It took some late-game magic from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to prevent all four road teams from winning in the four NFL Divisional Round over the weekend. As it was, the weekend of playoff football certainly had a bit of everything, including walk-off scores in each of the four games.
Now Kansas City will be playing host to the AFC Championship Game for the fourth season in a row and will face a Cincinnati Bengals team getting this far for the first time since the 1988 season.
The Chiefs (+125) have the best odds to win the Super Bowl followed by the Los Angeles Rams (+200), San Francisco 49ers (+400) and Cincinnati (+900).
Bills-Chiefs: Game for the Ages
The quality of the playoff games left something to be desired as more often than not, as teams lost games rather than winning them. That all changed when Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes went to work on Sunday night.
The last five drives of the Bills-Chiefs game resulted in points, including when a failure to score would have resulted in the end of the season.
In the final 1:54 of the fourth quarter Allen connected twice with Gabriel Davis on touchdowns. In between, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill used his blazing speed to turn a short throw into a 64-yard catch and run.
Mahomes moved Kansas City 44 yards in 13 seconds to set up the game-tying field goal by Harrison Butker before Mahomes ended the game with an overtime touchdown pass to Travis Kelce to send Kansas City into its fourth straight AFC title game for the fourth straight year with the 42-36 victory.
KELCE FOR THE WIN!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/7ZDYjEMuxY
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 24, 2022
Allen finished 27 of 37 passing for 329 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 68 yards. Mahomes was 33 of 44 for 378 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He added 69 rushing yards, including an eight-yard scoring run.
Based on what transpired in the other games, perhaps the NFL could just have these two teams play next weekend and again in the Super Bowl.
The total of 54 set by the Las Vegas odds had no chance in this one.
Special Win for San Francisco
It’s not often a team will win in the playoffs – or in the regular season for that matter – without scoring an offensive touchdown. However, San Francisco used a blocked punt by Jordan Willis that was scooped up by Talanoa Hufanga and returned six yards for the tying touchdown with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter. The 49ers also blocked a field goal earlier in the game.
The defense also deserves credit. With the way the Packers methodically marched down the field to score a touchdown on their first possession, it looked like Green Bay would be headed back to the NFC Championship Game. However, the Packers had just three drives longer than 20 yards in the rest of the game. Those possessions ended with a fumble, a blocked field goal and a made field goal.
Special mention should go to Fred Warner and Nick Bosa. There were questions about whether either of them would play after being knocked out of the Wild Card win over Dallas, but Warner had six tackles, including one for loss, and Bosa recorded two sacks.
It was the third straight must-win scenario dating back to the regular-season finale where the 49ers were listed by the NFL picks against the spread as the underdog.
Wilson Comes Through for Bengals
It is easy to look at the Cincinnati Bengals and focus on their last two first-round draft picks. Joe Burrow looks every bit the part of the franchise quarterback while Ja’Marr Chase became the first rookie to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs.
However, let’s not forget about second-year linebacker Logan Wilson. He not only led the Bengals with eight tackles but his interception with 20 seconds left set up the game-winning field goal in a 19-16 win. Wilson had four interceptions during the regular season so his ball skills have been displayed before.
New Additions Deliver for Rams
There was much made of the price that the Los Angeles Rams were willing to give up in order to make a Super Bowl run.
Their first-round pick in 2022 will go to Detroit in a trade that brought quarterback Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles. Second and third-round picks were dealt to Denver to acquire linebacker Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. forced his way out of Cleveland and three days after he was released, Beckham signed with the Rams.
Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, Beckham had six catches for 69 yards and Miller was part of a front seven that pressured Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady throughout the game.
Kickers are People, Too
It is easy to overlook kickers unless there is a missed extra point or field goal that turns a potential victory into a bitter defeat, but it would be hard to overstate the importance of the kickers in the four games over the weekend.
It started with Cincinnati Bengals rookie Evan McPherson connecting on four field goals, including two longer than 50 yards. His 52-yard boot as time expired sent the Bengals into the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 33 years with a 19-16 win over No. 1 seed Tennessee.
