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Close divisional games doesn't mean same for championship weekend

by Josh Richert | January 27, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Three of the four NFL Divisional round games last weekend were settled on last-second field goals, and the fourth went into overtime.

Don't expect the same in the NFC and AFC Championship games this Sunday as the contenders for Super Bowl 56 are decided.

The top seeds are out, and the majority of the top three seeds are gone, as well. Kansas City, which survived Buffalo in overtime, is the No. 2 seed from the AFC and host Cincinnati, the No. 4 seed. In the NFC title game, the Los Angeles Rams are home to San Francisco in a battle between the No. 4 and No. 6 seeds, respectively.

The Chiefs won the coin toss and marched down the field to eliminate the Bills, 42-36 in overtime. The Bengals knocked off top-seed Tennessee, 19-16.

The Rams sent defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay home, 30-27, and the 49ers kicked a last-second field goal in the snow at Lambeau Field to eliminate top-seed Green Bay, 13-10.

I don't recall all four Divisional games being decided by a field goal or in overtime in all my years of watching NFL games. I do know trends, however, and the AFC and NFC championships are rarely decided by 4 points or less.

Over the past five years only two AFC title games have been settled by single digits with an average of 10.8 points differential per game. Over the past decade, the AFC champions are outscoring their opponents by 12.2 points per game.

The parity in the NFC Championship game is even greater.

The NFC champs average 15.8 points per game over their opponents in the past five years, but that number does drop to 13.2 in the past decade. Six of those titles have been decided by single digits, but only two by a field goal.

The Bengals and Chiefs met once this season, with Cincinnati winning 34-31 at home. The Tigers have to play at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend.

The 49ers beat the Rams twice this season. In San Francisco, the home team won 31-10, and in the final week, with San Fran fighting for a playoff berth, the 49ers edged host Los Angeles, 27-24 in overtime.

I don't believe Cincinnati to quite to the level of the Chiefs just yet, as Kansas City has won the AFC title the past two years and are playing in its fourth consecutive championship game.

Likewise, I am unsure that San Francisco can find the magic it takes to pull off three in a row -- both three wins over a division opponent in the same season and three straight playoff upsets.

I see a Chiefs-Rams Super Bowl in the very near future, but they say this is why the game's played. It should be entertaining, to say the least.

Print Headline: Close divisional games doesn't mean same for championship weekend

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