After an epic weekend of football, four teams are left to play in the conference championship round of the NFL playoffs. The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers are the four that remain.
The first game of the weekend was the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the New England Patriots on Saturday, Jan. 16. Early in the first quarter, the Patriots took the lead 7-0. Trying to catch up, the Chiefs kicked a field goal late in the first, making the score 7-3. The Patriots were able to hold the lead the entire game. Looking at the stats, it looks like the Chiefs controlled the game, leading the Pats in possession time, total yards and number of first downs. What made the difference in the game is what the teams did differently in their time on offense. This difference is taking the Patriots to their fifth AFC Championship game. Saturday displayed an intense game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals.
Headlines all over are giving away a massive turning point in the game, Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary that took the game into overtime. It was back and forth all game; neither team was able to gain a steady lead. After regulation time ran out, the Cardinals decided to call a “Hail Larry,” as ESPN is calling it. A 5-yard pass from Carson Palmer allowed Larry Fitzgerald to run 80 yards, straight to the end zone a minute into overtime.
According to NFL Network, the NFL Overtime rules state: “The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scored a touchdown on its initial possession.” This is exactly what is taking the Cardinals to the NFC Championship.
On Sunday, the 15-1 Carolina Panthers took on the 10-6 Seattle Seahawks for the first game of the day. The Panthers were able to hold an unanswered lead against the Seahawks until early in the third quarter. With a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter, the Panthers struggled to hold the Seahawks. The Panthers were still able to win their 12th straight game at home. The Panthers were the first team in the history of the NFC South to win back-to-back division titles in 2013-14 and now for a third time, securing them the home field advantage for the conference championship round of the playoffs.
The final game, concluding the divisional round of the playoffs, was the Pittsburg Steelers vs. the Denver Broncos. The Broncos took the lead in the first quarter with two successful fi eld goals.
The Steelers answered by scoring a touchdown and an extra point late in the fi rst quarter. Each team was able to score each quarter — until the fourth quarter when the Broncos scored with three minutes left, giving them a 20 to 13 lead.
Then, they were able to regain possession and kick a field goal with 53 seconds left in the game. A now healthy Peyton Manning was expected to lead his team to the AFC Championship, and that it precisely what happen.
The playoffs will continue this weekend at 3:05 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24 when the Patriots go head to head with the Broncos, and the Cardinals face the Panthers at 6:40 p.m.
These games will decide who plays in Super Bowl 50 at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7.