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NFL

Five takeaways from NFL playoffs divisional round: Rodgers, Mahomes...

AS journalist Ariel Velázquez looks at some of the key conclusions from the divisional round, as the Bengals, 49ers, Rams and Chiefs moved to within one game of the Super Bowl.

Update:

There’s a decent case to be made that this weekend was not only the most exciting of the NFL season, but also one of the most memorable in the history of football: all four divisional round games were decided by a points-scoring play at the death.

Never before in the league had something like this happened.

There's very little separating the NFL's best teams

As Titans, Packers, Bucs and Bills fans mourn defeat, and as the Bengals, 49ers, Rams and Chiefs celebrate reaching the conference championship, everyone should be thankful for the show we witnessed - and for just how even the league is right now.

The four divisional round games were won by a combined margin of just 15 points - the lowest such figure at this stage in the Super Bowl era.

See also:

The overtime rules need to be changed

It happened to Patrick Mahomes when his Kansas City Chiefs lost the AFC Championship Game to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in 2018. On Sunday, it happened to Josh Allen.

The Chiefs’ touchdown in the first possession of overtime meant the Buffalo Bills were beaten without their quarterback being given a chance to touch the ball in the additional period. That’s unfair.

These are the rules right now, but they need to change.

Among the many alternative proposals, the simplest to adopt would be the system used in NCAA football, which guarantees that each team receives the ball at least once.

Particularly in a league that’s so even, every team must be given the same chance of winning. A coin toss simply cannot have such a big say in the outcome of a game.

Josh Allen reacts after his Buffalo Bills team was beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round.
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Josh Allen reacts after his Buffalo Bills team was beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round.David EulittAFP

The memories of a stultifying wild card round were banished

The wild card round a week ago was one of the most boring there’s ever been, with games pretty much won and lost before we’d even reached half time. The six matchups yielded an average margin of victory of 17.2 points.

That bitter taste was quickly washed away by the divisional round, though. The average margin of victory was just 3.8 points. That translated into a whole lot of excitement.

Only Brady can stop Mahomes in the playoffs

As we’ve already talked about, Mahomes’ first AFC Championship Game was won by Brady’s Patriots without the Chiefs quarterback getting ball in hand in overtime. Well, Brady remains the only QB to get the better of Mahomes in the postseason. The Kansas City star is now 5-0 in playoff games leading up to the conference championship.

Life can be so unfair for some quarterbacks

For more than a decade, Aaron Rodgers has been trying to add another Super Bowl to his resumé. That the Green Bay Packers quarterback has just the one NFL title to his name prompts doubts over the place he’ll occupy in history. But that’s not all his fault.

Meanwhile, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is on the cusp of reaching his second Super Bowl in three years - and that’s certainly not all down to him.

This is how unfair team sports can be on players.

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