New England 27 – Pittsburgh 13

Pittsburgh – New England Recap Sheet

Brady?  Who needs Brady?!!?

In the second consecutive game without their All-World quarterback, the New England Patriots rallied behind Jimmy Garoppolo to pound the Pittsburgh Steelers and advance to the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs!

Garoppolo was terrific, completing 20 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown.  But, it was the Patriots’ defense that really rose to the occasion, holding the Steelers to only 249 yards of offense in their 27-13 victory.

Green Bay 31 – Dallas 28

Green Bay – Dallas Recap Sheet

A tough week for the Cowboys.  First, they lose a game against the Bucs in my season replay . . . and, then, they drop this elimination game in my tournament against Green Bay!  The Packers beat the Cowboys on a game-ending 33 yard field goal by Mason Crosby to advance to the NFC Championship Game and a date with the Atlanta Falcons.

Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and Dallas quarterback, Dak Prescott, were both terrific, combining for 49 completions, 782 yards and six touchdowns!  But four fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott (losing three of them) and a crucial 24 yard pass interference penalty against the Cowboys in the games final seconds proved too costly as the Packers move on!

Falcons Win – Going to NFC Championship Game!

NY Giants – Atlanta Recap Sheet

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New York Giants 41-31 to advance to the NFC Championship Game against the winner of the Cowboys-Packers’ game.  With the game tied at 31 all early in the fourth quarter, Falcons’ running back, Devonta Freeman, broke off a 46 yard touchdown run to give Atlanta a lead they would not surrender.

Freeman ended the game with 114 yards rushing and Julio Jones added 164 yards receiving on 7 catches to lead Atlanta to their ten-point victory.  Giants’ quarterback, Eli Manning, had a terrific game in defeat, connecting on 32 of 41 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas City 31 – San Diego 21

San Diego – Kansas City Recap Sheet

In the first of the quarter-final games of my 2016 tournament, the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Diego Chargers 31-21 to advance to the AFC Championship Game.  And, they did it primarily with defense.  In the first half, Charger quarterback Philip Rivers threw three interceptions, the most costly was returned by Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson 89 yards for a touchdown.

But, even though the Chiefs held a commanding 17-0 halftime lead, Rives and the Chargers battled back.  In the second half he threw for two TD’s and ran for another to bring San Diego within three points with 2:45 left.

A failed onside kick coupled with a couple of big Kansas City plays, culminating in Spencer Ware’s second touchdown run of the game, sealed the deal for the Chiefs, who now face the winner of the Pittsburgh-New England contest for the AFC title.

Dallas 23 – NY Giants 20

Dallas – NY Giants Recap Sheet

After six games, the Cowboys were 2-4 and looking at a dismal 2016 campaign.  But, since then they have won seven straight and have run their record to 9-4!  Their latest victory was against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands 23-20.  Dallas got a couple of big plays – a long 57 yard field goal by Dan Bailey at the end of the first half, and then a huge Brandon Carr interception of an Eli Manning pass in the third quarter at the Dallas goal line.

New York made it interesting, though, when Odell Beckham hauled in a 96 yard touchdown pass from Manning with 4:00 left to play in the game, knotting the score at 20-20.  Bailey, though, kicked a field goal with 30 seconds left in the game to give Dallas the lead . . . . but, Manning wasn’t done – he drove New York to the Dallas 32 yard line in 23 seconds . . . but Giants’ kicker, Josh Brown, missed a 50-yarder on the last play of the game to give the ‘Boys the win.

On to the Quarterfinals

NFC 2016 Playoff Brackets

AFC 2016 Playoff Brackets

I have completed the first two rounds of my 2016 NFL Playoff Tournament and am down to the final eight teams.  It will be interesting to see if “Cinderella” San Diego can continue their improbable run against the Chiefs.  It will also be a test of depth when the Steelers visit Foxboro to take on the Patriots.  New England will once again be without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and the Steelers will have to go without Le’Veon Bell.

These games, in particular, are where injuries really start to make a difference.  And that list of stars who are hurt is not limited to the Steelers and the Pats.  Dallas will be without Sean Lee and Dez Bryant.  The Packers’ Eddie Lacy will miss this game, as will Taylor Gabriel for the Falcons.    Here is the complete list of players who won’t be participating in these quarterfinal games:

 

San Diego:  King Dunlap, Jatavis Brown, Kyle Emmanuel, Robert McClain, Manti Te’o

Kansas City:  Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, Tamba Hali, Daniel Sorensen

NY Giants:  Bobby Rainey, Bobby Hart, Kelvin Sheppard, Eli Apple, Leon Hall

Atlanta:  Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw, Tyson Jackson, Desmond Trufant, Brooks Reed, Jonathan Babineux, Derrick Shelby

Green Bay:  Eddie Lacy, J.C. Tretter, Datone Jones, Jake Ryan, Damarious Randall, Joe Thomas

Dallas:  Alfred Morris, Dez Bryant, Benson Mayowa, Terrell McClain, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson

Pittsburgh:  Le’Veon Bell, Cobi Hamilton, Ricardo Matthews, Ryan Shazier, Cameron Heyward, Arthur Moats, Artie Burns, James Harrison, Robert Golden

New England:  Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard, Shea McClellin