Winners & Losers Divisional Round

By Lee Wakefield & Peter Mann


Welcome to winners and losers for the divisional round. What a weekend of football it was! Four superb games of football between eight teams who I think we can all agree are good teams, with good quarterbacks and competent (or better, in some cases much better) coaching staff.

As a fan of a team who were eliminated from playoff contention a while back and, whose team was far from competent for a long stretch of the season, it’s just a joy to watch good football being played.

It’s a great shame that there are only a couple of weekends left in the season now I’ve finally begun to enjoy it. Anyway, enough complaining from me, let’s get stuck into those winners…

Winners - Peter Mann

Detroit Lions

January 1992 was the last time Detroit Lions won a play-off outing, a 38-6 success over Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome; fast-forward some 32 years, and they finally won another two, this time and, having edged Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card, Dan Campbell’s Lions roared to divisional success.

Hosting Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past weekend, and roared on by one of their most favourite sons, Marshall Mathers III (Eminem to the rest of the world), Campbell’s Lions collected a stunning, 31-23 success after a gut-busting, fourth quarter. 

Despite Baker Mayfield’s three TDs, 349 yards, and 26/41 completion for the Bucs, it would be the Lions’ Jared Goff, posting two TDs, 287 yards, 30/43 completion, and home scoring drives that saw Craig Reynolds on close-range, and Jahmyr Gibbs from thirty-one yards. Goff also hit Josh Reynolds for the opening TD, as well as  Amon-Ra St. Brown. Four touchdowns in total, and an opening, 23-yard kick from Mike Badgley, had the Pride delirious. 

It was the Lions’ defense, amiably led by DC Aaron Glenn, that has been standing tall of late, and they showed as much against Mayfield and the Bucs who, although on-fire during the game, was tagged by the constant pressure the hosts inflicted upon him with defensive backs, Brian Branch, and Ifeatu Melifonwu certain standouts. As was Aidan Hutchinson, who put in a stunning performance to stem the tide.

Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce

The plaudits continue to flow for the pairing of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, who added a lot more to their stock on another, successful, play-off victory for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mind you, the cheerleading squad for the Chiefs, led by international music icon, Taylor Swift, is now complemented by the recently retired, elder brother of Travis, Jason Kelce; the off-field celebrations are certainly getting some air-time in recent weeks.

For Mahomes though, who against Buffalo Bills in their narrow, 27-24 divisional win, posted two TDs, 215 yards, and 17/23 completion, has the most impressive of first six seasons as a starter – reaching the AFC Championship 2018-23, Mahomes made the Super Bowl on three occasions, and won the big one twice.

As for that Mahomes-Kelce, QB-WR pairing, they’ve now connected for an impressive, sixteen, TDs, the most by any duo in NFL history, overtaking the previous, fifteen, set by New England Patriots twosome of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and moving four ahead of the iconic, San Francisco 49ers pairing of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice from back in the day.

The record was tied with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter when Mahomes tossed a 22-yard pass for Kelce, then bettered with the first score of the third quarter, on 11:48, with Mahomes connecting Kelce from three yards.

Afterward, Chiefs’ head honcho, Andy Reid, said of the achievement, “Patrick and Kelce, with the record that they broke there with Gronk and Tom, I mean, that was a great job there,” – for Kelce, he’s now on 18 playoff TD catches, four off the record 22 by Hall of Fame all-star, Jerry Rice. 

San Francisco 49ers

Of the other two franchises to succeed and progress to the Championship game, the Baltimore Ravens have, in effect, been the #1 seed for some time, but Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers, who’ll be opposing the Detroit Lions, are also highly-fancied to win out.

Having edged in front in a quiet first half, it looked like when opposing Green Bay Packers, it was to be a lost cause come to the end of the third quarter, Green Bay leading 21-14 with just one quarter of football to play as Jordan Love posted two TDs, 194-yards, 21/34 completion for the Pack.

However, with Brock Purdy’s only score, a 32-yard toss for George Kittle in the second, the Packers had no answer for Christian McCaffrey, who added two TDs in the second half, one in each quarter, including a game-winning, six-yard run with 1:07 remaining (adding to the earlier, 39-yarder), sealing a 24-21 success, Jake Moody’s boot adding the extra scores with three conversions and a field goal, for added measure.

Losers - Lee Wakefield

Anders Carlson

As I mentioned on this week’s podcast, I feel like the best QB lost in the game between the Packers and the 49ers.

The discourse online revolved around Brock Purdy, who remains one of the most polarising passers in the league. Purdy missed a good amount of throws and he made some bizarre decisions, but in the end he did lead a game-winning drive to close the game out for San Francisco.

However, we have all seen the win probability graph from this game.

If Anders Carlson made that 41-yard kick with 6:18 left to play, Green Bay would have had a 7-point lead.

Sure that was always enough time to score but the missed kick alone meant that 9ers win probability jumped 12.2% from 21% to 33.2%, (according to @NFLWinWave). And that was before they began their drive.

It’s unfortunate for a young kicker to have to go through this. But if the door is left open for a QB who is comparable to Joe Montana, then the probability of a comeback is perhaps even higher.

Zyon McCollum

Unfortunately, I’m doing exactly what the Lions did and target the young defensive back.

On Sunday evening, I felt that whilst the Lions looked the more likely to win, the Buccaneers were holding on to their coattails for the first three-quarters of the game.

In the fourth, Detroit pulled away. It ended as an eight-point victory, in reality, the game was pretty much over when Amon-Ra St. Brown scored with 6:22 remaining. The score was 31-17.

The turning point could have been Jamel Dean leaving the game, meaning McCollum filled in at corner, instead of his usual safety spot.

The Lions targeted McCollum’s receiver three times on their final scoring drive including on the touchdown itself.

He ended the game with 5 catches given up, for 56 yards and a touchdown over the game.

The playoffs are an unforgiving arena for young players.

Fans Second Guessing Josh Allen

Aside from the question of whether Brock Purdy is actually any good or not, the other question dominating football twitter coming out of the Divisional Round was: Shouldn’t Josh Allen have just thrown it to Stefon Diggs?

Above are the dots via Bill Barnwell.

We can see #14, Diggs, running a drag. However, Allen went for the touchdown, attempting to hit #10, Khalil Shakir in the end zone on a skinny post.

If Allen and Shakir connect here, it’s 31-27 with less than 2 minutes remaining. The Chiefs need to drive down and score 6 to advance.

That’s a risk that I think is worth it. Especially on 2nd down.

Looking at the play itself, trying to hit Shakir is the correct call too!

Diggs would make some yards, but not a first down as Nick Bolton is triggering downhill on him before the ball is released. And as for Shakir, he’s got separation and the Chiefs have two high safeties meaning it’s middle field open.

Posts look to take advantage of the void between the two safeties. It was a good read, a good route and a good decision.

The throw just didn’t connect. It happens sometimes. Guys just miss. So blame Allen if you want, but blame him for the right reasons. But if you do, I still think you’re in the wrong.

Feature Image Credit: Pride of Detroit

Lee Wakefield

NFL, CFB & NFL Draft

Lee Wakefield IS A defensive line enthusiast, Chargers Sufferer, and LONG-TIME writer and podcaster with a number of publications. @Wakefield90 on Twitter/X