Tue Jan 25 2:34am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) celebrates his game-winning field goal against the Tennessee Titans with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) after an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. The Cincinnati Bengals won 19-16.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker (7) celebrates with teammate Tommy Townsend (5) after kicking a 49-yard field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 42-36. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Los Angeles Rams' Johnny Hekker (6) celebrates after kicker Matt Gay (8) kicked the game-winning field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
San Francisco 49ers' Robbie Gould celebrates after making the game-winning field goal during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Chasmpionship game. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Jay Feely stood on the Arrowhead Stadium sideline witnessing one of the best quarterback duels in the NFL's 102-year history, the capstone to what many are calling the greatest weekend of games the league has ever seen.
Mesmerized by the back-and-forth between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Feely came to a stark realization in the deafening din: he was yelling just like everyone else.
''This was the greatest weekend of NFL football ever,'' Feely said Monday, echoing a popular sentiment in the wake of a quartet of divisional round games that featured last-second field goals and lifelong regrets.
Clutch kickers secured walk-off upsets for the 49ers at Green Bay, the Bengals at Tennessee and the Rams at Tampa Bay before Harrison Butker's 49-yarder sent the Chiefs' nightcap against Buffalo into overtime Sunday night.
Mahomes then put the Chiefs in an unprecedented fourth consecutive conference championship at Arrowhead Stadium with a 42-36 win with an 8-yard TD toss to Travis Kelce, whose playground improvisation helped put the Chiefs into field goal range with 3 seconds left in regulation.
''I had never been at a game on the sideline yelling and screaming as a fan,'' said Feely, who has spent the last seven seasons as an NFL special teams analyst for CBS following his 14-year pro kicking career. ''It was just unbelievable play, jaw-dropping, just spectacular.''
Every game came down to special teams thunders and blunders.
Butker's 49-yarder came just 13 seconds after Buffalo took a seemingly safe 36-33 lead on Gabriel Davis' playoff record fourth touchdown catch.
The second-guessing began immediately after the Bills shunned a squib kick and kicked the ball out of the end zone.
Feely said the real headscratcher, however, was the Bills' No. 1 defense somehow allowing Tyreek Hill to catch a 19-yard pass and Kelce to haul in a 25-yarder to the Buffalo 31 as Mahomes called timeout with three seconds left.
''I've heard all day about how they should have squib kicked it,'' Feely said. ''Say you squib kick it and they jump on it, remember, the clock doesn't start until they touch the ball - it's like a basketball rolling out downcourt. If they jump on it on the 30, maybe one second goes off. But they've gained 5 yards of field position. That's not an advantage.
''Now, if you kick it to the 3 where now they have to return it, now there's an advantage there,'' Feely added. ''But you risk a big return.
''What I couldn't believe was that the Chiefs didn't have Tyreek Hill or Mecole Hardman back deep. They had Byron Pringle. That was surprising to me. They wanted the touchback.''
The Bills happily gave that to them.
Lost in the fantastic finish was Kelce decided not to run the short route that was called, one that would have made for a much longer field goal try.
He told Mahomes during a timeout, '' I'm just going to run to an open area.''
Midway through his cadence, Mahomes hollered, ''Do it, Kelce! Do it! Do it!''
Kelce ran straight upfield, catching Mahomes' quick pass in stride for a 25-yard gain. Mahomes released the pass just as he was about to get plastered by defensive end Jerry Hughes.
That impromptu bit of backyard football put Butker well within his range and he nailed the 49-yarder to send the game into overtime, where Kelce's touchdown won it.
''That was a huge kick,'' Feely said.
The last of so many over the weekend.
Bengals rookie Evan McPherson walked off the top-seeded Titans 19-16 with a 52-yarder set up by Logan Wilson's interception at midfield with 20 seconds left.
''Ice in his veins,'' bragged Bengals coach Zac Taylor of his rookie from Florida who had three walk-offs in the regular season, including one over the Chiefs in Week 17 that clinched Cincinnati's first AFC North title since 2015. And he's kicked four field goals in each of the Bengals' playoff wins.
''This is what I do for a living,'' McPherson said. ''It's my job to stay cool, calm and collected in moments like those.''
