No one sells hope like the NFL. Every year, every team has a shot at winning it all, going from worst to first. It’s a nice idea and comes true for some, but it is otherwise a fallacy.
In the NFL, in the words of the gentlemen Mr. Randy Savage, the cream of the crop always rises to the top. Come January and the Divisional Round especially, the best teams (with the best quarterbacks) are the only ones left standing. Those plucky underdogs and teams with a shot? They’re gone now. We have reached the top of this silly little professional, gladiatorial sport.
The NFL’s Divisional Round will take place this weekend, and there is no shortage of storylines.
The headliner is, quite obviously, Chiefs-Bills in Kansas City on Sunday night. Patrick Mahomes, the face of the league. Josh Allen, perhaps the Duncan to his Macbeth? I don’t know what will happen in this budding playoff/quarterback rivalry. Still, if you’re not rooting for a 35-32 tornado between these two young superstars, then we’ll probably never agree on anything when it comes to football. It takes a lot to preempt 60 Minutes altogether. Mahomes-Allen can do that to a news program. Welcome to America.
Then there’s Bengals-Titans. The de facto “snoozer” of all the matchups still has a lot of intrigues. Cincinnati is coming off its first postseason victory in over 30 years with a bona fide franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, at the helm. Meanwhile, Tennessee is looking to prove it’s not a paper tiger No. 1 seed, the way many believe. Perhaps the return of an actual real-life titan like Derrick Henry can help.
In Tampa Bay, we might have the future of league roster construction. Both the Rams and Buccaneers were essentially built as All-Star teams (which isn’t an awful development, to be clear), full of veterans seeking second (for some, first) championship rings. Matthew Stafford is among the more prominent names on that account, but don’t forget Tom Brady, Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr., Ndamukong Suh, and Rob Gronkowski. This isn’t a battle of continuity and established bad blood.
Finally, there’s the elephant in the room, er, whatever their mascot is, for every Bears fan alive: The Packers and yet another playoff matchup with the 49ers. Color me skeptical that San Francisco ends Aaron Rodgers’ last hurrah in Wisconsin—also, color me skeptical that it’s even his last hurrah in Wisconsin—but they have the horses to do it. Pound a weak Packers defense in the Green Bay evening in January cold, and you might win. Maybe.
All I know is that the cliches are true: This is the best weekend of top-level football in the entire calendar year. Anything less than a few slugfest and barnyard shootouts, and I’ll be beyond disappointed. I know some of you will share a similar sentiment.
Windy City Gridiron picks all four games of the 2022 NFL Divisional Round.
You can check out all of this week’s odds from our partner, DraftKings Sportsbook.