The NFL playoffs began with the first “Super Wild Card Weekend” in NFL history on January 9th and 10th. After many decades of having 6 playoff teams from each conference, the NFL decided to expand the playoff pool to 7 teams per conference for the 2020 season and beyond. This meant that only the #1 seed in each conference would get a first round bye while the 2nd through 7th seed had to battle it out to see who would advance to the Divisional Round. The Kansas City Chiefs (1st seed in AFC) and the Green Bay Packers (1st seed in NFC) both were off during a fun wild card weekend.
In the AFC, the #2 seed Buffalo Bills played the #7 seed Indianapolis Colts. The Bills had not won a playoff game in 25 years but this was their chance to change that. After a back and forth first half, the Bills were able to take control of the game in the second half and hold on for a 27-24 victory.
The second game of the AFC playoffs was between the #4 seed Tennessee Titans and the #5 seed Baltimore Ravens. The Titans had won two consecutive matchups against the Ravens in last season’s Divisional Round and in Week 11 from this season. The Ravens were looking for revenge while the Titans looked to continue their winning ways against Baltimore. Although Tennessee jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, the Ravens were able to shut down the Titans offense the rest of the game and the Ravens came out with a 20-13 win.
The final matchup in the AFC’s wild card weekend was between the #3 Pittsburgh Steelers and the #6 Cleveland Browns. The Browns had the longest active playoff drought in the NFL before the 2020 season but this was a far different Browns team than in seasons past. The Browns absolutely dismantled Pittsburgh in the 1st quarter, jumping to a 28-0 lead and amazing fans across the world with their dominating performance. Although the Steelers were able to make a run and chip into the deficit, they never truly posed a threat to the Browns in this game and the Browns went on to win 48-37.
In the NFC side of the bracket, the playoffs began with a matchup between the #3 Seattle Seahawks and the #6 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams relied on their #1 ranked defense in the NFL to defeat the Seahawks 30-20.
The second game of the NFC wild card weekend was a matchup between the #4 Washington Football Team and the #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although Washington was the higher seed, the Buccaneers were a much better team as their regular season record was 11-5 compared to Washington’s 7-9 record. The Buccaneers were able to handle their business with a 31-23 win.
The final game of the NFC wild card weekend was a matchup between the #2 New Orleans Saints and the #7 Chicago Bears. The Saints were heavily favored in this game and they easily took care of the Bears 21-9 as Chicago’s only touchdown came on the final play from scrimmage.
The Divisional Round in the AFC began with a matchup between the #2 Buffalo Bills and the #5 Baltimore Ravens. The Bills were able to shut down reigning MVP Lamar Jackson on their way to a dominant 17-3 win led by their defense.
The other AFC Divisional Round matchup was between the #1 Kansas City Chiefs and the #6 Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs were heavy favorites and they were able to get a 22-17 win even though they lost their superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a head and neck injury. The Chiefs will host the Bills in the AFC Championship game with their superstar quarterback’s status in question. The winner will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
In the NFC, the first matchup of the Divisional Round was between the #6 Los Angeles Rams and the #1 Green Bay Packers. The Packers were favored to win this game and they easily won 32-18.
The final matchup of the NFC Divisional Round playoffs was between the #2 New Orleans Saints and the #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming into the game, this was probably the most difficult game for experts to predict because most people thought that Tom Brady would respond in a good way after getting swept by the Saints 2-0 in the regular season. These division rivals battled it out in a very closely contested game through three quarters with the score tied 20-20 heading into the 4th. Tampa Bay was able to take control of the game and won 30-20 to advance to the NFC Conference Championship game in Green Bay on Sunday, January 24th.
Overall, it has been a very exciting playoffs to watch so far. It will be intriguing to see how the final games will play out and who will win Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida.