It’s just down to four teams.
With their wins in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, and Falcons are the only teams left standing with their only goal being to hoist up that Lombardi Trophy in February.
How each of these teams go there were a little different, but all ended with the same result: a win.
The Falcons did the honors of starting off the Divisional round with a route of the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 in a game where the margin was much wider than just 16 points. The Falcons continued their offensive dominance, seemingly doing whatever they wanted to the once vaunted Seahawks defense.
Through the air, Matt Ryan clearly made his case as to why he should possibly win the NFL MVP this year. Ryan gashed the Seahawks Legion of Boom (minus one) for 338 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He consistently hit his main target Julio Jones (6 catches, 67 yards, one touchdown) and mostly everyone on the Falcons who could line up on offense as eight different players caught a pass from him. Their ground game only added to the aerial attack as they rushed for 99 yards and a Freeman score.
But this is what we’ve come to expect from this offense. It’s the defense that clearly stood out and grew up.
All season, the Falcons defense had been miserable, causing the offense to have to bail them out on many occasions and put up huge numbers. On Saturday, they continued the Seahawks offensive woes, picking off two Russell Wilson passes while sacking him three times and getting constant pressure. Everyone was flying around the field and the energy that they brought was resounding throughout the entire game.
Now, the odds of them continuing this kind of play? Very low. This isn’t because they aren’t capable of putting together back-to-back stellar performances, but moreso because running into a quarterback who is on one of the hottest streaks we have seen.
That quarterback would be one Aaron Rodgers who promised that the Packers would run the table in the latter half of the regular season and do damage in the playoffs. To this point, he has more than backed up his talk.
Sunday was just the next stop on this train of perfection for Rodgers as he torched the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys to lead his team to an exciting three-point victory. Let’s skip the measly stats (356 yards passing, two touchdowns) and go to the biggest and most magical throw we have seen in a while.
On a third and 20 and on the wrong side of the 50 yard line with time ticking down, Rodgers drops back, rolls to his left. Now, for most right-handed quarterbacks, this is the toughest throw you can make. For Rodgers, however, it’s just another trick up his sleeve. It’s a sleeve that delivered a perfect ball to Tight End Jared Cook who tiptoed the sideline and secures a 36 yard catch to put the Packers into field goal range with three seconds left. Mason Crosby finished the rest as he buried the go-ahead field goal as time expired, advancing the Packers to the Conference Championship and sending the Cowboys home for the season.
On the AFC side of things, the Patriots expectedly handled the Texans on Saturday night 34-16.
Although Tom Brady didn’t have his best game, he made enough plays early to really secure the win by the time the fourth quarter hit. The Pats started off hot with Brady throwing two touchdowns passes within the first two quarters and a Dion Lewis 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The story of the game was the Texans’ failure to convert on rare Patriots’ mistakes.
Brady had only thrown two picks the entire regular season, but on Saturday night, he matched that with two. However, those two Brady turnovers only resulted in six points for the Texans who were only able to get two field goals out of the equation. This, along with the lack of offense, buried the Texans into a hole they couldn’t get out of versus a team of the Patriots caliber. Brock Osweiler only completed 23 of 40 passes for 187 yards and two turnovers.
Early Patriot offense plus bad Texan offense throughout equals a win for the Pats.
In the final game of the Divisional round, the Steelers traveled to Kansas City to play the Chiefs in a game pushed to primetime due to harsh weather early in the day.
In a defensive battle in which only one touchdown was scored, it was the team who actually scored the touchdown that ended up losing.
The Steelers pulled out a 18-16 win on the strength of six Chris Boswell field goals and another great game on the ground by LeVeon Bell (170 yards). This game, much like the Packers/Cowboys right before it, came down to the wire. Unlike the Packers who won on a time-expiring field goal, the Steelers won, in essence on a penalty.
After a Spencer Ware one yard touchdown run, that brought the Chiefs within two at 18-16, the Chiefs obviously had to go for two. Originally, the two point play worked to perfection as Alex Smith found a wide open receiver in the back of the endzone, but the play was negated due to a Eric Fisher hold. Suffice to say, the next try at the conversion failed and the Steelers would hold on to win the game, setting up another installment of the Patriots vs the Steelers this Sunday.
Which teams do you have advancing to the Super Bowl? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.