by Senji Torrey
Media Production Editor
This past weekend, the NFL playoffs advanced to the Divisional Round with eight of the top teams facing off against each other. This quarter-final stage of the playoffs tested all eight of the teams, however, only four succeeded in taking the next step to the Conference title game.
The first of the four matchups pitted the top NFC contender Green Bay Packers against the underdog Los Angeles Rams. Despite the pressure of the occasion, the Rams were able to keep the game within reach for the first three quarters. In fact, the fast-paced play of LA in the third quarter took the usually alert Green Bay defense by surprise, and almost shifted the momentum to the Rams. However, an unanswered Packers’ touchdown in the fourth quarter solidified Green Bay’s lead. By the end of the game, the Packers came out on top by a score of 32-18.
Just hours after the Rams/Packers game came a matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens. This fixture began slowly, and by the end of the first quarter, the only points on the board were a Buffalo field goal. This mundane feel persisted for most of the game, barring a 101-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Bills cornerback Taron Johnson that sealed a 17-3 win over Baltimore.
On Sunday, the day kicked off with an AFC game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. Kansas City was the definitive favorite in this matchup due to their star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. However, after Mahomes left the game with a serious head injury, the scales began to tip to favor the Browns. Cleveland did catch up and get dangerously close to taking the game, yet the margin that Mahomes set up turned out to be enough for a 22-17 win over the Browns.
The final Divisional game saw the New Orleans Saints take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady led his Tampa Bay squad against an equally skilled Drew Brees’ led Saints team, making this matchup one of true quarterback class. Brees, who declared that this season would be his last, guided New Orleans in true veteran fashion for all four quarters. However, four unlucky turnovers — two of which came in the final minutes of the game — by New Orleans allowed Tampa Bay the opportunity to convert for their only three touchdowns of the game. These last-minute turnovers by the Saints gave the Bucs the time to run out the clock and claim their 30-20 victory, and a ticket to the NFC Championship game.
With just under three weeks to go until Super Bowl LV (55), the pressure is mounting on these four title contenders to perform on each and every snap. Make sure to catch the action this weekend. Here’s the schedule:
1/24: Green Bay Packers v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers => 12:05 PM PST (CBS)
1/24: Kansas City Chiefs v. Buffalo Bills => 3:40 PM PST (FOX)