Two more NFL teams punched their tickets to Championship Sunday with wins in the divisional round.
It started with the Kansas City Chiefs shockingly overcoming a 24-point home deficit against the Houston Texans to win going away.
No matter how good Patrick Mahomes and his squad was in that game, blame has to be placed on embattled Texans head coach Bill O’Brien for horrible in-game coaching decisions.
Over in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers were clicking on all cylinders at home against the Seattle Seahawks. It led to a 28-23 Pack win over the one-man show that was Russell Wilson, who almost led his team back from an 18-point second half deficit.
With the Packers set to head to Santa Clara to take on the 49ers and the Chiefs hosting Tennessee next week, we check in on the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoffs.
When 99% of NFL teams fall behind 24-0 in a playoff game, panic starts to set in. We saw said panic when it came to Chiefs fans at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon. Not Mr. Patrick Mahomes. Playing the part of Joe Cool, Mahomes calmed his offense down on the sideline.
The end result was the greatest comeback in the NFL Playoffs since the Buffalo Bills eons ago. Riding an offense that scored touchdowns on a record seven consecutive possessions, Kansas City came out on top by the score of 51-31.
The dominating performance from this offense sets the stage moving forward. Mahomes tossed five touchdowns. Travis Kelce broke multiple records in the second quarter. The result was an eye-opening performance from the NFL’s most electric offense and a meeting with the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
We’re not sure if it is going to be enough in the NFC Championship Game next week. What we do know is that the Packers’ offense is finally hitting its stride under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur.
That came out in droves against a lackluster Seahawks defense on Sunday night. Aaron Rodgers connected on 8-of-11 pass attempts to an absolutely dominant Davante Adams for 160 yards. Aaron Jones put up 66 total yards and two touchdowns in the win.
This type of performance will be needed heading into Santa Clara to take on the 49ers next week. If what we saw from the Pack is any indication, the team might be in position to pull off an upset.
What a horrible display of in-game coaching from O’Brien on Sunday afternoon in Kansas City. That included going conservative with the team up 21-0 and faking a punt from the Texans’ 31-yard line in a three-score game.
At this point, it’s become readily apparent that O’Brien is not the guy to lead these Texans to the next level. He was vastly outcoached by a veteran in Andy Reid who has also struggled in January. Sunday’s coaching performance was the penultimate final chapter in what should be the end of his coaching career in Houston.
It was readily apparent throughout the regular season that the Seahawks were lacking talent outside of their MVP-caliber quarterback. Issues along the offensive line and in the defensive secondary were major problems for Pete Carroll’s squad.
All of this came back to haunt the team during the loss in Green Bay. If it weren’t for Wilson putting up yet another dynamic performance, Seattle would have been blown out in a big way.
The quarterback was under duress throughout the game, finding himself hit 10 times and sacked five times. Defensively, the Seahawks’ secondary was torched by the above-mentioned Davante Adams. If there’s anything we learned from the divisional round, it’s that general manager John Schneider must improve this roster during the offseason. Wilson put up north of 340 total yards and it still wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo led one of the league’s best units over the final several weeks of the regular season. This defense gave up a total of 52 points over the final five games. It was a dramatic improvement from Kansas City.
The same thing did not ring true Sunday against the Texans. With star defenders Chris Jones and Juan Thornhill out of action, the Chiefs yielded nearly 400 passing yards to Deshaun Watson. That included DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combining for 207 receiving yards.
This has to be of the utmost concern for the Chiefs with Derrick Henry and his Titans heading into Arrowhead next week. Looking a bit further down the road, a similar defensive performance against either the 49ers or Packers in the Super Bowl simply wouldn’t cut it.
This big-time free-agent acquisition made it perfectly clear where he stood in being snubbed of a Pro Bowl trip. Smith was absolutely dominant against a lesser Seahawks offensive line on Sunday.
The former Baltimore Ravens star recorded four quarterback hits and two sacks in the Packers’ win. He was in Russell Wilson’s face throughout the game, leading to the quarterback having to improvise.
It made Seattle’s offense look like some variation of the backyard game we played as children. Smith will need this type of production in the NFC Championship Game if Green Bay is going to advance.
It’s the single greatest Sunday of football on the NFL calendar. Two games. Four teams. A spot in the Super Bowl on the line. Of those four squads who advanced past the divisional round, only Kansas City made the playoffs last season.
Some might conclude that this is wide-open. That could be true. However, both the Chiefs and 49ers open as big home favorites heading into Championship Sunday.
We still wouldn’t discount what the Titans and Packers might be able to bring to the table here. Specifically, Henry’s dominating recent performance for Tennessee has to concern the Chiefs.
We’d also be ignorant not to mention Aaron Rodgers taking on the team he grew up rooting for as a Northern California native. Rodgers still feels slighted that San Francisco passed up on him for Alex Smith back in 2005. Get your popcorn ready, this is going to be a blast.
If one thing became clear during the divisional round, it’s that these are the two best teams remaining in the playoffs. San Francisco had its way with a lesser Vikings squad on Saturday before the Chiefs laid the law down against the Texans Sunday afternoon.
The contrast between these two teams would set up one heck of a Super Bowl in Miami. As we covered above, Kansas City’s offense put up an absolute clinic against Houston. In a hypothetical Super Bowl outing, it would go up against a 49ers defense that is coming off one of the most dominant outings we’ve seen in modern NFL Playoff history.
Outside of those in Nashville and Wisconsin, this is the Super Bowl we want to see. Two contrasting styles. A dominant offense. One of the game’s most physical defenses. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes against a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, who is now 20-5 as a starter in his career with the 49ers. Make it be.
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