The divisional round of the NFL’s 2020-21 playoffs is in the books, and it was an entertaining one even though the New England Patriots did not participate after finishing the regular season with a 7-9 record and out of the postseason tournament. Under the new format agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed last March, only the two first-round seeds entered the playoffs this week — and both came away victoriously.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however, and instead take a look at all the games that took place on Saturday and Sunday.
AFC playoff picture
- #5 Baltimore Ravens (12-6) 3 : 17 #2 Buffalo Bills (15-3)
- #6 Cleveland Browns (12-6) 17 : 22 #1 Kansas City Chiefs (15-2)
The Bills’ game versus the Ravens was a defensively dominated battle — and one that saw the home team stake its claim as a serious Super Bowl contender yet again. While Buffalo’s offense had a hard time moving the ball against a stout Baltimore D, its own defense held the opponent without a touchdown and contributed seven points via a 101-yard pick-six. To make things worse for the Ravens, they also lost Lamar Jackson to a concussion just two plays later in the third quarter. Down 14 at that point and with Baltimore’s starting quarterback out, the game was effectively over.
One day later, Kansas City also lost its quarterback to a concussion. The Chiefs were in full control of their first playoff game, leading 19-10 midway through the third quarter, when Mahomes suffered a concussion on a designed third down run. Backup Chad Henne entered the game and led his team to three points as well as a crucial fourth down conversion on the final drive of the day. Despite Henne’s heroics, Mahomes’ injury status will be the biggest story heading into championship weekend. Cleveland, meanwhile, will have to wonder what could have been: conservative game management and crucial turnovers hurt the Browns’ chances to beat the Mahomes-less Chiefs on the road.
As a result, the championship game in the Patriots’ conference therefore looks as follows:
- #2 Bills at #1 Chiefs: Sunday, January 24, 6:40pm ET (CBS, CBS All Access)
NFC playoff picture
- #6 Los Angeles Rams (11-7) 18 : 32 #1 Green Bay Packers (14-3)
- #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5) 30 : 20 #2 New Orleans Saints (13-5)
Divisional round weekend started with the Packers hosting Los Angeles at Lambeau Field, and showing no rust whatsoever coming out of their bye week. Led by MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers, they jumped to a 16-3 lead in the second quarter and never looked back. A 58-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Allen Lazard with less than seven minutes remaining proved to be the pivotal play, as it finalized the score against a Rams team that had to play with a hobbled Aaron Donald at defensive tackle.
Tom Brady keeps adding to his legacy, and will now play in his 14th conference championship next week. The Buccaneers struggled at times against the NFC South-winning Saints on the road — a team that swept Tampa Bay during the regular season — but some timely takeaways especially in the second half allowed the team to come away victoriously. All in all, Tampa Bay scored 21 points off of three New Orleans turnovers. Brady, meanwhile, contributed three total touchdown to the 30-20 win, with a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter finalizing the score in his team’s favor.
The NFC Championship Game is therefore now scheduled as follows:
- #5 Buccaneers at #1 Packers: Sunday, January 24, 3:05pm ET (FOX, FOX Deportes)