Even with kickers getting ever stronger and sharper, rare is the rookie kicker who has instant success in the NFL.
''I give (former Florida special teams staffer and ex-NFL kicker) Shayne Graham a lot of credit,'' Feely said. ''He had him ready to step in and he had him mentally and physically prepared for this moment.''
Gould was good from 45 yards in the swirling snow at Lambeau Field, giving San Francisco a stunning 13-10 win over the top-seeded but deeply flawed Packers in what might have been Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay farewell.
''Robbie's one of the best of all time,'' Feely said. ''The weather and the pressure weren't going to have an impact on him and he went out and drilled it.''
After coming up confoundingly short on a 47-yard attempt earlier in the game, Matt Gay nailed a 30-yarder to give the Rams a 30-27 win over the defending champion Buccaneers, his former team.
''''I'm sure he just chunked it'' from 47, Feely said. ''It's like using a 7-iron trying to hit 160 yards and you hit 140.''
Then, there was the Packers' trio of terrible special teams mistakes beginning with them allowing safety Jimmie Ward to break through to block Mason Crosby's 39-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.
That loomed ever larger when the 49ers added a blocked punt on just a five-man rush.
''The 49ers weren't even trying to block it,'' Feely said. ''The Packers had eight guys to block five but they somehow left the long snapper alone with no help against a 6-4, 274-pound Jordan Willis.''
Willis burst through the middle and blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt, rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga scooped it up and returned it 6 yards for the touchdown that tied it at 10 with under 5 minutes remaining. After Green Bay went three-and-out, the 49ers drove for Gould's game-winner - when the Packers had just 10 defenders on the field.
''We miscounted up in the box,'' acknowledged Packers coach Matt LaFleur. ''Would it have made a difference? I don't know. Maybe. But it sure looks bad, and it's embarrassing that that happens under my watch.''
It's LaFleur's fault, Feely suggested, for failing to fix his faulty special teams that were problematic all season long. They struggled in nearly every aspect of special teams a year after LaFleur fired coordinator Shawn Mennenga and promoted Maurice Drayton to replace him.
The Packers' kicking game problems only worsened in the playoffs.
''You cost your team a playoff win because you didn't address that,'' Feely insisted.
LaFleur said Monday he would pay more attention to special teams, starting with putting more starters on those units even though running back A.J. Dillon fractured a rib in a pile-up while he was blocking on a kickoff return Sunday.
Feely figures special teams will play a big part in deciding which teams advance to the Super Bowl, too, saying, ''There's a decided advantage in both games.''
According to efficiency metrics from Football Outsiders, the Rams ranked fourth in the NFL on special teams in 2021; the 49ers ranked 26th. The AFC matchup is closer: the Chiefs ranked third and the Bengals eighth, but Feely said Butker's experience gives him the edge at home.
''McPherson has had a great year,'' Feely said. ''But I still trust Butker.''
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes finished 33-for-44 for 378 yards and three touchdowns versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round. Mahomes also ran for a team-high 69 yards and another score. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 60 yards on seven carries and caught one of two targets for another nine yards. RB Jerick McKinnon ran 10 times for 24 yards and hauled in five of seven targets for 54 yards. WR Tyreek Hill caught 11 of 13 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown. WR Byron Pringle hauled in five of seven targets for 29 yards. WR Mecole Hardman ran for 31 yards on two carries and hauled in his only target for 26 yards. TE Travis Kelce caught eight of his nine targets for 96 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) told reporters he will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and will decide whether he wants to continue his career 'after [his] surgery.'
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen completed 27 of 37 passes for 329 yards and 4 TDs against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round matchup on Sunday, Jan. 23. He also ran 11 times for 68 yards. RB Devin Singletary carried the ball 10 times for 26 yards and a touchdown; in addition, he caught four passes for 25 yards. WR Gabriel Davis led the team with eight receptions, 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Stefon Diggs managed just three catches for seven yards, though he did catch a two-point conversion. WR Cole Beasley caught six of eight targeted passes for 60 yards, finishing second on the club in both categories. WR Emmanuel Sanders had one reception for 16 yards. On defense, LB Matt Milano posted a team-high 11 tackles, including six solo.
