2020 was an interesting year for sports, with COVID-19 causing all kinds of grief for leagues everywhere. At the same time, though, sports fans were also kept entertained with some unexpected outcomes. The NFL season is close to the finish line, having survived a couple of coronavirus scares, with the Super Bowl coming up in just about a month. The final lineup for the postseason was cemented this past weekend as Week 17 games concluded and football fans can now get busy wagering on who’s going to advance in the playoffs and who’s going home.
There was some doubt whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be able to survive to make it to the playoffs this year, despite the fact that they brought on five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady to lead the charge. They made it, but showed yesterday that they still have work to do in order to become a championship team. The Bucs, at times, looking like they might lose to the Atlanta Falcons, who were able to rebound and come to within three points with just over eight minutes left in the game. However, relying on the veteran QB, the Bucs kept it together and ended up clinching the fifth seed in the NFC as Brady pushed his team to a 44-27 victory. It was good enough for an NFC wild-card spot, and the Bucs will meet the Washington Football Team (WFT) in the wild card game next week.
The WFT gets to head to the playoffs in spectacular fashion. The team has had to deal with major adversities this season, from its owner being blasted for sexual misconduct to its head coach going through treatment for cancer. It survived all of it, though, taking the NFC East yesterday against the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-14, for its first playoff appearance since 2015. Not bad for a team that finished the season at 7-9. The WFT is the first team ever in the NFL to hit the postseason after starting the regular season 2-7.
The Miami Dolphins were on the verge of making it to the playoffs, but fell apart yesterday against the Buffalo Bills. Several interceptions and bad plays, coupled with an outstanding performance by Bills QB Josh Allen, left the Fins on the sidelines as they fell 56-26. The Bills will hope Allen, who is in contention for an NFL MVP award, will keep up his performance in the playoffs, as the number-two AFC seed take on the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round.
The New Orleans Saints didn’t have a lot of trouble out of the Carolina Panthers yesterday, walking away with a 33-7 win. That secured the number-two seed for the Saints in the NFC, and they’ll take on the Chicago Bears in the playoffs.
The Bears will need to find their stride if they’re to make it past the Saints. They lost to the Green Bay Packers yesterday, 35-16, and haven’t been the same Chicago team in the past couple of weeks that they were earlier in the season. For their part, the Packers played an awesome game and the win gave them the number-one seed in the NFC.
The Kansas City Chiefs, looking to defend their Super Bowl win from last year, had already earned their AFC spot this year, so they decided to take it easy against the LA Chargers yesterday. That’s really the only reason, playing without QB Patrick Mahomes and several other starters, the top-ranked Chiefs fell 38-21.
For the first time in 17 seasons, the Cleveland Browns are playoff-bound. They pulled off a surprising upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, taking the game 24-22, but the Steelers could get their revenge. Pittsburgh had already secured the AFC North and these two teams will meet again in the postseason next week.
The LA Rams may not be eligible for an NFC West title, but they’re still hanging on as postseason contenders. They beat the Arizona Cardinals yesterday 18-7 and will now face the Seattle Seahawks next week. The Seahawks have had a roller coaster year and almost came close to losing to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday. They pulled off the 26-23 victory after digging in during the fourth quarter, and they’ll need to dig in more if they want to be considered legitimate for a possible Super Bowl appearance.