32 things we learned from divisional playoffs of the 2020 NFL season

Nate Davis
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The 32 things we learned from the 2020 NFL season's divisional playoff weekend:

1. CAN'T WAIT – famously exclaimed by Jets LB Bart Scott™ 10 years ago by the way – for the NFL's upcoming championship weekend. The AFC offers a showdown of young gunslingers Patrick Mahomes, assuming he's healthy enough to play, and Josh Allen; the NFC gives us a meeting of all-timers as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady clash for the first time in the postseason. Oh ... and the Chiefs, Bills, Packers and Buccaneers are all pretty good, too. But the excitement and anticipation are partially fueled by a desire to watch some exciting football games ...

2. ... given what an overall disappointment the divisional matchups proved to be. The AFC contests were marred by concussions sustained by Mahomes and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson – though it says something about the progress the league has made on that front that neither former league MVP returned to games of such import. On the NFC side, Rodgers and Co. never seemed to be in imminent peril against the Rams, while turnovers kinda took the bloom off the uber-hyped Bucs-Saints battle featuring Brady and Drew Brees.

QB Aaron Rodgers (12) and the Packers were all smiles Saturday night after dispatching the Rams.

3. Of course, Mahomes and Baker Mayfield were never going to replicate their legendary 2016 prize fight, when Mayfield's Oklahoma Sooners outlasted Mahomes' Texas Tech Red Raiders (formerly Mayfield's team) 66-59.

4. Meanwhile, Brady got the last laugh against Brees in what will likely be their lone playoff meeting in what was probably the final chapter of a rivalry that began in the Big Ten – when TB12 (then TB10) played for Michigan and Brees was a Purdue Boilermaker. Brees had won five of seven against Brady in the NFL prior to Sunday, when he was unable to lead New Orleans to a 3-0 2020 sweep of Tampa Bay.

5. The last time the Bills and Chiefs met in the AFC title game was the 1993 season, when Buffalo's Jim Kelly outdueled Kansas City's Joe Montana. Late club founders Lamar Hunt and Ralph Wilson are smiling somewhere.

5a. The next game could be a classic considering the Chiefs' last eight wins have been by six points or fewer, an NFL record.

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JARRETT BELL:Chiefs love Mahomes but prove they're more than a one-man show

WINNERS AND LOSERS:From Saturday's divisional playoff games

6. The Buccaneers, who play in Green Bay next weekend, are one win from becoming the first team in NFL history to host a Super Bowl in their own stadium ... though the 1984 49ers won Super Bowl 19 at Stanford Stadium, which is pretty close to the Bay.

7. Both championship games are regular-season rematches from Week 6, though the initial meetings were held in different venues. The Chiefs won 26-17 in Buffalo, and the Bucs throttled the Pack 38-10 in Tampa.

8. Age before beauty?

8a. The average age of the four NFC starting quarterbacks in the divisional playoffs was 37.8 years, oldest ever for this round.

8b. The Bucs-Saints match was the first playoff game featuring two starting quarterbacks north of 40 – and also had the highest combined age (85 years, 169 days) of starting QBs for any game in the league's 101 seasons. It was also the first time the league's two all-time leaders in TD passes squared off in postseason.

9. Beauty before age?

9a. The average age of the four AFC starting quarterbacks in the divisional playoffs was 24.3 years, youngest ever for this round.

9b. This weekend marked the first time one conference's four divisional starting QBs were all younger than 26.

10. New England's winter just got a little bit darker. The dynastic Brady vs. Belichick debate seems to be taking on added clarity.

11. The Saints have held a lead in their past seven playoff games ... they've won three of them.

12. Brees, who played his final game Sunday according to multiple reports, is apparently departing without an elusive second ring while suffering the first three-INT game of his playoff career.

12a. Brees' postseason record now stands at 9-9.

13. The Bills have 128 rushing yards in their two playoff wins. Going one-dimensional again at Arrowhead next week seems awfully risky ... but, we're all for seeing Allen and Mahomes wing it on every play.

14. Ironic that Jameis Winston's playoff debut came against the Bucs, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2015 before replacing him with Brady five years later. Winston, who might succeed Brees in 2021, threw a 56-yard TD on his only pass.

