The divisional round of the NFL playoffs delivered plenty of drama as we found out our four Conference Championship contenders – we pick out the winners and losers from the weekend…
Green Bay Packers
Back in the NFC Championship game – and hosting it no less – this Green Bay Packers team warrant top billing in our Winners and Losers feature, not just Aaron Rodgers.
They’ll be plenty to write on Rodgers over the next week, perhaps next three weeks but after a 32-18 win over the LA Rams the offensive line, the running back committee, the defense, the head coach all deserve a mention in arguably Rodgers finest season.
Rodgers plays superstar better than anybody and, at times, during his 15 years with the franchise has had no choice. Yes, he probably loves every minute but it’s not particularly conducive to winning Super Bowls. The Packers only have one ring under their future Hall of Fame QB but they are better placed than ever to make a run at number two.
On Saturday night, it was the running game and the offensive line that took the plaudits. Aaron Jones is the number one RB in GB but Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillion stepped up with almost 200 yards on the ground – all three averaging 4.5 yards or more.
The offensive line might be without David Bahktiari but they have evolved all season and ensured not a finger was laid on Rodgers and that the Packers all-star offense put more yards on the Rams and their No 1 ranked defense than anyone else this season.
Rodgers? Oh alright, he was 23 for 36 for 296 yards two touchdowns, no picks and ran in for a score himself.
It all adds up to the fact the Packers might just be favourites to win Super Bowl LV especially as they’ll be back in a snowy Lambeau to face the Bucs for the NFC title. Paul Prenderville
The Buffalo Bills defense played lights out on Saturday night! Frazier’s unit limited a Baltimore Ravens attack that had swept all before them in a six-game win streak leading into the divisional round, and boosted his stock in terms on any potential head coaching opportunities that may yet still arise for him.
The Ravens averaged 34.3 points per contest in that win streak of theirs, but the Bills held them to three points and just 220 yards of total offense.
The standout moment from the Buffalo D was no doubt Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick six of Lamar Jackson as the Bills broke a 3-3 tied game with a couple of quick-fire scores in the third quarter.
Buffalo are in the AFC Championship game! And they have a chance of making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season, and of possibly winning it for the first time ever! If they were to, Frazier’s defense will surely again be at the forefront of it all. David Currie
Who could have possibly predicted that 35-year-old backup quarterback for Kansas City, Chad Henne, would be one of the major talking points from the weekend’s playoff action?
Well, #HenneThingIsPossible, so says a relieved and, crucially, recovering Patrick Mahomes, who tweeted that out once Henne had inspired his team to victory after he’d groggily left the game due to concussion following a heavy hit in the third quarter of the Kansas City Chiefs’ meeting with the Cleveland Browns.
Henne threw for only 66 yards and an interception – not exactly heroic! But, he had a third down run late on in the fourth quarter that earned him 12 yards – oh so nearly the 13 needed for a first down to kill the game.
But Henne, and perhaps more likely, head coach Andy Reid had a very cunning plan, opting to catch the Browns by surprise by going for it on the subsequent fourth down.
It looked like the Chiefs were just threatening to run a play in order to draw the Browns offside, but they caught them and even the great Tony Romo on commentary sleeping, quickly snapping the football and Henne finding Tyreek Hill for the game-clinching first down! David Currie
If that does indeed prove to be the final act of Brees’ fantastic NFL career, it was a rather limp way for him to bow out.
It rarely goes that those looking for a final-season swan song get to truly bow out on top, holding aloft the Vince Lombardi trophy as the confetti falls. John Elway and Peyton Manning both managed it for the Denver Broncos, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Brees struggled throughout Sunday’s beating at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, failing in particular to push the ball downfield – a widely-held critique of him all year – while he was personally responsible for three of the four turnovers the New Orleans Saints coughed up in the contest.
The 42-year-old has yet to make any official announcement on his future, but if he was flirting with the idea at any point this season, Sunday’s struggles may well have cemented it. David Currie
Given the criticism of Goff’s play this season, he has actually performed manfully during the Los Angeles Rams’ postseason run, despite the fact that his pride may well have been broken, along with his thumb, after that said injury in Week 16 saw him lose his place in the side to backup John Wolford.
Wolford suffered a neck injury early on in the Super Wild Card win over the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, opening the door once more for Goff.
And while he certainly wasn’t the reason why the Rams were handily beaten by Rodgers’ Packers on Saturday, he didn’t exactly get the vote of confidence from his head coach Sean McVay in the aftermath.
“Everything is being evaluated,” McVay said, via the Associated Press. “I’m not ready to make any sort of statements with regards to any starting position or not. We’re going to have a level of competition in anything that we do.”
Goff’s failure to get his team back to the Super Bowl after their defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the big game two years’ ago could see him lose his job. David Currie
Jackson is perhaps a little hard done by to find himself on the ‘Losers’ list so swiftly after finally being a winner for the first time in the postseason last weekend.
But, as much as that success against the Tennessee Titans appeared to put to bed the narrative that Jackson and the Ravens couldn’t get it done in the postseason, it looks likely to rear its ugly head once again due to just how much the team struggled on offense on Saturday night.
Baltimore scored three points and had just 220 total yards of offense. Jackson was limited to 14-of-24 passing, for 162 yards and a pick, while his great strength on the ground accounted for only 34 yards on nine carries.
The questions already seem to have started – and from Jackson’s own team-mates! Willie Snead said this of his quarterback after their playoff exit: “He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that.
“So, it’s really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason. So, we’ll see what he does next year.” David Currie
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