After a long unpredictable, injury-filled, entertaining NFL regular season, there was much anticipation for the playoffs to begin.
Now that they are here, the playoffs have yet to disappoint, immediately making history and breaking hearts in Wild Card weekend alone.
For the first time in NFL history, all four road teams walked off of their opponent’s home-field victorious.
The Kansas City Chiefs destroyed the Houston Texans 30-0. The Chiefs’ winning streak continued with ease after their defense placed continuous pressure on the Texans weakness, their quarterback, Brian Hoyer, forcing him to commit five turnovers on the game.
Thankfully, the other AFC game was not as one-sided as the previous match-up.
Despite having no run power and hardly even a passing game, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the overmatched Cincinnati Bengals in a final score of 18-16 after the go-ahead field goal by Chris Broswell.
On the other side of the bracket was a tragic end to the season for the Minnesota Vikings.
Going into the fourth quarter ahead of the Seattle Seahawks 9-0, Minnesota would allow 10 unanswered points within just seven minutes. The Vikings would have a chance to regain the lead with 22 seconds remaining on a 27-yard field goal attempt by their standout kicker, Blair Walsh.
After poor placement of the ball by the holder and an awful kick by Walsh, the ball went wide-left, securing the win for Seattle and placing a bitter feeling in the Vikings and all of their loyal fans.
The last Wild Card game was played between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.
Following an early lead by the Redskins, the expected outcome would soon come with the Super Bowl contenders, Green Bay, beating Washington in a final score of 35-18.
Although all of the “underdogs” won in unique fashion, I believe that all of the outcomes were predictable, another good reason why the NFL should change their playoff format and rid off the divisional aspect of the seeding.
While the Wild Card round was engaging, the Divisional Round would prove to be even more entertaining.
All four of these games would end up being decided by seven points or fewer.
The defending Super Bowl Champions and favorites to make it to the championship game once again this year, in my eyes, the New England Patriots, would end Kansas City’s winning streak 11-game winning streak in a score of 27-20.
The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Denver to face off against the Broncos.
The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL when healthy, but luckily for Denver, this was not the case. The Denver Broncos, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, would outlast the injured Steelers 23-16.
On the NFC side on the bracket, both the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers survived late comeback attempts from their respective opponents.
After a back-and-forth game between the Cardinals and Packers, an outstanding hail-mary throw from Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis was successfully completed, but it wasn’t enough to decide a winner, so the game headed to overtime.
Following a controversial “coin toss” by the officials, Arizona was awarded possession and led by one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game, Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals would score after a long catch and run by the receiver and eventually a brilliant shovel pass play to “Fitz” that sealed the game.
In the other divisional game, the Panthers got off to a hot start over the Seahawks. While Seattle made a late run, it was not enough to knock off the NFL’s top team.
On Sunday, Jan. 24, the Conference Championships were held.
In the AFC, it was the Patriots facing off against the number one seeded Broncos.
The matchup was highly anticipated as two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady of New England and Peyton Manning of Denver, would go head-to-head one more time in the postseason.
Although Brady may have had the advantage over Manning in the past, it was the Denver quarterback who led his team to victory this time around, as the Broncos won 20-18, reserving their spot in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
In the NFC, MVP candidate Cam Newton and the Panthers got off to a hot start and didn’t look back, demolishing the Cardinals on their home turf in a final score of 49-15.
This places Carolina (15-1) and Denver (12-4) against one another in the San Francisco Bay Area for Super Bowl 50, which may be the best Super Bowl in many years.
While this should be a closely-contested game, I anticipate the Vince Lombardi Trophy to go back to the NFC once again with a Carolina Panthers victory.