NFL Divisional Round Recap

In the NFL, every year teams and players go on great regular season runs and put up insane regular season numbers, but once the playoffs come around numbers are just that, numbers. It’s all about what you do come January and then you finally see whose numbers were a fluke and whose have true substance. That was made quite apparent by the wild card round as teams like the Browns and Cowboys who had top-10 defenses all season get roasted for 45 and 48 points respectively. While teams like the Packers and Buccaneers showed that the postseason can be a launching pad towards victory as both of them knocked off the best from the NFC East. The Packers embarrassed the Cowboys while the Bucs humiliated the Eagles. The Pack and Bucs were just two of eight teams in the NFL’s “elite eight” but the question now is, who will play for the right to get to the Super Bowl next week? 


#4 Houston Texans at #1 Baltimore Ravens

The divisional round means that the #1 seeds get into action and the best team in the NFL this season has been the Baltimore Ravens led by MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson and a dominating defense. The Ravens were looking to host Baltimore’s first conference championship game since 1971 when the then-Baltimore Colts hosted the Oakland Raiders. For the Ravens to host the AFC championship game they would have to go through the upstart Houston Texans. The Texans came into this season with zero expectations. They had a new head coach in DeMeco Ryans and a rookie quarterback in CJ Stroud. That QB-coach duo turned a 3-win team into a 10-win team. The #4 seed Texans won their wild-card playoff game versus the #5 seed Browns 45-14 thanks to Stroud and a dominant defense that forced and returned two Joe Flacco interceptions for touchdowns. The teams played to a 10-10 tie at halftime. Both teams struggled to score in the 1st half as the Ravens’ only touchdown in the half came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to Nelson Agholor. The Texans’ only touchdown of the game wasn’t from CJ Stroud but punt returner Steven Sims who ran a punt back 67 yards to draw the Texans to even. The 2nd half was all Baltimore, they outscored the Texans 24-0 half thanks to Lamar Jackson, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. Baltimore tacked on a late field goal to make the final score 34-10. The Ravens held the high-powered Texans offense to 213 total yards and three points. That means for the first time since 2017 the AFC championship game would not be held at Arrowhead Stadium but that doesn’t mean the Chiefs wouldn’t be in the game.

#3 Kansas City Chiefs at #2 Buffalo Bills 

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen’s quarterback rivalry has been the second coming of the Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning rivalry as they are arguably the two best QBs in the NFL today. Josh Allen has a 1-4 record against Mahomes in his career and has lost both playoff meetings on the road in Arrowhead. This time would be different, Josh Allen’s Bills were the higher seed and, while riding a wave of momentum, beating Miami two weeks prior to win the AFC East then the Steelers in the wild-card game to reach the divisional round. The defending champion Chiefs on the other hand had a very up-and-down season as their receivers led the league in dropped passes. Thanks to Mahomes and a stout defense the Chiefs won yet another division title and won their wild-card game over the Miami Dolphins 26-7 to win a trip to Orchard Park in the divisional round. The 1st half was full of unique offensive fireworks by both QBs. Josh Allen ran for two touchdowns while Mahomes threw a touchdown to Travis Kelce. At the half, it was 17-13 Bills. In the third quarter, both teams exchanged touchdowns but then in the 4th the Chiefs finally went ahead on an Isiah Pacheco touchdown run to give the Chiefs a 27-24 lead then after a wild sequence where the Bills faked a punt, didn’t get it, then the Chiefs worked down to the goalline where they then fumbled the ball through the endzone. Kansas City’s failure to deliver the knockout punch gave Josh Allen his chance with just over eight minutes on the clock. He worked his team down to the Kansas City 26-yard line where the drive stalled and in came Bills kicker Tyler Bass to attempt a 44-yard field goal to tie the game. Bass’ kick sailed wide right and the Chiefs ran out the clock from there and escaped with a 27-24 win to advance to Baltimore and the AFC championship game.


#7 Green Bay Packers at #1 San Fransisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have been the best team in the NFC all season defeating all teams that come against them. They beat the Cowboys 42-10 and the Eagles 42-19. They finished the season 12-5 and earned the #1 seed. The Packers were inconsistent as the youngest team in the NFL but they turned a corner on Thanksgiving when they upset the Lions in Detroit 29-22. That win led to them winning four of their last six games to clinch the #7 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Packers then headed to Arlington to take on and destroy the #2 Cowboys 48-32. The Packers led 27-7 at halftime and never looked back. The Pack was now ready to take on the Niners in Santa Clara. Following a slow first half in which the halftime score was 7-6, 49ers. The second half was lightning fast as the teams traded touchdowns in the third. The Packers kicked off the scoring by Jordan Love finding Bo Melton from 19 yards out to give the Packers a 13-7 lead. Christian McCaffery responded by scoring a 39-yard rushing touchdown to give the Niners a 14-13 lead. That lead would last all of two minutes as the Packers would drive right back down the field and score. Love found Tucker Kraft and Aaron Jones for a two-point conversion to put the Pack up 21-14. The fourth quarter was all Niners as they outscored the Packers 10-0. A Jake Moody field goal and McCaffery touchdown gave the 49ers a three-point lead with just over a minute remaining in the game. Love and the Pack had one more opportunity to win the game but their last pass of the game was intercepted by 49ers Dre Greenlaw to seal a 24-21 win.

#4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #3 Detroit Lions

The Buccaneers backed their way into the playoffs by beating the NFC South. They proved that they deserved to be in the playoffs by embarrassing the defending conference champion Philadelphia Eagles 32-9. The Lions have been the feel-good story in the league this season and they won the NFC North and a playoff game for the first time since 1991. The first three-quarters of this game were even. The teams played to a 17-17 tie but the fourth quarter was all Detroit as the Lions scored two touchdowns courtesy of Jahmyr Gibbs and Amon-Ra St.Brown to give the Lions a 31-17 lead. The Bucs would score once in the fourth- Baker Mayfield found Mike Evans to make it a 31-23 game but that is as close the Bucs would get. The Lions will reach their first NFC championship game since 1991. 

AFC Championship: #3 Kansas City Chiefs at #1 Baltimore Ravens, 2 PM on CBS

NFC Championship: #3 Detroit Lions at #1 San Francisco 49ers, 5:30 PM on FOX

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