Updating an earlier report, Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (head) sustained a concussion during the team's win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Jan. 23.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was held completely under wraps during Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, finishing with just three receptions for a season-low seven yards. Diggs' prior season-low mark was 23 yards back in Week 11, an outing that he salvaged from a fantasy perspective by scoring two touchdowns. Gabriel Davis was Josh Allen's favored target in the Divisional Round, hauling in eight catches for 201 yards, including a record-setting four touchdowns. Diggs, who led the league in receptions and receiving yards just one year ago, was back among the league's elite this season, earning his second straight Pro Bowl nod after setting a career high with 10 receiving touchdowns. He figures to reprise that top-tier role heading into 2022, but his ice cold finish to the year could give some fantasy managers pause.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce hauled in the game-winning grab during Sunday's victory over Buffalo, capping a wild, topsy-turvy contest. Kelce finished with eight grabs for 96 yards, including the score, which marks five consecutive outings with him finding pay dirt dating back to the regular season. His production came on just nine targets, giving him his highest catch percentage of the year when it mattered most. Coming short of the 100-yard plateau, Kelce saw his four-game streak of exceeding the century mark in the postseason snapped. Next up, he faces off with a Bengals defense that he accrued 25 yards against on five catches in Week 17, albeit with one crossing the goal line. He and Tyreek Hill stand to continue seeing massive passing game interest from Patrick Mahomes during what stands to be another shootout in the AFC Championship Game.
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary enjoyed a touchdown deluge to conclude the 2021 year, including adding one final rushing score during Sunday's loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round. Singletary was utilized for just 10 carries and 26 yards on the ground, but he did add four receptions for 25 yards through the air. Dating back to Week 15 of the regular season, Singletary scored nine touchdowns (eight rushing, one receiving), emerging not only as the lead back for the Bills, but as a potentially game-changing back heading into the '22 season. The 24-year-old had a six-game stretch during the regular season where he did not so much as log double-digit carries once, collecting just one touchdown in that span; now, he stands to be a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 ahead of his fourth professional year.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen saw his year come to a close during Sunday's loss to Kansas City, but it certainly wasn't due to his lack of production. Allen followed up his five-touchdown performance from the Wild Card Round with a four-touchdown showing in an epic duel against Patrick Mahomes. Allen finished 27-for-37 through the air, adding 329 passing yards to his team-high 68 yards accrued on the ground. The 25-year-old combined for nine touchdowns and just 14 incompletions in his two playoff outings, finishing with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions over his last three games dating back to the regular season. Allen will be in the conversation for top quarterback honors in 2022 drafts, although offensive coordinator Brian Daboll stands to be a highly coveted head-coaching target over the coming months.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was once again a game changer during Sunday's win over Buffalo, which sent the team to the AFC Championship Game. Hill hauled in 11 of his 13 targets for a reception, none bigger than the 64-yard touchdown that he peeled off late in the fourth quarter, seemingly sealing the contest. Ultimately, Hill would compile 150 receiving yards, the third time this season he reached that mark. Next up is a meeting with the Bengals' defense, which held him largely under wraps back in Week 17, limiting his six catches to just 40 yards and no touchdowns. Still, the Patrick Mahomes-Hill connection remains as potent as they come, with the wideout having ripped off a 100-yard performance in four of his last six postseason appearances.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes led his squad back to the AFC Championship Game with a victory over the Bills on Sunday that saw the signal caller sling three passing touchdowns, in addition to adding a rushing score. Arguably Mahomes' most impressive moment came with just 13 seconds remaining in regulation, when he got his team into field-goal range, thereby forcing overtime. Mahomes finished 33-for-44 through the air, slicing the elite Bills defense for 378 passing yards. If being the game's preeminent pass maestro wasn't difficult enough to gameplan, Mahomes also led Kansas City's ground attack with a season-high 69 rushing yards. He next squares off with a Bengals defense that he dropped 259 passing yards and two touchdowns on back in Week 17. He remains the premier DFS threat on any slate due to his propensity for finding the end zone.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis became the first player in NFL history to haul in four receiving touchdowns during a game in Sunday's defeat to the Chiefs. Davis' scintillating stat line also included eight receptions for 201 yards, easily pacing his team in both categories. During the regular season, Davis did not exceed five receptions in any single outing, with his domination of the Chiefs' defense coming as Stefon Diggs was largely held under wraps (three catches, seven yards). Looking ahead, Davis figures to remain a focal point of the potent Buffalo offense for years to come, having combined for 13 regular-season receiving touchdowns over his first two professional seasons.
