This has been the most insane NFL football season ever and it came down to Week 18 — an extra week of football providing plenty of drama. Most notably, if the Raiders and Chargers would have tied, both teams would have made the playoffs. Instead, my Pittsburgh Steelers snuck in and received a participation trophy. From that point on, nothing has been sacred in the NFL. Nothing. After that, the journey from the Wild Card to Super Bowl took just 14 days.
Wild Card Round
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders: The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. But the AFC North champions got a major break after referees questionably ruled a whistle had been blown after Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw a touchdown pass just before halftime. The Raiders tried to rally but never recovered, losing 26-19. Bengals advance.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills: The Bills busted out early and often, scoring on their first five possessions to humiliate the Patriots, 47-17. After a game like that, the entire Patriots locker room should enter the Federal Witness Protection program. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was electric. Bills advance.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Perhaps the Eagles enjoyed their flight to Tampa for a weekend vacation. But during the game, legendary quarterback Tom Brady and the Buccaneer defense shut down the Eagles at every turn. The defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers whipped the Eagles, 31-15. Bucs advance.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys entered the matchup on their home field averaging 30-plus points per game, but their offense struggled throughout. The 49ers’ defense held Dallas to 17 points to pull off the upset, 23-17. 49ers advance.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: After the Steelers’ scored first to lead early 7-0, the Chiefs fired off 28 straight points to blow the game wide open. Kansas City beats Pittsburgh, 42-21. Chiefs advance.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams: The first Wild Card game played on a Monday saw the Rams crush the Cardinals, 34-11. Rams advance.
Winners: Bengals, Bills, Bucs, 49ers, Chiefs and Rams
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans: The Titans we’re the top seed in the AFC. But that’s as far as it goes. While the Titans’ defense was superb, sacking Burrows nine times, Tennessee’s offense looked tired and slow coming off a bye week. The game came down to which team made the first mistake. Well, the Titans blew it and Cincinnati kicked a field goal to win, 19-16. The Bengals won their first road playoff game in many moons after losing seven in a row. No. 4-seed Bengals advance.
49ers vs. Green Bay Packers: The Packers held the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and very few gave the 49ers much chance or any at that to pull off an upset at Lambeau Field. But San Francisco’s defense gave Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers headaches all day and jammed up Green Bay’s offense. 49ers advance after stunning the Packers, 13-10.
Rams vs. Buccaneers: Brady lying in wait to defend his Super Bowl Title. Los Angeles jumped out to a 27-13 late lead late in the fourth quarter (4:28 remaining) and held off a ferocious TB rally to tie the game up at 27-27. Matthew Stafford twice found receiver Cooper Kupp on long passes to setup up the Rams’ game-winning field goal with seconds remaining to defeat the Bucs, 30-27. No. 4 seed Rams advance, sending Brady into early retirement.
Buffalo vs. Chiefs: A rematch of last year’s AFC championship game— possibly the greatest NFL game ever played. And the latest matchup had so many great plays, rallies and individual performances from both quarterbacks. Allen and Mahomes will never leave our minds. Buffalo takes a three-point lead with 13 seconds remaining, only to watch KC march down the field and kick a field goal to send the game to overtime. Chiefs win 42-36 in OT (Buffalo never got the ball again) and advance.
Winners: Bengals, 49ers, Rams, Chiefs
AFC Championship: Bengals vs. Chiefs: Cincinnati traveled to KC as a seven-point underdog. Kansas City jumped out to a 21-3 early lead. But the Bengals answered with a score before halftime to trim the deficit, 21–10. The Chiefs made a crucial error just before halftime and came away with zero points in Red Zone. The Bengals came bouncing back, holding the Chiefs to a late field goal (Only KC points scored in 2nd half) that sent the game to overtime. Bengals win in OT, 27-24, and advance to their first Super Bowl since 1989 (33 years)
NFC Championship: 49ers vs. Rams
This game was going to be a war. The final week of the regular season saw the 49ers down 17 points needing to win to make the playoffs, rally and beat the Rams. After the win, the 49ers had six straight wins over the Rams. And the “Red Sea” of Niners fans took over SoFi Stadium. After a solid first half of football, the game was deadlocked, 7-7. In the second half, the 49ers jumped out to a 10-point lead in the third quarter. But the Rams eventually tied it up, 17-17. Ultimately, the Rams’ defense dug deep, helping the Rams get the win, 20-17. Rams advance to Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LVI: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium
Los Angeles Rams -4 Total: 50