An AFC Instant Classic Is Born

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An AFC Instant Classic Is Born
There’s not too much I can add about Sunday night’s instant classic between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs that hasn’t already been said. A game that encapsulates the best of what football has to offer us as fans. The Chiefs required OT to beat the Bills 42-36, punching their ticket to the AFC Championship game. I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating - it’s a treat to get to watch both these teams play each other and I hope that this is only the most recent installment in an annual fixture for us.

Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis turned in a transcendent performance on Sunday night. He posted an 8–201-4 receiving line on 10 targets and it’s quite likely that he’s going to start next season as the team’s WR2. WR Emmanuel Sanders is no longer under contract and the team could opt to eat his cap hit ($1.375 million) instead of bringing him back, opening up additional opportunity for Davis. Additionally, the team should look to minimize Cole Beasley’s role next season. Beasley has done well when called upon but has underperformed in recent weeks. His recent 6-60-0 receiving line on eight targets was a serviceable showing, but I do foresee a slight shift in their offensive philosophy. Stefon Diggs’ late-season collapse continues. The star wideout posted an abysmal 3-7-0 receiving line on six targets and only made his presence felt when it came time to stop a streaker on the field. Given Davis’ historical performance, it didn’t matter that the Bills failed to get much out of Diggs, Dawson Knox (2-9-0 on four targets), or any of their auxiliary receivers. Getting sent home in overtime stings and I’m optimistic that the NFL will eventually change the rules, but let's see. Unfortunately, the Bills lost, but I’m already excited for next week’s Chiefs/Bengals showdown.

Green Bay Frozen Out Of Playoffs
In the artic tundra that was Lambeau Field, the San Francisco 49ers beat out the Green Bay Packers 13-10. Niners kicker Robbie Gould booted the game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired, thereby ending the Packers’ hopes of making it out of the divisional round. I should note that Deebo Samuel’s late-game heroics ostensibly won the game for San Francisco. Noticeably hobbled with an injury, Samuel converted a massive third-and-seven with 1:03 left to play, which set up Gould’s field goal. Tip of the cap here to Samuel who has shown his true dual-threat potential all season and is one of the game’s best hybrid players.

That might have been the last time we’d see Aaron Rodgers don the green and gold. Rodgers completed 20 of his 29 pass attempts for 225 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Rodgers consistently peppered Davante Adams (9-90-0 on 11 targets) and Aaron Jones (9-129-0 on 10 targets) with targets, choosing to lean on his most trusted playmakers in a high leverage situation. It should come as no surprise that any of Allen Lazard, Marcedes Lewis, Randall Cobb, Josiah Deguara, or “Dominque Dafney” failed to produce when asked upon.

The Packers’ Achilles heel has always been their lack of true playmakers on offense. The team hasn’t drafted a receiver in the first two rounds since Davante Adams, back in 2014. The team has passed on a bevy of playmakers in the NFL Draft, which is baffling considering that Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In my opinion, the Packers front office should have spent some of their early draft capital to bolster their receiving corps to better maximize their offensive strength. At the very least it would have added another dimension to the team’s aerial attack. Now with Rodgers possibly looking to leave in free agency, the Packers will have to deal with no transition plan at quarterback. The team may have spent a first-round pick on Jordan Love, but he hasn’t shown much in his short NFL career to merit that selection. I strongly doubt that Love will be able to play at the level Packers fans have come to expect from their quarterbacks, but, luckily, he might have Adams to throw to.

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Titans Need To Address The Wide Receiver Playing Quarterback
The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to the AFC Championship game after defeating the Tennessee Titans 19-16. Joe Burrow completed 28 of his 37 pass attempts for 348 yards and one interception. Both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins stepped up on offense. Chase posted a 5-109-0 receiving line on six targets, whereas Higgins posted 7-96-0 on nine targets. CJ Uzomah (7-71-0 on eight targets) has emerged as a very strong receiving option for Burrow throughout the playoffs, but I wonder if the Chiefs find a way to slow him down next week. Joe Mixon’s all-terrain skillset was on full display in this game. He posted 109 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches and scored a touchdown. I should expect that he keeps it going against the Chiefs next week.

The Titans on the other hand never really looked to be in control of this game. Derrick Henry posted a 20-62-1 rushing line after returning from injury but looked far from his usual self. D’Onta Foreman looked more explosive, posting 66 rushing yards on four carries. Ultimately, the Titans couldn’t rely on their usual style of play to defeat the Bengals. Ryan Tannehill flopped in this appearance, completing 15 of his 24 pass attempts for 220 yards, one score, and three interceptions. Tannehill was picked off on the Titans’ first play of the game, setting the tone for his performance for the rest of the game. Tannehill also threw a pick on first-and-goal in the third quarter and threw a game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter. The Bengals scored a field goal following Tannehill's final turnover, resulting in the 19-16 upset.

AJ Brown posted a ridiculous 5-142-1 receiving line on nine targets and Julio Jones chipped in with a 6-62-0 receiving line as well. Unfortunately, the lack of play volume curbed how much damage either receiver could inflict on the Bengals’ suspect secondary. Ultimately, the team might need to change its offensive philosophy to one that looks to maximize Brown’s talent. The Titans might be in the quarterback market, despite their recent run of success with Tannehill at the helm. They’re a team that I’ll be following closely as we head into the offseason.