15. Aside from the obvious quarterback angles, divisional weekend was really all about Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

16. After surviving Mahomes' absence, Kansas City remains on course for the first Super Bowl repeat in 16 years, the 2003-04 Patriots the last champs to successfully defend.

17. Saturday night's game was coached by the Ravens' John Harbaugh and Bills' Sean McDermott, who were both assistants of Reid's in Philadelphia.

18. Reid's Chiefs will become the first AFC team to host three consecutive championship games. The only NFC team to do so? Reid's Eagles during the playoffs spanning from 2002 to 2004.

18a. The Chiefs have been so dominant under Reid, they haven't hit the road for a playoff game since 2015. Kansas City hasn't missed postseason since 2014, his second season with the franchise.

19. Sunday's win was Reid's sixth in the playoffs with the Chiefs, a new team record among its litany of stellar coaches.

20. Of course Reid's shining moment was his gutsy decision to have backup QB Chad Henne pass the ball on fourth-and-1 from the Kansas City 48-yard line with about a minute left to play and the Chiefs nursing a five-point lead. Henne connected with WR Tyreek Hill for 5 yards to put the game on ice.

20a. Reminder, especially to those of you in Philly, Reid has been crucified over the years for his clock-management decisions.

21. Tony Romo might have suffered the announcing equivalent Sunday of throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions for the Cowboys. Reid completely defied Romo's analysis more than once, including when Henne actually ran a play on that game-clinching fourth down rather than simply trying to draw the Browns offside with a hard count.

22. Not only did Cleveland fans suffer another heartbreaking playoff loss, the kiss of death was served by Henne – a Michigan man, who was fantastic in relief of Mahomes ... aside from an unsightly interception.

23. Speaking of Chiefs backups, shout-out to RB Darrel Williams. Super Bowl hero Damien Williams opted out this season ... first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire was inactive (hip, ankle) ... and veteran Le'Veon Bell just hasn't produced much since leaving the Jets. Enter Darrel Williams, who posted 94 yards from scrimmage and helped K.C. maintain offensive balance.

23a. Mahomes was among key Chiefs – Hill, TE Travis Kelce, DE Frank Clark and S Tyrann Mathieu were among the others – playing for the first time in 21 days after getting Week 17 off ahead of their first-round bye. You'd expect this group to be especially sharp the next time out with the cobwebs off.

24. Saints WR Michael Thomas' highly disappointing season ended in appropriate fashion: zero receptions on four targets.

25. Both times the Packers have faced the Rams in the playoffs – 1967 and Saturday – L.A. has boasted a defense that permitted the fewest points in the league. Green Bay prevailed each time.

26. The Pack hasn't hosted an NFC championship game since 2007, when Brett Favre was the quarterback, and hasn't won one at Lambeau Field since the 1996 season ... when Brett Favre was the quarterback.

27. The Saints are the fifth team to score at least 30 TDs both on the ground and through the air in the same season but the only one not to reach the Super Bowl.

28. I don't feel as strongly as some about revamping the NFL rule that awards a touchback to the defense when an offensive player fumbles through the end zone – an issue that really gets the chili running hot when a player loses control of the ball when stretching to extend the ball across the pylon. However, when it happens on a helmet-to-helmet hit, as it did in Kansas City when Chiefs S Daniel Sorensen dislodged the ball from Browns WR Rashard Higgins at the goal line ... well, let's at least make such obviously illegal hits reviewable.

29. Bummer of a Saturday for Jackson, whose first NFL red-zone interception – he'd previously thrown 49 consecutive TD passes inside opponents' 20-yard-lines – swung what was nearly a 10-10 tie into a 17-3 Bills' lead after CB Taron Johnson took it 101 yards in the opposite direction. Jackson was injured shortly thereafter.

30. They didn't experience victory, but at least Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, G Joel Bitonio and CB Denzel Ward were able to make their playoff debuts after COVID-19 kept them home during the wild-card round upset at Pittsburgh.

30a. And here's hoping Stefanski gets a deserved nod as the NFL's coach of the year after turning Cleveland's ship around in the most challenging circumstances a rookie boss could imagine.

31. Let's recognize a Tampa defense that forced four turnovers Sunday, partially thanks to budding youngsters like LB Devin White, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting and S Mike Edwards.

32. It's possible Seattle S Jamal Adams doesn't get it. Refresher: He has as many playoff wins with the Seahawks as he did with the Jets ...


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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