With the National Football League regular season ending, many teams still have something to fight for, a championship. Twelve teams started in the NFL playoffs in hopes of becoming the Super Bowl champions.
The NFL playoffs, having two conferences, consists of six teams from each conference. From the American Football Conference, the teams were the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. From the National Football Conference, the teams were the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.
For the AFC, the Patriots and the Chiefs boasted the first and second seed, while the Cowboys and the Falcons secured them for the NFC. During the wild card weekend, the Dolphins, Giants, Lions and Raiders were eliminated from the playoffs. In the divisional games, the Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks and Texans were also eliminated, leaving four teams. In the two conference championships, the Falcons eliminated the Packers, and the Patriots eliminated the Steelers, leaving two teams, the Falcons and the Patriots. These teams will compete in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, where the Patriots will likely become champions.
Every team had key players that stood out. These players were important to win games in the playoffs. In Atlanta, quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones had one of their best seasons as a duo, earning their spot in the Super Bowl. In Dallas, rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led their team to the playoffs in a surprisingly successful regular season. In New England, quarterback Tom Brady led his team to yet another playoff and Super Bowl appearance, even with an early season suspension. And, in Pittsburgh, running back Le’veon Bell rushed his team to the playoffs behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
With every season, comes heart-breaking injuries. Some of these injuries can completely change the outcome of the playoffs. For Dallas, quarterback Tony Romo has fully recovered from his injury, but the Cowboys chose to play Prescott instead. For Green Bay, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, out with broken ribs, was questionable to play in the playoffs, but did played against Atlanta with a protective vest. In Houston, defensive end J.J. Watt is still recovering from his back surgery earlier in the season. For Oakland, quarterback Derek Carr, out with a broken leg, sat out of the playoffs due to his injury being recent. And, for Seattle, wide receiver Tyler Lockett and free safety Earl Thomas both missed the playoffs.
Compared to last season, the NFL playoffs are quite different. Both Super Bowl contenders from last year, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, did not make the playoffs, showing how just one year can completely change things in the NFL.
Article by staff member Sam Gallager
Photo courtesy of Interstate Studios