Green Bay 38, Los Angeles 18
The Green Bay Packers reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in the last seven seasons with their victory of the Rams on Saturday at Lambeau Field.
As has been the case for the better part of the past decade, the Packers were led by Aaron Rodgers, who will be playing in the NFC championship game at home for the first time in his Hall of Fame-caliber career.
Rodgers threw two touchdowns and also ran for a score in Saturday’s divisional playoff win.
The Packers played in front of nearly 8,500 fans, which included the first paying spectators of the season. The small pack of cheese heads provided plenty of noise, as the Packers built an early lead for much of the first half.
“It’s special. There’s absolutely nothing like it,” Rodgers said, according to the Associated Press. “We have really missed that part of this experience. To run out of the tunnel tonight with fans was unbelievable. It’s hard to explain how much the presence means on the field and just having that energy from the crowd.”
Green Bay took a 19-10 advantage into the half, and opened the second half strong. Aaron Jones’ 60-yard scamper set up a rushing touchdown a few plays later to make it a two-score game. The Rams responded, as rookie running back Cam Akers found the end zone on the ensuing drive. Following a successful two-point conversion, the score was 25-18.
Rodgers found Allen Lazard for a 58-yard touchdown reception with 6:52 left to round out the scoring and secure the win.
Rodgers completed 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 296 yards, while Jones ran for 99 yards and a score on 14 carries.
For the Rams, Jared Goff went 21-27 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown. Akers ran for 90 yards and a score.
Next week’s championship game will be Green Bay’s first at Lambeau since 2007, when it lost to the New York Giants, 23-20, in overtime.
Buffalo 17, Baltimore 3
In the words of the great Chris Berman, “Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.”
Those sentiments by the long-time ESPN broadcaster proved true on Saturday night, as Buffalo advanced to the AFC championship game in a rout over Baltimore.
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen completed 23 of his 37 pass attempts for 206 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Stefon Diggs, who led the NFL in receiving yards in the regular season, pulled in eight passes for 106 yard and a score.
The Ravens moved the ball down the field on their opening drive, though the typically-reliable leg of Justin Tucker proved no match for the swirling winds of upstate New York. Tucker hit the upright on a pair of field goal attempts in the first half, allowing the Bills defense to gain confidence in the process.
The team’s exchanged field goals in the first half, as the score was 3-3 at the break.
Allen found Diggs for a two-yard touchdown with 3:36 left in the third to make it 10-3.
With under a minute to go in the third, Baltimore was knocking on the door to tie the game, but the Bills had other plans.
Taron Johnson intercepted Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in the end zone, and took the ball 101 yards back for a touchdown to make it 17-3 in favor of Buffalo. The long return tied with George Teague’s 101-yard touchdown in 1993, who was playing for Green Bay against the Detroit Lions.
Jackson suffered a concussion on the final play of the third quarter and did not return.
Tyler Huntley replaced Jackson, and drove Baltimore into the red zone, though Baltimore turned the ball over on downs with 2:41 left.
The Bills will await the winner of the Browns-Chiefs today to find out who they will play next week. If Cleveland wins, the Bills will host the AFC title game. A Kansas City victory would mean the game would be hosted at Arrowhead Stadium.
Cleveland at Kansas City, 12:05 p.m.
The AFC top-seeded Chiefs will look to defend home-field advantage and reach the AFC title game as they square off with a Browns team coming off a 48-37 win at Pittsburgh a week ago, the team’s first playoff victory since 1994.
Patrick Mahomes orchestrated the NFL’s No. 1 overall offense and top passing offense, accompanied by a receiving corps that features an embarrassment of speed with star Tyreek Hill, as well as All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
The Browns will look to play the role of spoiler once again as they take on the reigning NFL champions.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 3:40 p.m.
Chances are if there is a passing record in question, one of the signal callers involved in this matchup holds it.
Tom Brady and the Bucs will look to defeat Drew Brees and the Saints for the first time this season.
New Orleans got the best of Tampa in the team’s previous two matchups this season, including a 38-3 shellacking at the Bucs home field in Week 9.
Tampa comes into the game winners of five in a row, but it has only beaten one winning team this season.
Brees and the Saints will look to return to the NFC title game in what may be his final playing season. The winner of this game will visit Green Bay next week for a chance to reach the Super Bowl.