The first two games of the NFL’s Divisional Round were as riveting as ever. Unlike Super Wild Card Weekend, where we only had one upset in six games, we’ve already had two with two games remaining. The Bengals knocked off the #1 seeded Tennessee Titans with a last-second field goal, just as the 49ers did to the #1 seeded Packers. Both games were lower scoring than any in the Wild Card round, but the drama was still palpable. The Bengals and 49ers are one game away from a Super Bowl berth, while the Titans and Packers are cleaning their locker rooms.
The young upstart Bengals have shocked the NFL universe and have put the AFC on notice. Meanwhile, the 49ers continue to defy the odds with a quarterback they’re looking to replace next NFL season. No matter which team these squads face, they’ll undoubtedly be underdogs in the betting lines. But if the Bengals and 49ers have shown us anything, it’s that they’re here, they’re real, and they don’t care about your betting odds. Whoever makes it to the next round will have their hands full with two teams that no one thought would make it this far.
As for the #1 seeded Titans and Packers, their off-season starts now.
The Titans defied the odds all season on their way to the #1 seed. Not only did they lead the league with a historic amount of injuries, but they also lost the soul of their team, Derrick Henry, in week eight. When they got the #1 seed, giving Henry an extra week off, I thought the Titans had set themselves up for a Super Bowl run. Unfortunately, thanks in part to three turnovers, an ineffective running game, and a questionable fourth-down call, the Titans are going home early. The Titans have some great pieces to build around, but they also have some tough decisions regarding their future to discuss.
The Titans must focus on rebuilding their secondary and offensive line, and though I like Ryan Tannehill, they should look for their next quarterback. In today’s version of the NFL, if you don’t have a difference-maker at quarterback, your team won’t win the way they should. The Titan’s pass rush is outstanding, they’ve got solid linebackers, and AJ Brown is a true #1 receiver. If the Titans hope to maximize their roster for next season, they must retool, upgrade where they can, and most importantly, stay healthy.
Mike Vrabel is one of the best coaches in the NFL and has instilled a winning culture. Despite the disappointing end to their season, this team is here to stay.
There might not be a more disappointing team in this year’s playoffs than the Green Bay Packers. After going 13-4 and obtaining the #1 seed, it didn’t seem possible for the Packers to lose their first playoff game. Aaron Rodgers was once again the MVP favorite, their offense was well balanced, their defense was solid, and Matt LaFleur has shown to be an elite head coach. In the end, however, Rodgers met his archnemesis, the 49ers. A team that he is now 0-4 against in the playoffs.
We can point fingers at the special teams, we can blame the Packer’s offensive line for giving up five sacks, but in the end, Rodgers once again failed to get it done in the playoffs. After the game, Rodgers was honest about where his mind is.
Aaron Rodgers to reporters tonight: “I’m gonna take some time and have conversations with the folks around here, and then take some time away and make a decision – obviously before free agency.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 23, 2022
The Packers have a well-rounded roster, but there are some areas to improve. Their offensive line will improve with David Bakhtiari returning from injury but could use upgrades at the center, guard, and right-tackle positions. I doubt the Packers will allow Davante Adams to leave in free agency, but assuming they franchise-tag him, Green Bay still needs to find a consistent #2 wide-out. The offense can’t just be Davante Adams or bust. Their running backs are one of the NFL’s best one-two punches, and the defense, if anything, needs to stay healthy for next season.
Obviously, if Aaron Rodgers elects to demand a trade or retire, this’ll throw a massive wrench in Green Bay’s plans. But, assuming cooler head prevails and Rodgers stays for another season, we’ll surely see the Packers right back in the playoffs in 2023.