The NFL Playoffs at CG

Gourav Pany, Staff Writer

The NFL playoffs started off with a bang in the eventful Wild Card and Divisional Round Weekends, which has left members of the high school buzzing with excitement in support of their favorite teams. Even with the absence of the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs, the football fans at CGHS have been having heated arguments and passionate talks about the most popular sport in the nation.

Tennessee Titans (1) vs Cincinnati Bengals (4)

The Divisional Round weekend started off with an exciting matchup as the physical Titans took on the explosive Bengals in a last second thriller that was decided by a 50-yard field goal by rookie K Evan McPherson.

In the 19-16 decision, the Titans put the pressure on QB Joe Burrow and tallied nine sacks, which is tied for the most sacks taken in a playoff game. In a relatively low scoring affair, the Bengals got the victory through their stars, as Joe Burrow hit the explosive WR Ja’marr Chase on a nineteen-yard completion after a QB Ryan Tannehil interception to set the Bengals up in field goal position. The rest would be history as McPherson would hit a 52-yard field goal to win the game, and send the Bengals to their first championship game since 1988.

“I thought the Titans were going to win because they had Derrick Henry back and the Bengals aren’t known for their run defense, so I figured he would run all over them, and since the Titans had figured out their passing game, I thought that they would crush the Bengals. But I guess the Bengals defense held up and was able to hold back the Titans, so I was pretty impressed by that,” freshman Elijah Hommel, a Bengals fan, said.

After the exciting finish, the Bengals will look to continue their hot streak against a much more offensively potent Chiefs team, which will require the Bengals to protect Joe Burrow better than what they did against the Titans. One key to their game against the Chiefs will be Joe Mixon, who was limited in their last game against each other and will figure to be a factor in the passing game with the Bengals focusing on the short passing game to protect Burrow. Giving Mixon the ball and letting him make plays will relieve pressure from Burrow and give him access to cleaner pockets, which will almost certainly lead to many points by the Bengals against an aggressive Chiefs team.

Kansas City Chiefs (2) vs Buffalo Bills (3)

One of the most highly-anticipated matchups in the playoffs didn’t disappoint as the Kansas City Chiefs barely got the win against the red-hot Buffalo Bills in a 42-36 game that went into overtime.

In a game that was arguably the closest and most energetic game of the season, the Chiefs had lost almost all hope as they had to get at least 35 yards downfield to get three points and send the game to overtime in a measly 13 seconds. However, what they did next will forever live in the memory of freshman Chiefs fan Max Hite.

“I thought the game was just going to be a simple, normal playoff game, and one of those games that would not go to overtime,” Hite said. “Just for instance, [in] the last thirteen seconds of the game, the Chiefs were down three points. [The Chiefs] had to get a field goal, and they made two passing plays, and their kicker Harrison Butker made the field goal and the game went to overtime. Many people might say the coin toss won [the Chiefs] the game, and it does make sense, but that’s the rules of the game.”

After an impressive game-winning touchdown in overtime, the Chiefs will look to continue their torrid pace on offense against the Bengals, who possess a similarly explosive offense and a similarly average defense with a couple of superstars. The Chiefs will look to aid their offense with a complementary defense, which is something that did not happen against the Bills and could have cost them the game. Meanwhile, their offense must continue its turnover-free football and stay patient while the Bengals bait them with a traditional Cover 2 Deep zone coverage that forces them to throw the ball in tight windows, which could lead to turnovers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2) vs Los Angeles Rams (4)

It seemed as though QB Tom Brady would complete yet another comeback in the playoffs after he came back from a sluggish start and a 27-3 deficit to tie the game up with 42 second left. This proposition would only remain a fantasy for Buccaneers’ fans as QB Matthew Stafford found WR Cooper Kupp wide open deep down the field for a 44 yard completion that led to the Rams winning the football game, 30-27.

The first half was all about the Los Angeles Rams as they were explosive on offense and forced the Buccaneers offense to commit crucial mistakes on their end, which also included the first ever unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in Tom Brady’s career. However, the second half featured three lost fumbles by the Los Angeles Rams and a snap that went over the head of Matthew Stafford, which would lead to the Buccaneers tying the game despite multiple missed opportunities in the red zone. However, this furious comeback was cut short by a miraculous heave by Stafford in the dying seconds of the game to Cooper Kupp on a zero-blitz look by the Buccaneers, which set the Rams up for a big win to send them to the Championship Round.

“I expected the Buccaneers to win by crushing the other team, but Brady got his first personal foul in a while, which was something. I feel like that deep pass to Cooper Kupp at the end of the game was the turning point of the game, and that pretty much ended the Buccaneers’ season right there,” freshman Joshua Buechler said.

The Los Angeles Rams will go on to face the San Francisco 49ers, who have been the bane of their football team for the past three years. With a talented offense that features superstar wide receivers in Cooper Kupp and WR Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams should have no problem when passing against the San Francisco 49ers if they can protect Matthew Stafford and if Matthew Stafford does not make any horrible decisions. Meanwhile, the Rams can also wreak havoc against the San Francisco 49ers by using their versatile and fast pass rush, despite the amount of talent the 49ers possess on the offensive line. However, the Rams have lost six straight games against the 49ers, which will further complicate the dynamics of the game, though the Rams should be fine as long as they can hold onto a lead, which has been a problem lately.

Green Bay Packers (1) vs San Francisco 49ers (6)

In probably the upset of the week, the San Francisco 49ers, who were massive underdogs, stunned the Green Bay Packers at home to advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time in three years in a close 13-10 game.

The Packers got off to a hot start after they scored on their opening possession, while the 49ers looked sluggish in the light snow that was slowly piling up in Lambeau Field. For the 49ers, QB Jimmy Garoppolo was surprisingly accurate, but his normally reliable receivers, like TE George Kittle and WR Brandon Aiyuk, could not hang onto the football. Despite a 7-0 deficit going into half-time, the 49ers looked like they were in control of the football game, despite key mistakes by many of their star players. Finally, the 49ers were able to get a touchdown off a blocked field goal to add to their previously accumulated three points, which tied the game at 10-10 in the 4th quarter. With possession of the football in the final minutes of the game, the 49ers strategically drove down the field with the help of WR Deebo Samuel, who converted a third down and placed the 49ers in field goal range, which led to a game winning field goal in the final seconds of the game by K Robbie Gould.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking about it at first because I was focused a lot on the other divisional games because they were so exciting, but I thought that it was inevitable that the Packers would win given their [13-4] regular season record. It was just expected. But, as the game was going on, I kept thinking that the [49ers] will win and that this game will change the playoffs and the outcome of the Super Bowl. I was expecting the Packers to get to the Super Bowl and win, so it was a really big shock,” freshman football fan Krishaan Vadia said.

Following their upset win against the Packers, the 49ers will travel to Los Angeles to face off against the Rams, against whom the 49ers have already won two games this season. The 49ers will look to get their run game kicking into high gear in probably their most important game of the year so far, which will assist Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing game greatly. Meanwhile, the 49ers defense will look to continue their fast-paced and physical brand of football that has made them one of the best defenses in the league, despite their lack of depth at the cornerback position. All-in-all, the 49ers will have to get to Matthew Stafford and hit him before the ball comes out of his hands in order to have a chance to stop the vaunted Rams offense.