The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs featured some exciting matchups, and we are now down to only four teams left. We saw a few big quarterback injuries this weekend, as Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were knocked out of their respective games with injuries, which led to some interesting results. While the Chiefs were able to overcome the injury to Mahomes, the Ravens weren’t as fortunate. Let’s take a look back at all the action, and see how the Conference matchups look.
(6) Los Angeles Rams – 18 vs (1) Green Bay Packers – 32
The Rams came into this one on a high note after beating the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round, but they were simply no match for the Packers in this one. Aaron Rodgers threw for 296 yards and 2 scores, and Aaron Jones had over 100 total yards and a score, as the Packers took down the Rams with relative ease. Despite the Rams having the ball down by only seven at the start of the fourth quarter, it never felt like they were seriously threatening to win this one. They punted to end that drive, and Rodgers connected with Allen Lazard as seen in the clip above to put this one to rest.
The Rams fought admirably throughout the backend of the season, as they suffered a number of injuries that made what they accomplished all the more impressive. Jared Goff was still not 100% healthy from the thumb injury he suffered in Week 16. Aaron Donald was also not fully healthy, and was clearly impacted by a chest injury he suffered last week throughout this one. Cooper Kupp was forced to miss this one after suffering a leg injury at the end of last week’s contest, which made a tough task for the offense even tougher. The injuries finally caught up to them, which is a shame for such a talented Rams squad.
The Rams defense was expected to keep them in this one, but they struggled to slow down the potent Packers offense. The Davante Adams/Jalen Ramsey matchup received a lot of attention throughout the week, and while Adams didn’t have a huge game, he did enough to help Rodgers out, grabbing 9 passes for 66 yards and a score. The Rams also struggled to stop Aaron Jones, as he was finding way too much room on the ground, picking up an average of 7.1 yards per carry. While the Rams defense was able to slow down the Seahawks offense last week, they couldn’t figure out how to slow down the Packers big threats in this one.
The Packers will play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next weekend, as they will play their first NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field during the Aaron Rodgers era. The Packers have lost their last three Conference appearences, but were the away team in all of those contests. There is a chance snow could be in the forecast next weekend, which would provide the Packers with an even greater home-field advantage against a team that plays their home games in sunny Florida. While there has never been a question about Aaron Rodgers performance, he may have the help on defense that he needs in order to finally make it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.
(5) Baltimore Ravens – 3 vs (2) Buffalo Bills – 17
A game that was expected to be a high-scoring affair between two of the best young QB’s in the game turned out to be low-scoring defensive battle. On a windy night that had a clear impact on the game, both offenses didn’t have much success moving the ball. The game was tightly contested through the first three quarters, until Lamar Jackson threw a costly interception in the end zone to Taron Johnson, which he promptly returned for a 101 yard pick-six. That’s a huge swing, as the Ravens went from potentially tying the game to finding themselves down by two scores with only a quarter left to go.
To make matters worse, Lamar Jackson suffered a concussion on the second play of their next drive trying to recover a bad snap from Patrick Mekari. This forced fourth string quarterback Tyler Huntley into emergency action, and he never really stood a chance. The Ravens strength throughout the season was their ability to run the ball consistently, but they struggled to find a lot of room on the ground in this one. They averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but those numbers were somewhat padded by Huntley picking up 32 yards on 3 scrambles in garbage time. On a night where the wind played an impact, it was vital for the Ravens to establish a run game, and their failure to do so is a big reason their season is over.
With the Ravens only mustering three points on the Bills, they didn’t really have to a lot to win this one. They barely ran the ball in this one, and when they did they only managed a paltry 2 yards per carry. Josh Allen threw for 206 yards and a touchdown, but didn’t do much aside from the one drive that yielded an offensive touchdown. Johnson’s long pick six spared the Bills, as they were struggling more than the Ravens to move the ball, and then Jackson’s injury ensured they wouldn’t have to do much more to secure the win.
