The Ravens roll on, the Packers fall short and the Chiefs continue to dominate the Bills, as three one-score games take us into the Conference Championship Round.
Texans 10 - 34 Ravens
This may not have been the way Houston wanted to go out, but what a season they had.
C.J. Stroud was passed up by the Panthers and they paid the ultimate price - watching him put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in NFL history. Sadly, his year came to an end with an uncharacteristic performance, with the only Texans touchdown of the night coming from the defense.
And this is all down to the stellar Ravens defense completely shutting down Houston’s game plan.
Stroud & Co. are all about the deepshots, but Baltimore’s secondary is the best it gets and barring a few plays, they gave up next to nothing all night. Pair that with Lamar Jackson and the MVP-level year he’s having and you get a blowout 34-10 scoreline.
No.8 logged 100 rushing yards with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns on the night, alongside 10 points from the greatest kicker of all time, Justin Tucker.
LAMAR JACKSON TOUCHDOWN— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) January 20, 2024
RAVENS TAKE THE LEADpic.twitter.com/xJFvC3FmAs
This is a scary good team on both sides of the ball, but they’ll now face the 49ers in the AFC Championship Game and if any defense can give Jackson a run for his money, it’s San Francisco.
Packers 21 - 24 49ers
Jordan Love joins Stroud as another young quarterback who logged a seriously impressive season, but couldn’t quite live up to the playoff stage.
Now, the 49ers have a top tier defense, so keeping it within one score in San Fran is no small feat. But it’s clear that after a back-and-forth game, the pressure got too much in the end, as Love threw a first-down pick on what could have been a game winning drive.
Jordan Love with a BRUTAL interception 😬pic.twitter.com/2t2bBG9cHI— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) January 21, 2024
That being said, he sure made some great plays.
Jordan Love making the incredible throw on 3rd down to Romeo Doubs💥 pic.twitter.com/SI6qRjOKk4— IKE Packers Podcast (@IKE_Packers) January 21, 2024
Unfortunately, Love didn’t get much help from the other Packers units - with the defense dropping two easy interceptions and kicker Anders Carlson missing a field goal with 6 minutes left in the fourth, which turned out to be the difference between winning the game and heading to OT.
This should have been an easy pick six for Darnell Savage…
Savage drop píck 6. Purdy isnt looking good. pic.twitter.com/75S7hEZkBl— FootballSZN (@FtballSZN) January 21, 2024
Regardless, it looks like Green Bay might have another legendary franchise QB on their hands and apparently, they plan to reflect that in his paycheck.
Meanwhile, the former Mr Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, may not have had a perfect game, but when it came down to the wire, he put together a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to go up by 3 with a minute on the clock.
No.13 may have been up and down on Saturday night, but No.23 was as reliable as always. CMC put up 98 rushing yards and 30 receiving, with two trips to the end zone. I know MVP is usually a quarterback award, but McCaffrey deserves a top spot in that conversation.
There’s no doubt the Niners will need to play better if they want a shot at the big game, but let's just take a minute to appreciate the fact that the last pick in the 2022 draft will now make his second appearance in the Conference Championship Round in his only two years in the league. And this time he did it without Deebo Samuel for the entirety of the Divisional matchup. There are plenty of naysayers out there, but Purdy deserves more credit that he gets.
Buccaneers 24 - 31 Lions
The fairytale story for Jared Goff continues.
After being traded out of LA in exchange for Matthew Stafford and having to watch his replacement go on to win a Super Bowl just one year later, Goff is now firmly on the path to revenge.
This year, the Lions clinched the NFC North for the first time since 1993. Detroit has literally been waiting for decades upon decades to see their team in the postseason.
Now, I’d love to give all the credit to Goff for their impressive run, and there’s no doubt he’s played well. But the biggest shoutout goes to the Lions management for their 2023 draft picks. This is undoubtedly the best haul of the season.
Lions’ 2023 draft class is a major reason that they’re off to San Francisco and Detroit’s first conference championship game since 1992: pic.twitter.com/KL2I5cSIqC— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 22, 2024
Gibbs and LaPorta are two of the most impressive rookies in the league and have had huge impacts in the postseason. Without Nacua and Stroud, both of these could have been OROY.
Jahmyr Gibbs answers with a 31-yard scorepic.twitter.com/UmWtI1dDap— Underdog NFL (@Underdog__NFL) January 21, 2024
Alongside existing superstars like David Montgomery, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Aiden Hutchinson, this team has the talent to take it all the way. But they’ll have a real challenge taking on Kansas City this weekend.
As for Tampa Bay, I believe they’ve found their QB of the future. Baker Mayfield was close to becoming an NFL journeyman, but may have found his home.
After leading a 9-8 season to top the NFC South, the former No.1 overall pick now has his second playoff win and came just one 8 points away from his third. I hope that the Bucs realise they have a true leader and a promising QB on their hands.
Chiefs 27 - 24 Bills
Josh Allen has officially found his kryptonite, and its name is Patrick Mahomes. Of his 9 playoff appearances, Allen is now 0-3 vs the Chiefs and 5-1 vs everyone else…
Meanwhile, Mahomes has now made the Conference Round six consecutive times in his six seasons as a starter. That’s right... No.15 has not missed a single Conference Championship in his entire NFL career as KC’s QB1.
I have to say, I was part of the group that wrote off Mahomes early, after seeing him struggle with a mediocre receiver core. But it turns out all he needs is Travis Kelce finding his stride…
The Mahomes-Kelce connection is never more alive than in the playoffs and this score broke the record for the most postseason touchdowns for a QB-WR duo in league history, with 16.
All this is not to say that Buffalo didn’t put up a fight. In all honesty, Allen played his heart out - with two rushing touchdowns and a late drive in the fourth to give the Bills a chance to tie it up, but unfortunately he can’t do everything… Tyler Bass will remember this one forever.
Then again, these two plays are what led to that miss. I can’t say Sharp doesn’t have a point here…
absolutely no idea what Josh Allen was trying to do with their 2 plays after the 2 minute warning— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 22, 2024
you need 9 yards to gain a 1st down
you have 2 plays
he ignores underneath options on both throws
and chucks 25+ yards into the end zone 2x when you don't even want/need a TD pic.twitter.com/5lHLkMHbu6
And we can’t ignore the fact that Buffalo went for a fake punt in their own half with 13 minutes remaining. And after failing to convert it, they were very lucky to force a fumble out of the end zone on the Chiefs following drive.
So, the Bills had a shot, but all things considered, it simply comes down to Mahomes being in an entirely different league when it comes to the postseason. The guy is a playoff machine.
Patrick Mahomes vs. the Bills in the playoffs:— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) January 22, 2024
8 TDs / 0 INTs
3-0 record pic.twitter.com/SBaLatM0td
The Chiefs will now take on Jared Goff and the Lions for a spot in the Super Bowl. This will be a good one…
(Header Image Credit: Mitch Stringer - USA TODAY Sports)