As a salty Bills fan, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t that happy about watching football this Sunday. I was 13 seconds away from sitting in ice-cold Buffalo watching Joe Burrow duel it out with Josh Allen, but the past is the past. This Sunday was filled with surprises, choking of the highest degree and nail biters.
Fasten your seatbelts, because here is our key takeaways from another weekend of football:
1. The Stafford bet is paying off
This past offseason, the Rams traded Jared Goff, two first-round picks (2022 and 2023) and a third-rounder from last season’s draft for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford never had any playoff success in Detroit which left many questioning if this deal would help Los Angeles climb over that hump to finally win a Super Bowl.
It’s safe to say that the bet is paying off.
Stafford has delivered clutch performances during this playoff run for the Rams. While nearly squandering a 27-3 lead versus the Bucs, he connected with star receiver Cooper Kupp with nearly no time left to help the Rams win 30-27.
This week, despite a costly red-zone interception in the first quarter, he delivered another great performance versus a San Francisco team that always seems to have Los Angeles’ number to push them over the hump to make it to the Super Bowl. He tossed for 337 yards to go along with two touchdowns and the interception earlier in the win.
Especially in a game where the Rams could get nothing going on the ground (70 yards on 29 rush attempts), he was instrumental in keeping the Rams in the game and ultimately punching their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Stafford helped elevate an offense that ranked 22nd in scoring last season to seventh in scoring this season and is the reason why Los Angeles went from a playoff-caliber team to a Super Bowl contender.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco is probably over
The 49ers knew that their quarterback play is what’s truly holding them back, and it showed on Sunday.
Garoppolo put up pretty pedestrian numbers this postseason (535 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions). While he was playing through a thumb injury, many expect the 49ers to move onto rookie Trey Lance starting next season, who they moved up to select No. 3 in last season’s draft.
Garoppolo will probably have a decent trade market this offseason though. There are many teams who are quarterback needy right now (Washington, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Denver, New Orleans) and he will probably draw some serious trade interest.
While general managers may not consider him to be the franchise quarterback for a team, he’s more than capable enough to help bring a balanced team to the postseason as shown by his playoff success in San Francisco.
3. Joe Burrow is really that guy
Joe Shiesty. Joe Brrr. Joe Burrow the Tiger King. This kid is legit.
Cincinnati entered Sunday’s game as seven-point underdogs against a Chiefs team that seemed almost unbeatable. After the first half, it seemed like it was going to be a rout of the Bengals. But once the second half came around, it was all Cincinnati.
It all started at the end of the first half. The Chiefs were on the Bengals five-yard line with five seconds left and had a chance to kick a field goal to push the score to 24-3. Instead, they opted to be aggressive and go for the touchdown. They were stopped and came out with no points. All the momentum shifted to Cincinnati, and they never took their foot off the gas pedal.
The defense clamped down on a Chiefs offence that seemed almost invincible and Burrow made several clutch plays to score 21 unanswered points.
The game went into overtime where the Chiefs won the coin toss. However, Mahomes did the unthinkable and threw his second interception of the day. The Bengals came back onto the field, easily stormed into Chiefs territory and Evan McPherson nailed another clutch kick to send Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.
The Bengals have knocked off a Raiders team who was on a four-game winning streak heading into the playoffs, the No. 1 seeded Titans and a Chiefs team who’s made four consecutive AFC Championship appearances en route to the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati also has an elite young core who’s under contract for the foreseeable future. It’s time to stop thinking of the Bengals as an underdog and time to start treating them as a perennial Super Bowl contender for years to come.
4. Chiefs aggressive play comes back to haunt them
The Chiefs aggressive play at the end of the first-half isn’t the sole reason why they lost.
The offense went ice cold in the second half, racking up only 55 passing yards coupled with two interceptions. We have to give the Bengals a lot of credit for pulling this off though after a week where the Chiefs racked up 42 points in an overtime win versus the Buffalo Bills and their No. 1 ranked defense.
But nevertheless, the Chiefs aggressive play along with poor clock management cost them three points, which was ultimately the difference in this game.
This was the Chiefs game to win, and they blew it.
On the bright side, at least we don’t have to see Jackson Mahomes again until next season.
5. Matthew Stafford, Joe Burrow face off in Super Bowl debuts
Looking at their careers (both No. 1 overall picks), Stafford and Burrow have both had two vastly different journeys up to this moment.
On one hand, Stafford played 13 seasons, including 12 with the Lions, before his shot at the Lombardi. He was 0-3 in the playoffs prior to this season.
On the other hand, there’s Burrow, who’s won his first three playoff games and brought success to a team that’s been touted as a ‘poverty franchise’ by many.
Burrow and Stafford both had career years this season and both will try to do what neither have done before; win a Super Bowl.
Burrow is trying to win Cincinnati its first ever Super Bowl, while Stafford is trying to cement his legacy as a future Hall of Famer after 12 seasons of nothing in Detroit.
No matter what happens on February 13th, it’ll be a matchup for the ages and everyone can’t wait.