The 2016 playoffs have been very exciting for fans that have teams still in the running. The wild card round took place the weekend of Jan. 8. There were two games that were especially upsetting or exciting, depending on which fan base a person is a part of. The first was between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The score was 16-15 Bengals with a minute and thirty seconds left in the game when a big play by the Steelers took them back into Bengals territory. Two personal fouls later, the Steelers were in field goal range and won the game 18-16. The game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings was a similar story. The Seahawks were up 10-9 at the end of the fourth quarter, but Minnesota had the ball and was gearing up to kick a field goal. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh kicked it wide left, and the Seahawks moved on.
The second round also had two exciting games. The Green Bay Packers have had a knack this season for somehow making Hail Mary passes work, and the divisional playoffs were no different. The Arizona Cardinals led the Packers 20-13 with just under two minutes left in the game, and Aaron Rodgers threw a forty-one-yard pass for a touchdown, and with the PAT, it went into overtime. The Cardinals got the ball first in overtime and scored a touchdown on the first drive. The drive only took three plays, the first of which was a seventy-five yard catch and run by Larry Fitzgerald. Two passing attempts later, Fitzgerald was in the endzone with the ball. The Cardinals won 27-20. In what seems to be a developing rivalry, the Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in their divisional playoff. The Seahawks have won the NFC for two years straight, but that was not the case during the first half of the game. Seattle was shut out in the first half, going into the locker room down by thirty-one points. The second half the tables turned. The Panthers did not score a single point in the second half, but did enough defensively to hold the Seahawks to twenty-four points. Fans of both teams were on the edge of their seats for the last few minutes of the game.
The games played on Jan. 24 determined the champions of the AFC and the NFC. The 16-1 Panthers faced off against the Cardinals while the reigning Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, took on the Denver Broncos. Carolina did not lose until Week 15 while the Cardinals were on a nine-game winning streak before losing to the Seahawks in the final week. The NFC championship seemed to be pretty easy for the Panthers despite the Cardinals being the second seed in NFC. Despite the near-perfect record of Carolina, the media has been questioning whether or not they really are the best team in the NFC; it has been argued that the Cardinals are actually better but may have played a tougher schedule, resulting in two more losses than the Panthers. This weekend’s matchup, however, proved that the Panthers are at the top of the conference. The game between the Patriots and Broncos pitted Tom Brady against Peyton Manning, two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. This was the fifth time these two have met in the postseason, and it may have been the last as experts are speculating that Manning will announce his retirement after the season is over. The backup quarterback for the Broncos, Brock Osweiler, started five games this season, and if Manning does retire, Osweiler will be the starter next season.
The Panthers beat the Cardinals 49-15, dominant throughout the entire game. The Broncos squeaked out a late victory against the Patriots, kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter and preventing a game-tying two point conversion at the very end. The Super Bowl will match up the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The line on the game currently favors the Panthers by five and a half points. The game will be on Feb. 7.