Column: NFL playoffs not living up to last year’s excitement

Published 3:21 pm Monday, January 16, 2023

What a difference a year makes.

After an entire National Football League playoff schedule filled with thrilling finishes and upsets, this year has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. Yes, we had several one-score games during the Wild Card weekend, but what I will remember about those games is poor clock management, poor officiating and overall sloppy play from the favorites that allowed the underdogs a chance.

Last year was so much better. Teams played at a high level, leading to exciting games from beginning to end. I know the players, coaches and officials probably made mistakes, but I cannot remember a single one of them at this point. The level of play was just a lot better.

Just think back to some of those games. Like San Francisco’s 23-17 upset of the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati’s 26-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders that ended the Bengals’ long playoff losing streak, the 49ers edging Green Bay 13-10, the Bengals edging Tennessee 19-16, Kansas City winning in overtime against Buffalo 42-36 and the Los Angeles Rams knocking off Tom Brady and the defending champions 30-27.

The National Football Conference and American Football Conference championship games were equally as exciting, with the Rams edging the 49ers 20-17 and the Bengals upsetting the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime.

Even the Super Bowl was a thriller, with Matthew Stafford finally winning a championship as the former Detroit Lion led the Rams to a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati.

Now let’s look at the opening round of this year’s postseason.

After a good first half, San Francisco routed Seattle, which is looks like should not have even been in the playoffs, according to some who said the officiating of their game favored the Seahawks against the Rams and kept the Lions from getting in.

The one real thriller was Jacksonville’s rallying from a 27-0 deficit to beat San Diego. 31-30 on a field goal. Unfortunately, that game was littered with so many miscues by the Chargers it is hard to know if the Jaguars really won the game or San Diego choked.

The Bills did their best to lose against the Miami. The same was true with Cincinnati’s win over Baltimore. The best game of the weekend was between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. It was fun to watch as both teams played hard and there was some solid play throughout.

Unfortunately, most people are going to remember Kirk Cousins tossing a four-down pass to former Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson that was well short of the line to gain for a first down to keep their last-change drive going.

No one seems to care that the Giants did a great job of putting pressure on Cousins, forcing him to throw the ball before he wanted to.

As I write this, there was one more Wild Card game. Hopefully, Monday night’s Dallas and Tampa Bay can produce some excitement and a well-played game. If not, we will have to wait until this weekend to see if the NFL can capture lightning in a bottle once again.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com