NFL playoff picture: Breaking down each wild-card matchup

The Detroit Lions didn’t need a playoff spot for motivation Sunday night. pride was enough.

Despite learning before kickoff that the postseason door was closed, the Lions still upset the Green Bay Packers 20-16 to end the season of their NFC North rivals at Lambeau Field.

It was a win for the Packers, who went into the Finals on a four-game winning streak.

The Lions, who started this season 1-6, have won eight of their last 10 games and finished with a winning record. They would have made the playoffs if the Rams hadn’t lost earlier in the day in Seattle, a game decided by a field goal in overtime.

Former Green Bay running back Jamaal Williams, now with the Lions, scored two touchdowns against his former team Sunday night. After tearfully discussing the recent death of his great-grandfather, Williams turned his attention to the Lions’ critics.

“Stop playing us, man,” he said. “We are the Detroit Lions. stop playing with us I don’t even watch TV, but I heard everyone preferred the Packers to us. Don’t let those tears fool you.”

As a result of the Lions’ victory, the Seahawks enter the playoffs as the seventh seed in the NFC, playing in San Francisco. The 49ers defeated Seattle 27-7 and 21-13 during the regular season.

Many happy returns

A video board at Levi's Stadium displays a message of support for Bill's safety Damar Hamlin.

A video board at Levi’s Stadium shows a message of support for Bill’s safety Damar Hamlin during a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

(Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press)

Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo safety, who was recovering from the cardiac arrest he suffered in a game six days earlier, was all over the place Sunday. Players and coaches on every team in the NFL purposely wore t-shirts in his honor that read “Love for Damar 3.”

Hamlin was watching – and tweeting – from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he has been making remarkable progress in his recovery.

Nowhere was the thought of him more prominent than in Buffalo, where teammate and close friend Nyheim Hines opened the final against New England with a kick return for a 96-yard touchdown. Later in the Bills’ 35-23 win, Hines ran back a second kickoff for a 101-yard touchdown, becoming the first Buffalo player to have two such scores in a game.

“I’m speechless,” Hines said. “I’m so thankful I brought this juice, but it’s a lot bigger than me. That’s what I’ve always thought about, and that’s what I’ve thought about all day. It’s just bigger than me and bigger than these 10 guys who did a great job blocking for me.”

take a deep breath

Kansas City and Philadelphia secured the top seeds in their respective conferences, meaning they have a week off and — at least for the Eagles — home field advantage through the playoffs.

Things could be a little different with the Chiefs, however. If they were to face Buffalo in the AFC championship game, that game would be played at a neutral venue. That’s because both teams could have been No. 1 had all teams played a full 17-game regular season. Buffalo’s game in Cincinnati last Monday night was suspended and eventually canceled due to the Hamlin situation.

Welcome to the party

In each of the last 45 seasons, at least one team has won its division a year after missing the playoffs.

This happened twice this season, with Jacksonville winning the AFC South and Minnesota winning the NFC North. Philadelphia (NFC East) and San Francisco (NFC West) are also new division winners this season.

Quiet conclusion

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady plays the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady plays the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

(John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Tom Brady is constantly breaking records, but that’s a personal mark he hoped to avoid: his first losing season.

Though still going into the playoffs as the NFC South champion, Tampa Bay ended 8-9 in a 30-17 loss to Atlanta. Prior to this season, Brady had 21 straight wins (along with seven Super Bowl rings).

On the other hand, Brady watched most of that finale from the sidelines. He was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the second quarter with four minutes remaining. That explained the 45-year-old superstar’s modest stat line: 13 for 17 for 84 yards and a touchdown.

That touchdown was Brady’s 25th scoring pass of the season. He has had 17 career seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes, surpassing Peyton Manning (16) for most seasons of that kind in NFL history.

The Buccaneers will host Dallas in the wild card round.

Flip the script

Cincinnati wasn’t at all happy with the NFL settlement, which could have cost the Bengals a home playoff game.

Had they lost Sunday’s game to Baltimore, the location of their first-round rematch with the Ravens would have been a subject of a coin toss.

But that didn’t happen, the Bengals won 27-16 and suspended a home game for the wild card round.

Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon capitalized on the controversy during his first-quarter touchdown celebration by removing a coin from his glove after his one-yard scoring run and tossing it into the end zone. Then the running back made a kicking motion as if tossing the coin into the stands.

It’s rare, but players have used props to celebrate touchdowns before, including wide receiver Joe Horn hiding a cell phone under the goalpost and wide receiver Terrell Owens pulling a sharpie out of his sock and signing the ball. Mixon, who is likely to be fined by the NFL, said former Bengals star Chad Johnson promised to pay it for him.

stack sacks

Philadelphia led the NFL with 70 sacks that season, tying the Eagles with the 1987 Chicago Bears for third-most sacks in a season. Only the 1984 Bears (72) and the 1989 Minnesota Vikings (71) had more.

winning by losing

The Bears secured the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft after their 29-13 loss to Minnesota.

Houston had the inside lane on the top pick but lost it when he defeated Indianapolis on Sunday.

“We wanted to leave the season with a good taste in our mouths and make it claw and claw. We ended up losing a few games, overtime and all that,” said Lovie Smith, who was fired as the Texans coach later Sunday. “So it was good to see that these guys sort of ended this.”

The Bears have had the No. 1 choice but both times in the 1940s.

Chicago needs help on their offensive and defensive lines and as a wide receiver, but the Bears have a powerful offensive weapon in Justin Fields, who ended the season 64 yards behind a quarterback’s all-time record for rushing yards. (Though the bears were the last to pass.)

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2023-01-08/nfl-playoff-picture-wild-card-weekend NFL playoff picture: Breaking down each wild-card matchup

Emma Bowman

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