
NFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/2021 at 3:05 PM EST
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (1) Green Bay Packers -3.5
Over the course of two decades, we have seen a lot of great quarterbacks, but possibly no two better than a couple of guys that wear number 12. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers often feel forgotten about for large portions of their careers because other storylines pulled our attention away from the consistent elite-level of play we have gotten from both of them on an annual basis.
Like anything in our lives that seems so basic and intrinsic to the fabric of life, we take players like Brady and Rodgers for granted because we just expect them to be able to continue throwing 40 touchdowns per season into their 40s (Tom Brady passed for 40 touchdowns in the regular season at the age of 43).
Tom Brady now has more playoff wins than all but five franchises 🤯 https://t.co/4xCxNpOmIM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) 1610983750.0
The degree of difficulty to maintaining a level of excellence while teammates change, coaches change, systems change, and defenses constantly game plan to shut you down is unbelievably high. No two quarterbacks (in this writer's opinion) have ever done more with less in regard to weapons at their disposal.
If you look at that statement in a vacuum, then it doesn't make sense as both QBs are playing with possibly their most talented respective groups ever this season. But over the course of their careers, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have elevated their teams year after year and made a lot of players, coaches, and front offices look better than they really were (Bill Belichick NOT included).
The best player in the NFL right now.... @AaronRodgers12. https://t.co/FiyDd8N5tk— Stephen A Smith (@Stephen A Smith) 1610999364.0
The Buccaneers struggled with consistency during the regular season. While clearly one of the best teams in the NFC even while enduring some bad play, the Bucs took some bad L's including a 38-3 loss to the Saints in early November. When at their best however Tampa is an offense that can run the ball and play defense, allowing Tom Brady to make plays when necessary and manage the game when required.
The Packers will need to focus on stopping the Buccaneer's running attack. Leonard Fournette has had over 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in both of Tampa's playoff games so far, and Ronald Jones (who is recovering from injury) chipped in 62 yards on the ground against the Saints last week. Considering how difficult it is to limit the Buccaneers' passing options, Matt LaFleur's best chance to slowing down this offensive attack is to take away the run.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 - Green Bay Packers 24