This Saturday begins the NFL postseason with two games out of the six that make up the first phase of direct elimination.
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Starting this Saturday, the NFL postseason begins in its 2021/22 edition. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to defend the Vince Lombardi trophy that was credited in the last Super Bowl over the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that in turn will seek revenge.
The two finalists from last year will have to play the first phase of the postseason, against the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers respectively, because they were surpassed in their conferences by the Green Bay Packers and the surprising Tennessee Titans, leaders in each zone and who are already waiting in the semifinals by their rivals.
From this phase, whoever loses leaves, and it will not matter what the record was in the regular round. In the case of the Packers and Titans, to achieve the pennant they will have to overcome only three commitments because they do not play the wild card phase.
With the American Conference and the duel between Kansas City and Pittsburgh, a priori one of the most uneven in the previous one. Patrick Mahomes is not the same as in previous seasons, but his end of the regular season was favorable. They once again have in Travis Kelce their best partner on offense and a more solid defense than was seen at the beginning of the season, in addition to the bonus of playing in their stadium, the Arrowhead, where they are almost unbeatable.
Pittsburgh can already be satisfied to have come this far against all odds. His captain, Ben Roethlisberger "Big Ben", in the worst case he will say goodbye as a professional playing postseason. The team has several injuries, a quarterback on the verge of retirement, and the fatigue of a demanding schedule. It is worth noting the excellent campaign of linebacker TJ Watt, a key player in the restructuring.
The surprising Bengals, number 4 in the standings, arrive as the great revelation of this campaign by claiming the leadership of the North Division with an offensive power led by Joe Burrow and the possible winner of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award: Ja'Marr Chase, along with Tee Higgins, Taylor Boyd, and Joe Mixon.
But to stay ahead of three a priori more complete teams like the Baltimore Ravens (the great disappointment of the season), the Steelers, and the Cleveland Browns, it is also necessary to play good defense, and in that sense, the Ohio team improved a lot compared to the previous years thanks to the good direction of Zac Taylor.
The greatest merit of the Las Vegas Raiders was to sneak into the top 7 despite losing their coach Jon Gruden at the beginning of the season and then Henry Ruggs III, one of their stars, due to a very serious social mess. With nothing to lose, their quarterback Derek Carr and interim coach Rich Bisaccia can continue to make history without the pressure of favoritism.
For the third time this season, two old acquaintances like Buffalo and New England will face each other. Easily winning the most recent matchup between them gives the Bills favoritism, as well as home court.
One aspect of the game not to be taken lightly is that despite having a limited running game and a defense that doesn't show the intensity of last season, they finished with the best point differential in the league at 194 points. Sean McDermott hopes to reach his second conference semifinal in a row, along with Josh Allen.
On the New England side, there is no longer Tom Brady, but there is Mac Jones, who this year led the club to play in the postseason again after failing to do so in the previous season. Coach Bill Belichick's invaluable experience managed to absorb the best of young Jones and solidify an aggressive defense, but on the road against a team that has greater depth, it seems quite difficult.
We moved to the NFC, in which the Buccaneers did not disappoint at the hands of legend Tom Brady even though this year they slackened in the aspect that gave them the title last year, defense. Brady's cold-blooded experience and the work of men like Devon White and Lavonte David on defense and Ronald Jones on offense seem to be enough to beat Philadelphia.
But the Eagles defense is not far behind, since it was placed in the tenth position and to this, we must add that the responsibility does not seem to have weighed much on Jalen Hurts, the quarterback who led the best rushing offense in a 32-team circuit with 2,715 total yards and 25 touchdowns that way.
The Dallas offense spent the entire season with almost 30 points per game and, in fact, in five of the 17 games they exceeded the barrier of 40 units, and in two they were over 50. Seen this way, the offense led by Dak Prescott looks fearsome, but what many do not know is that the Texan team's schedule was quite benevolent playing many times against teams without the possibility of playing postseason.
But Cowboys must also have an Ezekiel Elliot at his best to be the best complement to Prescott. On the side of San Francisco, it is one of those teams that does not make much noise, but plays very well and seems to recover the sensations of 2020, the year in which they played the Super Bowl.
Like Buffalo and New England, Los Angeles and Arizona split wins and will meet for the third time this season to close out the phase on Monday. The key man seems to be Matthew Stafford despite not having high efficiency in his steps in the final weeks of the championship, and again the Rams are expected to exploit his talent on both ends of the floor.
Arizona got off to the best start in the league, but closed with a lot of ups and downs, losing four of its last five games. The pressure of this part of the season seems to be weighing on quarterback Kyle Murray, especially as the team starts trailing.