The NFL regular season has come to an end which means the NFL Playoffs begin this weekend. All 32 teams in the league were in action on Sunday. For 20 of those teams, their season has come to an end and for the other 12, their seasons continue. we already knew 10 out of the 12 teams that made the playoffs heading into Week 17, there was still a lot at stake when it came to playoff seeding for many teams.
It did not come easy for the Green Bay Packers in their regular season finale when it came to ensuring themselves a bye but they ultimately got the job done against the Detroit Lions when Mason Crosby hit the game winning field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter. Despite the New Orleans Saints crushing the Carolina Panthers, they could not earn the bye with the Packers winning and will have to play on Wild Card Weekend. In the AFC, all the New England Patriots had to do was beat the Miami Dolphins to clinch a bye. This sounded easy enough but it was not as the Dolphins pulled off a miracle in Foxboro as they upset the Patriots 27-24. With the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs earned the bye and the Patriots fell to the three seed meaning that they will have to play in the Wild Card Round for the first time in a decade. For the late games on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles needed to beat the New York Giants in order to win the NFC East and earn a playoff spot. That is exactly what they did winning 34-17 and ending the Dallas Cowboys season in spite of their dominating win over the Washington Redskins. The Tennessee Titans took care of business against the Houston Texans to get the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. On Sunday Night Football between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, the winner of the game would win the NFC West and the loser would be the first Wild Card in the NFC. The final game of the regular season did not disappoint at all with the game coming down to the very final play. The Seahawks had a chance to win it down by five and searching for a touchdown but Jacob Hollister was stopped inches from the goal line as time expired giving the 49ers the win.
Beginning with the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens have a bye as the No. 1 seed with a record of 14-2 and will face the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional Round. The Kansas City Chiefs are the other team with a bye as the No. 2 seed with a record of 12-4 and will play the highest remaining seed in the Divisional Round. Both AFC Wild Card games in the AFC will be on Saturday. The Weekend will kick off with the No. 5 seed Buffalo Bills at the No. 4 seed Houston Texans at 4:35 p.m. ET. This is a matchup between two teams that both finished the regular season with a record of 10-6 and despite the Texans being slight favorites, it would be no surprise if the Bills made a game of it. Saturday then wraps up with the other Wild Card game in the AFC where the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans will head to Foxboro to take on the No. 3 seed New England Patriots at 8:15 p.m. ET. The Titans finished the regular season with a 9-7 record meanwhile the Patriots slipped to 12-4 after an 8-0 start. Bill Belichick will go up against Mike Vrabel, who played for him in New England. Although New England is expected to win this game, the Titans are no team to sleep on. They beat the Patriots in Nashville last year and while obviously this is a whole different story with the game at Gillette Stadium, Ryan Tannehill is playing very well right now leading the way for Tennessee and Tom Brady is coming off what was probably his worst game of the season. It will definitely be interesting to see how the Patriots respond after an embarrassing loss to Miami that put them in this position having to play on Wild Card Weekend for the first time in a long time. The problem for New England is that even if they do beat the Titans, which they should do and I think they will, they then have to play at Kansas City who will have an extra week of rest and then, most likely, at Baltimore if they get past the Chiefs to even have a chance of making the Super Bowl. This is a very tough path for the Patriots compared to years past and it is very hard to imagine them winning a Super Bowl this year but we shall see.
Shifting over to the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers are the No. 1 seed with a bye and a record of 13-3 and will play the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional Round. The other team with a bye in the NFC are the Green Bay Packers who also have a 13-3 record and will face the highest remaining seed in the Divisional Round. Both NFC Wild Card games will take place on Sunday. The day gets underway with the No. 6 seed Minnesota Vikings at the No. 3 seed New Orleans Saints at 1:05 p.m. ET. Unfortunately for the Saints, a 13-3 regular season was not enough to get a bye. For the Vikings, they finished 10-6 as runners-up in the NFC North. It is a little surprising that the Saints are eight point favorites because I think this will be a close game from start to finish. In the end, I do think the Saints will get the win and punch their ticket into the the Divisional Round. In the last game of the weekend, the N0. 5 seed Seattle Seahawks will play at the No. 4 seed Philadelphia Eagles at 4:40 p.m. ET. The Seahawks finished the season 11-5 after a heartbreaking loss to the 49ers and the Eagles finished 9-7 winning the worst division in football. Under the current NFL Playoff format, the reason the Eagles are hosting the Seahawks even though they have a worse record is because they won their division and division winners are guaranteed to host a game in the Wild Card Round. It will be interesting to see if the home field advantage helps Philadelphia significantly in this game. To be fair to the Eagles, they have looked better over the last few weeks and seem to be playing better football at the right time. Seattle is the better team and while it will not be easy for them on Sunday, I do expect them to win this game. As long as New Orleans beat Minnesota, a Seattle win would set up the third meeting of the season between the Seahawks and 49ers in the Divisional Round. This is just one of many intriguing matchups that we could see in the NFL Playoffs. It is win or go home in every single game and while best-of-7 series are fun in the NHL, NBA, and MLB, there is something about single elimination games that make the NFL Playoffs all the more exciting. The NFL Playoffs never seem to disappoint and this year should be no different so sit back and enjoy what should be some great football between the very best teams in the league over the course of the next month.