The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Sidelines: NFL Playoffs

Tampa+Bays+fall+to+Dallas+has+led+to+speculation+about+Tom+Bradys+future+in+football.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Getty+Images%29
Tampa Bay’s fall to Dallas has led to speculation about Tom Brady’s future in football. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

We truly saw the highest highs and the lowest lows on the gridiron this year. There were incredible comebacks and sensational catches. But there was also the horrifying near-death experience for Bills safety Damar Hamlin and questions about concussion protocols. Yet all the turmoil of the regular season has been overshadowed by high-quality games almost across the board during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Jacksonville Jaguars came back from 27 points to beat the Chargers, Kirk Cousins threw a six-yard pass on fourth and long to lose to the seventh-seed Giants and both the Bengals and Bills pulled out impressive close wins over conference opponents. Finally, Tom Brady was taken down by the Cowboys, begging questions about a possible retirement.

The next week saw dominating matchups and gritty performances from quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and rookie sensation Brock Purdy, leading their teams to victories.

As the dust settles, four teams remain. People expected the Eagles and Chiefs, both the number one seed in their respective conferences, to be here.

Kansas City has now made five straight semifinal appearances. Mahomes lost his best receiver but looks better than ever. He is the betting favorite to win the MVP. Alongside tight end Travis Kelce, the two have stumped defenses across the league. However, the Chiefs suffered a major scare during their win over the Jaguars as Mahomes appeared to suffer an ankle-shattering injury, yet he stayed in the game.

The Eagles, for most of the season, have been unstoppable. The offense boasts six pro bowlers who have helped them become the best offense in the league, statistically speaking. Running back Miles Sanders gets to run behind a star-studded offensive line while Hurts gets the opportunity to throw to stand-out wide receivers A.J. Brown and DaVonta Smith. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles finished with 70 sacks, just two behind the NFL record. The strong defensive line is complemented by backline play.

The other two teams in the playoffs are more surprising. The Bengals, being 4-4 after week eight, looked like they were suffering from a Super Bowl hangover in the same way the Rams were. However, they ripped off eight straight wins and now sit on the precipice of a second straight Super Bowl appearance behind Burrow, who has firmly entrenched himself in the discussion of best at his position. The Bengals went into Buffalo in a blizzard and completely dominated them in all facets of the game.

An even more shocking participant is the 49ers, who have seen both their starting and backup quarterbacks go down to injuries. That put Purdy, who was the last pick in the entire draft last year, in charge of a team gunning for a division title. Then general manager John Lynch brought in All-Pro Christian McCaffrey at the season’s midway point and even with “Mr. Irrelevant” as their signal caller, they have not missed a beat. They won the NFC West and have coasted through their matchups against the Seahawks and Cowboys.

The stage is set with both games happening on Sunday. The Eagles and 49ers will play first at 3:30 and the Chiefs and Bengals will play in primetime.

The NFC Championship will be a showcase of whether the 49ers’ line can hold up against the Eagles’ relentless pass rush long enough for Purdy to keep up with the strong Eagles offense. For the AFC Championship, it will be a rematch of last year, and it really will just be a question of whether the Bengals can slow down Mahomes, who is playing at an even higher level than last year.

My prediction: Eagles vs. Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Go Birds.

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About the Contributor
Charlie Berman, Sports Editor
VAP, TRELL, KEHD (cheast, stew, help)

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