The NFL regular season, which was plagued by quarterback injuries and filled with surprising stars, concluded on Jan. 7th. Backup quarterbacks like Joshua Dobbs, Jake Browning, Tommy Devito, and Gardner Minshew took the league by surprise with their Cinderella stories. However, these backup quarterbacks fell short and it was ultimately veteran quarterbacks who found their teams in the playoffs.
39-year-old Joe Flacco, who the Cleveland Browns signed mid-season, replaced injured Deshaun Watson. Flacco’s elite play along with the help of a strong defense secured the 5th seed in the American Football Conference (AFC). However, their playoff run fell short at the hands of rookie CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans. The Texans, who finished the 2022 season with the second worst record in the NFL, selected Stroud with the second pick in the NFL draft. Stroud’s improbable rookie season, in which he led the team to a 10-7 record and a division championship came to an end against the Baltimore Ravens.
The reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs led by two time MVP Patrick Mahomes and Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, Travis Kelce, found success on the field and fame off of it. The Chiefs defeated the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in cold weather on their way to their 6th straight AFC Championship.
In the National Football Conference (NFC), the San Francisco 49ers, who finished the regular season 10-2 against conference rivals, dominated the NFC. San Francisco, led by their top defense and super star running back Christian McCaffery scraped by the Green Bay Packers in the Division Round due to their quarterback’s poor play. The Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys as seven point underdogs in the Wild Card round. Despite their loss to the 49ers, The Packer’s future looks bright as many experts predicted that they wouldn’t make the playoffs.
San Francisco took the field against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship.
The Lions, who in recent years have seen horrible seasons, won their division for the first time since the 1993 season. Led by 3rd year coach Dan Cambell, who was on the Lions roster as a player when they went 0-16 in 2008, the Lions earned the 3rd seed in the NFC with a 12-5 record. After defeating the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Buccaneers at home, the Lions faced their biggest challenge of the postseason: the 49ers.
Up 24 to 7 at halftime, it seemed as though the Lions were headed to their first Super Bowl in Franchise history. However, the 49ers were able to comeback and win the game 34 to 31.
Unlike the 49ers, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were unable to pull off a comeback down multiple scores. With the help of Kelce’s touchdown catch,( Kelce is now the all-time leader in postseason receptions) the chiefs were able to defeat the Ravens 17 to 10. Mahomes, who is now tied for third all time in playoff wins with 14 is headed to his fourth Superbowl in six years as a starter.
Super Bowl XLVIII is set to be a rematch of Super Bowl LIV which saw the Chiefs comeback and beat the 49ers by a score of 31-20. The game will take place in the Las Vegas Raiders Allegiant Stadium, and Usher will perform during the halftime show. With the 49ers favored by 2.5 points, the game is expected to be close and exciting.