A student’s guide: Everything that happened in the NFL over break

When the pandemic started roughly one month after Super Bowl LIV, many were uncertain about how professional sports would continue, especially football. More than 10 months later, the NFL season is about to end as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Sunday, Feb. 7.

The 2020-2021 NFL playoffs have been historic in multiple ways. For the season, the NFL expanded its playoff system from a 12-team to a 14-team tournament while adding a third wild card for each conference for the first time in 20 years. In addition to the expansion of the playoff, each NFL playoff game had limited to no fans in attendance, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of the usual first-round byes for the top two seeds in each conference, only the team with the best record for each conference was granted a bye in the first week of the playoffs. While the other 12 teams played during the Wild Card round, the NFC’s number one seeded Green Bay Packers and the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs got an extra week off to prepare for their playoff runs.

Super Wild Card Weekend: Jan. 9 – Jan. 10

Instead of watching the usual two wild card games per day, NFL fans were treated to three playoff football games during this two-day span.

Saturday, Jan. 9

(7) Indianapolis Colts at (2) Buffalo Bills 

  • Final Score: Bills 27, Colts 24
  • Summary: Bills win their first playoff game in 25 years after narrowly defeating the Colts.

(6) Los Angeles Rams at (3) Seattle Seahawks

  • Final Score: Rams 30, Seahawks 20
  • Summary: Despite a broken thumb on his throwing hand, Jared Goff led the Rams to an upset win in Seattle.

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (4) Washington Football Team

  • Final Score: Buccaneers 31, Washington 23
  • Summary: Despite an unprecedented performance from Washington Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Tom Brady and the Bucs held off the NFC East Champions at FedEx Field.

Sunday, Jan. 10

(5) Baltimore Ravens at (4) Tennessee Titans

  • Final Score: Ravens 20, Titans 13
  • Summary: 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson earned his first career postseason victory as the Ravens held off the Titans on the road.

(7) Chicago Bears at (2) New Orleans Saints

  • Final Score: Saints 21, Bears 9
  • Summary: Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky wins NVP — Nickelodeon’s Valuable Player despite the loss in the first-ever NFL game broadcasted by Nickelodeon.

(6) Cleveland Browns at (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Final Score: Browns 48, Steelers 37
  • Summary: Browns upset division rival to earn the franchise’s first postseason victory in more than a quarter-century.

Divisional Round Weekend: Jan. 16 – Jan. 17

For the Divisional Round Weekend, the lowest remaining seeds in the playoffs were matched up with the highest remaining seeds.

Saturday, Jan. 16

(6) Los Angeles Rams at (1) Green Bay Packers

  • Final Score: Packers 32, Rams 18
  • Summary: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers continued his MVP caliber season as Green Bay held off LA at Lambeau.

(5) Baltimore Ravens at (2) Buffalo Bills

  • Final Score: Bills 17, Ravens 3
  • Josh Allen and the Bills soundly defeated Baltimore. Buffalo went to the AFC Championship for the first time since 1993.

Sunday, Jan. 17

(6) Cleveland Browns at (1) Kansas City Chiefs

  • Final Score: Chiefs 22, Browns 17
  • Recap: Despite losing Mahomes in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne and the Chiefs held off Cleveland to make their third straight AFC Championship game.

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (2) New Orleans Saints

  • Final Score: Buccaneers 30, Saints 20
  • Recap: Brady and the red-hot Bucs eliminate Saints QB Drew Brees in what was likely to be his final NFL game.

Championship Round Sunday: Jan. 24

Championship Round Sunday held two historic matchups in both the AFC and NFC. On the NFC side, Rodgers’ (37) and Brady’s (43) combined age, 80 years and 227 days, was the oldest by starting QBs ever in a conference championship game. On the AFC side, it was quite the opposite as Allen (24) took on Mahomes (25) in a battle of the young gunslingers.

Sunday, Jan. 24

NFC Championship Game: (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (1) Green Bay Packers

  • Final Score: Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
  • Summary: Brady’s Buccaneers advance to their first Super Bowl since 2003.
From the NFL

AFC Championship Game: (2) Buffalo Bills at (1) Kansas City Chiefs

  • Final Score: Chiefs 38, Bills 24
  • Summary: Mahomes and the Chiefs head back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year.

Super Bowl LV: Feb. 7

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On Sunday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET, Mahomes and the Chiefs will take on Brady and the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Not only does this matchup mark the first time in NFL history where a team (Tampa) will play the Super Bowl at their home stadium, it also marks the first time in Super Bowl history where the two QBs are former MVPs, Super Bowl MVPs and both have won the previous two Super Bowls.

Brady looks to win his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl in 10 appearances, as Mahomes looks to win his second in a row in only his third year as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

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