Sportstalk Sunday (American) #3
It's another Sunday and the NFL is still the big sports topic of the week. The field has now been winnowed to six after yesterday's two games, with two more being weeded out today in a couple of very intriguing matchups.
Number One Seeds Advance
The two number one seeds, Kansas City and Philadelphia, came off of their weeks of rest and handled business at home. Kansas City struggled against Jacksonville with Patrick Mahomes sustaining an early ankle injury and missing time in the first half. He came back out and played the second half and the Chiefs held off a very gritty Jaguars team that gave them all they could handle. But, in the end, Kansas City advanced to their 5th straight AFC Championship Game with a 27-20 victory.
The Eagles, on the other hand, made it very apparent that they're back. After looking very mundane the last month of the season, Jalen Hurts returned and took them back to their early-season dominance. A 38-7 dismantling of the NY Giants served notice that they are still the strong favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and have very strong designs on winning their second title in the last 5 years. Hard to bet against them at this point. An unstoppable offense combined with an, at times, dominant defense means that the only way to beat them is if they make mistakes. But, that's why they play the games. Anything can happen.
Number Two Seeds Today
Todays games are the ones everyone has been waiting to see. First, it's Cincinatti at Buffalo. For those who don't know, this is a rematch of the game a few weeks ago where Buffalo d-back Damar Hamlin almost died on the field. The game was cancelled but now, with Hamlin well on the road to recovery, the focus goes back to the teams on the field. The game is in Buffalo where the Bills went 7-1 this year.
Cincinatti Bengals at Buffalo Bills
This game has some very interesting storylines. For one, it's the first ever meeting between QBs Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, both young MVP-caliber leaders of their teams. In all likelihood, this will mark the beginning of a rivalry that could very well be one of the best in the League for years to come. Both QBs have great weapons at their disposal and both can also use their legs to extend plays and pick up key first downs. It very well may come down to whoever has the ball last wins. It's going to be very fun to watch.
Secondly, both teams have some interesting motivations for this one. Buffalo has endured a large helping of tragedy this year with the Hamlin incident just being the latest. The city endured a racial shooting earlier in the year that left 10 people dead, mourned the loss of the younger brother of tight end Dawson Knox, and endured two massive snowstorms during the season that claimed the lives of over 20 more people in the Buffalo area. The team has dealt with the adversity and has bonded with the community in a way few teams have. Being only a two-sport town (the other being the NHL's Buffalo Sabres), the Bills play a giant role in the psyche of the community and have helped the area weather the storms (literally) with their blue collar work ethic and attitude. They believe that the adversity has only made them stronger and are prepared to bring Buffalo the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are tired of being disrespected. They are, after all, the defending AFC Champs and have won 9 straight games to end the year. Because the earlier game with Buffalo was cancelled, they are relegated to the 3rd seed which means they have to go on the road for this one. Had they won that game, this game would be played at home. The logic used by the NFL in making some decisions was definitely not in the Bengals favor but it's too long to go into it here. Suffice it to say, the Bengals have a chip on their shoulder and are looking to prove they're the team to beat once again this year. Unfortunately, they are down three starting offensive lineman which is one of the main reasons Buffalo is favored by five points. Don't count them out though. As I said, Burrow has some unbelievable weapons and they've been here before. It's going to be very interesting.
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
The second game today pits two of the most storied franchises in NFL history against each other once again. The 49ers/Cowboys rivalry has some incredible history dating back to "The Catch" in the 80s with Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Jerry Rice, to "The Big Three" (Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin) in the 90s, and now a young crop of rising stars here in the 2020s. San Francisco beat Dallas last year in the playoffs and now they're meeting again. The rivalry is rekindling and, like the Cincy/Buffalo matchup, this could be the start of another long stretch of heated, hotly contested games between two blue-bloods of the sport.
The San Francisco defense has been one of the best in the NFL all year and the Dallas offense has looked absolutely unstoppable at times as well. On the flip-side, the Dallas defense was incredible to start the year, went through some difficulties, and now seem to be rounding back to form come playoff time. The San Francisco offense, on the other hand, is on it's 3rd quarterback. The very last player taken in last years draft (Mr Irrelevant), Brock Purdy has come in and thrown two touchdown passes in seven straight games and won all six he has started. It's hard to imagine a rookie QB coming in and leading his team to a Super Bowl, but with the players around him and a great defense, the 49ers are certainly a threat. It's going to be fun to watch.
Novak Djokovic looks like he has a very good opportunity to once again tie Rafa Nadal with the most Major titles in history at the Australian Open. He's one win from the quarters where only three top 10 seeds will remain, Novak being one of them. Nadal lost in straight sets earlier in the week after being further hobbled by a nagging hip injury. Djokovic is seeking to build upon his already-record 9 Australian Open titles and tie Nadal with 22 Grand Slam titles overall.
Finally, if you are even the tiniest basketball fan... You need to see this. Ja Morant is a freak of nature. Unbelievable!
Have a good week!
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