January 28, 2020 | SPORTS | By Max Giles | Photo by Anil Jergens

The 2022 NFL playoffs have been filled with instant classics, rule debacles, and formidable victories. Superbowl LVI is set for Feb. 13 in SoFi Stadium: the new and impressive home of the Los Angeles Rams.

After wildcard weekend and the divisional round, just four teams remain. In the most recent iteration of the playoffs, divisional round, four teams were defeated: the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bill Barnell is calling it the “greatest NFL playoff round ever.”

The Cincinnati Bengals, who have not reached a conference championship in 33 years, finally managed to give their franchise new hope and break one of the most disheartening records in the NFL. Quarterback Joe Burrow led the team to a 19-16 victory over the 1-seed Titans. The game was filled with back-and-forth competition until the final minute of the game when Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw an interception that sealed the win for the Bengals. After an “epic dethroning in Nashville”, the Bengals are finally heading to the AFC championship.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the San Francisco 49ers crushed the playoff hopes of MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The game was played at a “feels like” temperature of zero degrees. It definitely showed in the gameplay. In the first quarter, there were a plethora of dropped passes and almost-fumbles. As a result, the game was mostly centered around the defensive side of the ball. Although the Packers seemed to have the upper hand for most of the game, a late punt that was blocked and returned for a touchdown shifted the momentum in the 49ers’ favor. Next thing you know, Robbie Gould is lining up for a game winning field goal as the clock ticks towards zero.

In Tampa, Tom Brady and the defending champion-Buccaneers were gearing up to play the visiting LA Rams. Unfortunately for the Bucs, nothing seemed to be going right during the first half. In the third quarter, the Bucs were down by more than 20 points. The Rams offense was firing on all cylinders and the Bucs were failing to find an answer on the offensive side. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a couple of key takeaways put the Bucs back in the game. An eerily similar story to Brady’s famous Superbowl 51 comeback against the Atlanta Falcons was beginning to take shape. In the end, “a near comeback for the ages” stalled and the Rams advanced to the NFC championship with a last second field goal which gave them the edge in a spectacular 30-27 finish.

Last, but certainly not least, “an all-time classic” was unfolding in Kansas City. An offensive battle between two star quarterbacks, the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, was nothing short of spectacular. The game was a constant battle between two incredibly talented offensive teams. Lead changes were occurring in as short as 50 seconds and touchdowns seemed like a regular occurrence. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bills were going to take home the win. However, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker knocked down a 48-yard field goal to tie the game in the final seconds, sending it into overtime. The Chiefs won the coin toss and marched down the field to score the game-winning touchdown against an exhausted Bills defense. The game left many wondering if the NFL should reconsider overtime rules so that the coin toss is not so impactful. After a long offensive battle, it seemed as though whoever got the ball first in overtime was going to win, and it was just that that happened.

The championship game matchups are set: the San Francisco 49ers against the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC and the Cincinnati Bengals against the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC. If the divisional round was any indication, these matchups should be ones for the history books.

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