It seems like just yesterday the NFL season was just kicking off, but that couldn’t be further from true. Instead we are much closer to the final kickoff of the NFL season than the first, and fans of the 14 teams who will be competing are as hyped as ever for another year of the NFL playoffs. Some of those teams are the heavyweights of the league whom many expected to reach this point in the season, while others are sleepers that die hard fans spent the entire season rooting for in hopes of success they are ecstatic to be actually witnessing. With the final week of the NFL regular season taking place this past Sunday and solidifying the playoff bracket, let’s take a look at how the NFL playoffs are set to build upon an already great season.
Photo Courtesy of Philadelphia Inquirer
First and foremost, the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC’s Philadelphia Eagles earned the first seed in their respective conferences and will get a bye for the first round. The remaining six teams will have to fight to make it to the next round however, with each of the other division leaders taking on a Wild Card team dependent upon each sides respective seeding. In the NFC, arguably the most interesting matchup is between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas could’ve become the first seed in the NFC this week had they beaten the lowly Washington commanders today and the Philadelphia Eagles instead lost their matchup against the New York Giants, but the opposite happened; now Dallas has face off against Tom Brady who may not be the Tom Brady he once was, but still ranks among the best quarterbacks In the leagues and is notorious for excelling in the playoffs. The New York Giants, the third of four NFC East teams to make playoffs, is set to face-off against Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings which should certainly be an interesting matchup to see as the Giants recent momentum is truly put to the test. Cousins, in a sense, revived his career in Minnesota with the help of Justin Jefferson and have remained amongst the top of the food chain for a few years now, ensuring that the Giants will have to truly prove themselves if they want to advance to the next round. The third and final match up on the NFC side is between long time rivals the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, which should speak for itself given the well-documented disdain either side has for the other. Like the aforementioned Cousins, Geno Smith has also revived his career since switching teams last year and joining the Seahawks and breaking his personal passing yards record by 1,000 yards; the 49ers, on the other hand, have been forced to rely on third-string quarterback Brock Purdy, but Purdy crushed Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 35-7 a few weeks ago and then defeated Geno Smith and the Seahawks the week after that to kick off a 5 game winning streak to end the season which could serve as enough momentum to help the 49ers tremendously. That might sound like a lot, but that’s just half of the picture.
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On the other side of the league, the AFC’s first round matchups seem to be equally as promising. In my opinion, the most interesting AFC is the Jacksonville Jaguars versus the San Diego Chargers given the incredible young core that have both had phenomenal seasons. As just sophomores, Trevor Lawrence found his footing this year and threw for 4113 yards and and Travis Etienne rushed for over 1100 yards while fifth year wide receiver Christian Kirk eclipsed the same mark in receiving yards, highlighting how gargantuan their role has been in the Jaguars success as of late; the Chargers actually finished with a better record than the Jaguars however and feature an equally robust core highlighted by quarterback Justin Herbert who threw for 300 more yards, running back Austin Ekeler who accrued 13 more total touchdowns and a receiving core with near identical totals in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. In my opinion, if both sides bring their A-game this could end up be the most entertaining game of the Wild Card round. From there, the AFC also has matchups featuring divisional rivals, but it instead has 2: firstly there’s the Cincinnati Bengals facing off against the Baltimore Ravens, then the Buffalo Bills facing off against the Miami Dolphins. Cincinnati and Baltimore actually faced off in the final week of the regular season but with the Ravens opting to rest several key starters, Tyler Huntley and J.K. Dobbins amongst others, it’s a shame that the NFL would schedule this game at the end of the season. AFC North rivalries have proven to be a spectacle for football fans time and time again, and it will be interesting to see how Huntley, if available, handles Joe Borrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins as they seek their second AFC championship in three years. Last but not least, there is Buffalo versus Miami: despite earning their first playoff berth since 2016, with Tua Tagovaila’s injury this seems like the only matchup that might not even be worth watching unless you’re a Bills fan and the Dolphins lack of success when Tua has played this season only serves as further proof of that. Josh Allen has proven himself to be arguably the best young quarterback in the league and the Buffalo Bills collectively are a powerhouse of a team; like the Cowboys in the NFC, they fell just shy of the first seed in the AFC and will look to take out Miami quick and early unless Tua plays and plays his best game of the season.
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While it’s difficult to decide whether the NFC or AFC matchups are more interesting, it’s virtually irrelevant. The NFL playoffs are always special but this season has been unlike anything football fans have seen In a long time and the wild card matchups discussed here prove that it’s so far from over. Every word of this article could be completely inaccurate in a few weeks time, and that’s what makes football so special.