San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Edwards (ankle) suffered a right ankle injury during the win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. Fortunately, X-rays were negative, showing no fractures, which increases his chance of being available for the NFC Championship versus the Los Angeles Rams. However, the All-Pro still has a way to go before getting the green light to suit up, and if he doesn't, things may become more challenging for Jimmy Garoppolo, who has struggled during the postseason thus far.
Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon (ribs) sustained a fracture during the narrow Divisional round loss to the 49ers on Saturday night. Although Aaron Jones was the lead man out of the backfield, Dillon still finished the regular season with just over 800 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns. The 23-year-old has proven to be one of the best backups in the league, and with the Packers hinting at a rebuild, there is a chance Dillon could see an enhanced role during the upcoming 2022-23 campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) will not return to Sunday's game versus the visiting Bills. The defensive specialist suffered the injury during the first quarter, and after going to the locker room for an evaluation, he now finds himself in concussion protocol. The 29-year-old led the team in interceptions while ranking fourth in total tackles this season, so this certainly isn't the update the Chiefs' coaching staff was hoping for. Nonetheless, without Mathieu on the field, Josh Allen will have one less thing to worry about as he attempts to lead Buffalo to the AFC Championship versus the Bengals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught 9-of-16 targets for 119 yards and one touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. In this raging comeback attempt with absurd passing volume, Evans sometimes looked like the only aspect of the Buccaneers offense that was working. In 2022, with Antonio Brown gone, Chris Godwin starting the season injured and possibly being on another team, and Rob Gronkowski aging, Evans may find himself in an unfamiliar position in 2022 with fairly minimal competition. Regardless of what this offense looks like, as long as he has Tom Brady as his quarterback, Evans should be drafted in the first three rounds. Albeit in different ways, whether or not he has competition, Evans will succeed in fantasy.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers had 24 carries for 48 yards and two extremely costly fumbles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The sophomore runner still looked impressive at times, and considering the Buccaneers have one of the best run defenses and were expecting the Rams to run, this wasn't that discouraging. Fantasy managers should continue to monitor that his fumbling doesn't become a recurring issue, but other than that, this performance was not as bad as it seems. Plus, even after his initial fumble, the Rams remained confident in their young runner, illustrating that they trust him and prioritize his talent over the risk that he brings in terms of ball security, even in the playoffs. In 2022, Akers should be drafted in the early second round as a workhorse back with some lingering questions but elite talent and opportunity.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp collected 183 on nine catches and one touchdown, including a spectacular grab that led to the game-winning field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's not completely logical, but the chemistry that Kupp and Matthew Stafford share has been truly unparalleled andat timesunstoppable this season. Kupp isn't necessarily the fastest nor most agile, but his football IQ is unmatched and he seemingly always finds a way to produce. Historically, this illogical confidence can lead to disappointment, however. Kupp should be drafted as a top three wide receiver in 2022, but fantasy managers shouldn't expect him to replicate what he did this year.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had a phenomenal statistical output going 28-for-38 for 363 yards, two touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, he made a number of almost costly mistakes. Fantasy managers must realize that this wasn't a fluke, and it's just part of the Stafford-experience; that isn't necessarily a bad thing though. For fantasy a quarterback that plays recklessly is typically not penalized that much, and this style of play can lend itself to fantasy stardom by means of comeback attempts. Sometimes, a reckless quarterback such as this can fail in the comeback attempt or even be benched, but Stafford is so talented that neither of these general concerns are major issues. In 2022, with the collection of Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., and Robert Woods along with Cam Akers and a stellar offensive line, Stafford must be considered a top quarterback in all leagues.