The second game on Saturday also ended with a walk-off field goal. Robbie Gould connected on a 45-yarder to lift the San Francisco 49ers to the 13-10 win over Green Bay, the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay rallied from a 24-point deficit to tie the game at 27 with 42 seconds to play. That was enough time for Stafford to connect with Cooper Kupp on a pair of receptions to set by Matt Gay’s 30-yard kick as time expired as the Los Angeles Rams won 30-27.
The final game of the weekend did not end with a field goal, but Harrison Butker’s clutch 49-yarder with two seconds remaining in regulation sent the wildest game of these playoffs into overtime. Butker and Kansas City won 42-36 on Travis Kelce’s touchdown catch.
Those who bet online might be interested to know that no walk-off field goals are expected for the AFC and NFC championship games. Los Angeles is a 3½-point favorite while Kansas City is favored by seven.
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ aggressive play-calling was a key part of Tampa Bay’s run to the Super Bowl title a season ago. With Tampa Bay erasing a 27-3 deficit in the final 18:02, aided by a series of mistakes by the Los Angeles Rams, the Buccaneers were 42 seconds away from heading into overtime.
However, Tampa Bay gave up passing plays of 20 and 44 yards from Stafford to Cooper Kupp. Kupp led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in the regular season, but the Buccaneers opted to cover him with their third-best cornerback on the first of those catches. On the one that set up the game-winning field goal, Tampa Bay left safety Antoine Winfield with the unenviable task of trying to stay with Kupp thanks to a blitz called by Bowles.
Rodgers, Packers Fall Short Again
Since winning the Super Bowl following the 2010 season, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has won consecutive playoff games just once. Green Bay’s playoff record is 7-9 since that Super Bowl win, including 5-4 at home. The Packers fell to 3-3 when Rodgers starts and throws for less than 250 yards in a playoff game. The Packers are 7-5 as a favorite in the postseason dating back to 2008.
It will also mark the first time since 2009 that the conference championship games will be played without either Rodgers or Tom Brady taking the field.
Rodgers had at least two touchdown passes in his last nine playoff appearances but did not throw a touchdown against the 49ers.
Young Receivers Deliver
Cincinnati’s Chase (109 yards on five catches) wasn’t the only up-and-coming receiver to play a starring role in the divisional games.
Buffalo’s Gabriel Davis set an NFL playoff record with four touchdown catches in the loss to the Chiefs. He finished with 201 yards on eight catches. Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, who is just 27 years old, finished with 150 yards on 11 receptions, including a 64-yard scoring strike.
No. 1 and Done
For the first time since the 2010 season, there will not be a No. 1 seed playing in the conference championship games.
Tennessee and Green Bay both lost this weekend after receiving first-round byes as the top seeds in their respective conferences. The last time there were no No. 1 seeds were among the last four teams standing came when New England and Atlanta each lost after receiving byes in the playoffs held after the 2010 regular season.
Green Bay, the No. 6 seed in the NFC that season, would beat No. 2 AFC seed Pittsburgh 35-21 in the Super Bowl. That is the only Super Bowl that Rodgers in which Rodgers has played. The Packers have twice been seeded first and on two other occasions were seeded second and failed to reach the Super Bowl.
Giving Props to the Props
Here’s a look at some of the more lucrative prop payouts from the four divisional games.
Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon (+750) was tied for the second-best odds to score the game’s first touchdown and he delivered with a 6-yard run in the first quarter.
San Francisco’s blocked punt for a touchdown paid +215.
The odds of neither team in the 49ers-Packers game scoring at least 15 points was +1800.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon came in at +140 to have more than 3.5 receptions and he finished with six catches.
A Bengals’ field goal (+375) was fourth in the odds of the first scoring play in the game, but McPherson opened the scoring with a 38-yard field aided by a Tennessee interception on the first offensive play.
Buffalo running back Devin Singletary (+800) had the first touchdown in the Bills-Chiefs game, a pretty good return for those who picked him to find the end zone first.
If you went with the Bills getting to 35 points before Kansas City, the money line on that was +375.
Good luck finding Los Angeles Rams tight end Kendall Blanton on the odds to score the first TD in the Rams-Buccaneers game. Six of his teammates had odds ranging from +650 to +2000.
The Rams paid +330 by being the first team in that game to score 30 points.