By: Marvin A. Azrak
The divisional round is over and it’s down to the final four. It’s time to reflect on the round that was and talk about the one ahead. Let’s dive in.
Jaguars 20 Chiefs 27
Patrick Mahomes came back from injury and put a bow on a scintillating performance which saw him go for 195 yards passing and two touchdowns, the second capping a 75-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, and lifted Kansas City to a 27-20 victory over the Jaguars and a spot in a fifth straight AFC championship game.
Chad Henne led a 98-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, finding Travis Kelce in the end zone extending the Chiefs lead to 17-7, while Mahomes was out due an ankle injury he sustained on a hit Arden Key. Kelce would go into have a career-high 14 catches for 98 yards and two scores. The Jaguars, who rallied from a 27-0 deficit to shock the Chargers in the wild-card round, blew two chances as they looked to stun ur world again. The first ended when Jamal Agnew had the ball pop loose inside the Chiefs 5 with 5:30 left, and the second when Jaylen Watson made a leaping, one-handed interception near midfield. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence finished with 217 yards passing with a touchdown toss to Christian Kirk in the first quarter that answered a Kelce touchdown to tie the game at 7. Trailing 20-10 at the start of the fourth, Lawrence led his team down the field for a touchdown capped by Travis Etienne’s four yard run. Needing a response, Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a score to make it 27-17, and essentially ice the victory for the top-seeded Chiefs.
Bengals 27 Bills 10
In the rematch of the game that couldn’t get completed, the Cincinnati Bengals came out on top and will face the Chiefs for the second straight year in the AFC championship game.
Cincinnati struck early and often, wasting no time with a six-play, 79-yard scoring drive to open the contest that was capped off with a 28-yard passing play from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase. They would match that on their very next drive, when Burrow found a streaking Hayden Hurst on the far right side of the end zone to double the Cincy advantage. After being shut out and snowed out in the first quarter, the Bills got on the board with a QB sneak touchdown from Josh Allen. After the teams traded field goals sandwiched in between the halftime whistle, Burrow anchored a rapid 75 yard drive which ended with a Joe Mixon score to make it 24-10, which was more than enough of a cushion for the Bengals defense to run with as they stifled Buffalo’s attack with their exceptional man-man play, which they’ll look to use next week against Kansas City and make their second straight appearance in the Super Bowl.
AFC championship game info: Date: Sunday, January 29
Game time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
TV channel: CBS
Live stream: Paramount+, CBS live stream
(via draft kings.com)
Giants 7 Eagles 38
As a Giants fan, I expected it and how can you blame me, because I was one of fans who saw a similar debacle in person back in Week 14 when the Eagles pounded the Giants 48-22 at Metlife stadium which was my first time I saw my G-Men live.
Oh, I’m not mad. Yes it hurts (No pun intended) , but what a season it was! From four wins last year to a playoff win and the divisional round berth this year! It’s a young team that doesn’t have much talent or depth but fought till the end. Tip of the helmet to Philadelphia as they were the better team from top to bottom.
But I’m proud of big blue and this was the most fun season I’ve had in a while. I’m excited to see what changes are made in the offseason, because this is something you can build off of.
Great Moments of the season include:
Beating the Titans on opening day and comeback wins over the Ravens, Packers(In London), Jaguars, the SNF win in Washington, the playoff clincher against the Colts in the home finale and of course last week in Minnesota.
If that’s not enough for you, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale are wanted by teams who are currently looking for a new head coach. Meanwhile, in his first year in NY, Brian Daboll is a coach of the year candidate! Special thanks to Danny Dimes and Saquon for their “prove it “ seasons and hope GM Joe Schoen gives them the bag this Spring. The foundation is here! Time to build on it.
As for the game itself, it got ugly quickly. Philadelphia set the tone on the opening drive of the game with an 8-play, 75-yard drive that featured from
DeVonta Smith before Goedert scored on a 16-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. It would become 28-0 by the halftime break on scores by Smith Hurts, and Boston Scott, who has scored more career touchdowns against Big Blue (11) in nine games, than he has against the other 31 franchises (8) in 56 games.
The defense dominated the Giants as the Eagles held the New York offense to just three first downs on their first six possessions and sacked Daniel Jones five times while also picking him off once courtesy of EX-Giant James Bradberry before allowing them to open it up a bit after establishing a big lead. The league’s top pass rush defense, came through in the first when Haason Reddick sacked Jones on back-to-back plays, including a fourth-and-8 from the Eagles’ 40-yard line, to end the Giants’ first offensive possession. The game changing play would follow shortly thereafter, as faced with a 4th and one, Philadelphia faked the QB sneak play and instead went with Kenneth Gainwell, who’s 14 yard sprint kept the drive alive and set up Smith’s touchdown. Gainwell did it all on Saturday, accumulated to 112 yards on 12 carries. Helping him out was Miles Sanders who went for 75 yards on 13 carries and was the go to option when Gainwelll needed a breather.
Matt Breida had the lone touchdown for the Giants, but all that did was snap the Eagles shutout bid.
Jalen Hurts won the first playoff game of his career, as he went 16/24 and three 154 yards with three total touchdowns and a 112.2 passer rating, with his 4/4 performance in trips to the Red Zone a big part of that. Hurts also ran for 34 yards on the ground and a touchdown just before halftime.
It got to the point where backup QB Gardner Minshew even saw time for the Eagles in this one.
Cowboys 12 49ers 19
The 2023 NFC championship game will feature the conference’s two to teams after the 49ers won their 12th straight game and eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs for a second straight season on Sunday.
Burgeoning star and San Francisco QB Brock Purdy didn’t have to do much, but he did outplay the more experienced Dak Prescott, and didn’t turn the ball over while Dak did so twice. His first one came early in the contest when Prescott looked for Michael Gallup, but was read well by Deommodore Lenoir, who picked it off, leading to a San Francisco field goal and a 3-0 lead.
It was 6-6- in the third when Prescott tried to hit Ceede Lamb, but Jimmie Ward tipped it to Fred Warner to force the change of hands. Down 9-6, the Cowboys special teams stepped up when Ray-Ray McCloud knocked the ball loose and would recover, making way for a field goal, tying the game back up.
It was 9-9 entering the final frame, before a heap of Dallas penalties allowed the 49ers to enter the red zone leading to a Christian McCaffrey touchdown that put his team up for good. Both teams would trade field goals, before the Cowboys had one last gasp but went three and out to end it.
NFC Championship game info:
(2) 49ers at (1) Eagles, 3 p.m. ET (Fox, stream on fuboTV
My bracket was busted when Buffalo lost so don’t count on me. But my gut says 49ers and Chiefs for the second time in four years, though I do want Cincy to win on Sunday.
Let’s see if I’m right.