Despite moving on, the Bills offense is going to need to be much more in sync in order to pull off an upset victory against the Kansas City Chiefs next week. While the status of Patrick Mahomes is currently up in the air (more on that in a second) the Chiefs still possess a high powered offense with a ton of weapons for whoever in under center. The Bills secondary, led by Tre’Davious White, have the pieces to atleast slow down the Chiefs offense. But the game will be determined by how much Josh Allen and the Bills offense can score against the Chiefs defense. Assuming Mahomes is able to suit up, the Bills will have a tall task in front of them.
(6) Cleveland Browns – 17 vs (1) Kansas City Chiefs – 22
The Browns-Chiefs game was probably the most uneven game of the weekend, but ended up being the closest game we saw. This was due to Patrick Mahomes suffering a concussion midway through the third quarter. Backup quarterback Chad Henne entered the game and was able to pick up a field goal to finish off that drive, giving the Chiefs a 12 point lead that proved to be just enough to keep them alive in the playoffs. The Browns were unable to capitalize on Mahomes departure, bringing the game only as close to the five point deficit it ended at.
The Browns went into halftime down 16 points, but they were very close to making that deficit smaller. Rashard Higgins fumbled the ball out of the end zone with under two minutes in the half, which most likely took seven points away from the Browns. The Chiefs got the ball back and tacked on a field goal to make the deficit 16. The Browns spent the second half returning to their bread-and-butter, which involved getting the ball to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. This helped them bring the game back, but had the Browns been able to capitalize on that late first half possession, there’s a good chance they would be heading to Buffalo next weekend for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
The Browns got the ball off a Chad Henne interception about halfway through the fourth quarter, but were forced to punt with about 4:30 left in the game. After seeing Henne’s awful interception on the previous drive, it was fair to bet that the Browns would be able to get the ball back with better field position and a chance to win the game. The two-minute warning hit, and the Chiefs were faced with a 3rd and 14 situation, but the Browns were out of timeouts. Henne somehow rushed for 13 yards on the play, and then found Tyreek Hill for a five yard gain on fourth and 1 off an extremely gutsy call from head coach Andy Reid.
That sequence of plays put the Chiefs back into the AFC Championship for the third season in a row, but their chances of success depend almost entirely on whether Patrick Mahomes is able to suit up or not. While Henne performed admirably in Mahomes absence, his interception is a pretty clear indicator that he probably wouldn’t be able to lead the Chiefs to victory over the red hot Bills. If Mahomes can play, the odds will be in the Chiefs favor to return to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, as they aim to become the first repeat champions since the 2003-04 Patriots teams.
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 30 vs (2) New Orleans Saints – 20
Third time is the charm for Tom Brady and the Bucs, as they finally took down Drew Brees and the Saints after the Saints swept the pair of regular season games they faced off in. In what may have been Drew Brees final game, the Bucs defense did their best to make sure it was a constant struggle for him. Brees coughed up three interceptions, which the Bucs turned into 14 points, and helped lead to a dominant second half showing from Tampa Bay.
The Saints actually looked like the better team in the first half, partially due to Deonte Harris punt returning ability. Harris first return was for 54 yards, which set up a Saints field goal, then had a 67 yard touchdown on his next return nullified by a block in the back.
The Saints ended up with only two field goals off these returns, but could have found themselves in a much better position had their offense been able to capitalize. These early struggles foreshadowed how the Saints day would go, but had they been able to punch in in on these two drives, it could have been a different story.
The game went into the half tied at 13 a piece, and the Saints scored on their opening drive to give themselves a seven point advantage. From there on out however, it was all Bucs. Three of the Saints final four drives ended with turnovers, which significantly derailed their efforts to counter the offensive push the Bucs were making. Brady turned these short fields into points each time, and the Saints just weren’t able to keep up. Teams that win the turnover battle typically will win the game, and the Bucs were able to dominate the turnover battle on the way to the NFC Championship game.
The Bucs now head into a tough battle with the Packers. The Bucs handed the Packers one of their few losses in the regular season, as the Bucs defense did to Rodgers what they did to Brees last night. The Bucs defense will need to play pretty close to their performance in that game if they want to make it to the Super Bowl, as Rodgers and the Packers offense seem intent on steamrolling anyone that gets in their way. Brady and the Bucs offense can probably hang with the Packers offense, but if they can get some help on defense, it could be the difference between playing in the Super Bowl and watching it from home.