22 de abril de 2024 7:41 pm
OPINIÓN

ROUND TWO: THE DIVISIONAL GAMES

Avatar de Jorge Molina Larrondo

Por Jorge Molina Larrondo


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The Divisional Round has produced some of the most memorable games in NFL history. The Longest Game (Kansas defeating Miami in 1971 in double overtime), the Immaculate Reception (Steelers beat the Raiders in 1972), the Sea of Hands (Raiders beat Miami in 1974), the Hail Mary (Dallas beat Minnesota in 1975), the Ghost to the Post (Raiders beat the then Baltimore Colts in 1977 in overtime), the Epic in Miami (Chargers beat Miami in 1982 in overtime), and most recently, the Minneapolis Miracle, when the Vikings defeated the Saints in 2018.

While all local teams are favorite -particularly the 49ers and the Ravens by 9 points- at least one visiting team has won in each of the last five seasons. The officials designated for this weekend received the highest grades this season by the league and, based on their performance, will be eligible for Super Bowl LVIII. Bill Vinovich (Lions-Bucs) refereed Super Bowls XLIX and LIV, while John Hussey (Houston-Baltimore), Shawn Hochuli (Chiefs-Bills), and Alex Kemp (Green Bay-49ers) are yet to be assigned to their first Super Bowl as referees.

This will be the sixth time Kansas and Buffalo face each other in the playoffs, with the Chiefs holding a 3-2 advantage. Two years ago, the Chiefs won in overtime the divisional game and the year before they beat the Bills in the AFC championship game. On week 14, the Bills won 20-17 in Kansas City, giving Josh Allen a 3-1 edge on regular season games against Patrick Mahomes, who will be playing his first playoff game outside Arrowhead Stadium.

The Packers and 49ers will play for an NFL record tenth time in the playoffs. San Francisco has won the last four playoff games between these two franchises, the latest one in the divisional round last year. While Green Bay is the youngest team this year in the NFL, with an average of 25 years -the 49ers are number 22 with 26.1 years- San Francisco has in Brock Purdy the league’s leader in QB rating (113.0) and the leader in scrimmage yards (2,023) and rushing yards (1,450) in Christian McCaffrey. The 48 points scored last week by the Packers is the most points received by the Cowboys in the playoffs.

Both Lions and Buccaneers arrive quite confident after beating the Rams and the Eagles. Detroit won its first playoff game in 32 years, since beating Dallas 38-6 in 1992, regardless of not having tight end Sam LaPorta 100% for the game. While Baker Mayfield became the first QB in Bucs history to pass for more than 300 yards (337) and three TDs against Philadelphia, the team is hoping that LB Shaquil Barrett (ankle), LB YaYa Diaby (shoulder), RB Chase Edmonds (toe), and WR Chris Godwin (knee) will recover from Monday’s game. Detroit beat the Bucs 20-6 in Tampa Bay on 15 October.

Baltimore seems to have the easiest game of this round. The Ravens clinched home-field advantage three weeks ago, as QB Lamar Jackson had a career-high 3, 678 passing yards and led all QBs with 821 rushing yards. Coach John Harbaugh hopes LB Jadeveon Clowney and TE Mark Andrews will be ready for Saturday. Andrews has been out since week 11, while Clowney -who was selected number one overall by Houston in 2014- was second in sacks for the team with a career-high 9.5.

For the Texans, QB C.J. Stroud completed 16 of 21 passes for 274 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions and a rating of 157.2 against the Browns, the highest ever for a rookie in a playoff game. He passed for 242 yards in their week one meeting in Baltimore, when they lost 25-9. Coach Demeco Ryans’ major concern is the health of his defensive line. It will be cold, with temperatures around -5o C. But if the Texans defense plays close to the level they showed last week against Cleveland, we may have a surprise.

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