The first of those teams are the Green Bay Packers who hosted the battered and bruised LA Rams in their freezing tundra in Wisconsin.
Aaron Rodgers made easy work of the Rams defence early on, with the Packers scoring two touchdowns and two field goals on their first four possessions, while the Rams couldn’t find a rhythm.
At the start of the second half running back Aaron Jones’ 60-yard rush set up another touchdown for Green Bay. Despite a quick score for LA and a much better defensive performance in the second half, Rodgers’ smart play allowed the Packers to score on a long pass and secure a 30-18 win.
In the second NFC game, New Orleans hosted Tampa Bay in the teams’ third meeting of the season. Drew Brees’ Saints had got the better of Tom Brady’s Bucs in both previous matchups but it was a different story this time.
Early on the teams exchanged field goals, before Brees threw his first interception of the night, which cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting returned to the New Orleans three-yard line before the offense scored a touchdown.
On the first drive of the second half, Brees gave the Saints the lead back before the strong Tampa defence forced a fumble and two more interceptions allowing the Buccaneers to put up 17 unanswered points and win the game 30-20.
In the AFC, Baltimore Ravens travelled to Buffalo where the wind played a huge factor. The game ended with four missed field goals while both quarterbacks struggled to connect downfield.
The biggest moment came in the third quarter where Bills cornerback Taron Johnson intercepted a pass in the endzone and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown. Things got worse for Baltimore as reigning MVP Lamar Jackson left the game at the end of the third quarter with a concussion. The Bills added another touchdown late on to seal a 17-3 victory.
Reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City hosted Cleveland in Missouri in a game the home side dominated early. Patrick Mahomes’ quickness tormented the Browns defense as the Chiefs raced into a 19-3 lead.
But the second half was different as adjustments and a toe injury hampered Mahomes’ ability to extend plays. Late in the third quarter, Mahomes was hit on a run play and was quickly removed from the game with a concussion, leaving him a concern for next week’s match up. With the change at quarterback, the Browns sensed an upset, but couldn’t quite find the final play, eventually losing 22-17.
So with the championships games set for next week, we have an interesting conflict in the conferences. The AFC match-up presents us with what many believe to be the future of quarterbacking, with Buffalo’s Josh Allen taking on Kansas City’s Mahomes.
The NFC Championship game throws together two playmakers who are sure to be Hall of Famers in Tampa Bay’s Brady and Green Bay’s Rodgers.
Mahomes and Allen present the new breed of dynamic quarterbacks who can quickly move around in the backfield or take off on the run. These players offer coaches so much more options and cause sleepless nights for defensive coordinators.
The other side of the coin is Brady and Rodgers, two of the most cerebral players in the game. They are on-field decision-makers, who provide near-perfect realtime analysis. Brady and Rodgers both can move around, but while their AFC counterparts rely on speed, the older heads have an innate feel for pressure and where to move.
Now don’t get me wrong - Rodgers is mobile, but he isn’t in the same arena as Allen or Mahomes who rushed for over 700 yards and ten touchdowns.
But there is something about how Brady and Rodgers pass the ball that, while it doesn’t have the flare or spontaneity of an extended Mahomes play, is still breath-taking. The 58-yard touchdown Rodgers threw on Saturday demonstrates this.
I’m not saying that Allen or Mahomes can’t do that, but what Brady and Rodgers have is timeless. And if the new generation of quarterbacks wants to last, then maybe it’s time to hold back, because Mahomes can’t afford to take to many more hits to the head as he did on Sunday.