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The NFL playoff field is set!

NFL football fans were on the edges of their seats this Sunday, as the playoff scenario came into focus one game at a time. There were some exciting performances, and the day was capped off by one heck of a showdown in the original home of the Lombardi Trophy itself!

Big Ben and the Steelers are back in another postseason.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots were hoping to secure home field advantage when they went into Miami to take on Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. it didn’t go as planned as Tom Brady and the Patriots struggled all game and lost 20-10 to the fins. This left them watching the scoreboard, as the Denver Broncos sought to secure the top AFC seed against the San Diego Chargers. Brock Osweiler had done a nice job of holding down the fort, including leading an exciting overtime win against Brady’s crew earlier in the season, and he threw for 262 yards and a score on Sunday–but it was the third quarter return of Peyton Manning that stole the show, as he came in to lead his team to victory as the home crowd cheered. Things just felt different with Manning back under center and healthy again, and the Broncos went into the postseason looking fully intact and like a real threat to go all the way. JJ Watt and the Houston Texans pounded the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-6 to finish 9-7 and win their division, but the Cincinnati Bengals hung on at home against the Baltimore Ravens, winning 24-16 and taking the third seed at 12-4. The 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs took care of the Oakland Raiders in the final NFL  game of the legendary Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson, and the Chiefs will go into the playoffs as the 5th seeded wild card. And the second wild card game was decided in two thrilling games, as the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers both looked to make the second season.

In Buffalo, Rex Ryan was eager to knock his old team out of the playoffs as the Buffalo Bills tried to beat the Jets for the second time this season. And to start things off, the Bills had the Jets of balance. Ryan Fitzpatrick missed open throws, and the Jets’ offense clearly missed the presence of dual-threat running back Bilal Powell, who was absent due to injury. The Jets righted the ship somewhat, closing to 22-17 in the fourth quarter; they drove all the way down into field goal range, when Fitzpatrick threw a terrible-looking pick in the Bills’ end zone to kill their drive. By the time the Jets got the ball back, it was for a last-second desperation push that came close to working out as Kenbrell Thompkins somehow found a gap up the right sideline and had the ball in his hands! Had he caught it, he might have dodged the final defender and coasted into the end zone. Alas, the ball was jarred from his hands at the last second, and the Jets wound up losing 22-17–the same score by which they had lost to the Bills earlier in the season. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Browns tried to play spoiler against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. It looked close for a while, especially when the Steelers turned it over with the game still close–but then, as Browns fans have unfortunately come to expect, they turned it right back over and the Steelers took over. They won 28-12, and their sideline was all smiles when the final score of the Jets game was announced, Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC sighed, as a dangerous and experienced playoff team was able to squeeze into the tournament.

Russell Wilson finished another great season in Seattle.

In the NFC, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers made easy work of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to go 15-1. Unfortunately, they lost cornerback Charles Tillman for the rest of the year to a torn ACL. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Arizona Cardinals 36-6, roaring into the playoffs on a mission to get back to the big game. And in the Sunday night game, the NFC North was decided in a game that started out slowly but ended in #FanCrazy fashion. The Minnesota Vikings went into Lambeau Field, trying to beat the Green Bay Packers and win the division in the final game of the year. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers struggled to move the ball early on, and uncharacteristically, the home crowd even booed a bit. The Vikings’ defense even ran back a Rodgers fumble the second half that put the home team in real trouble. But then the Packers seemed to remember their old ways, moving the ball up the field and coming to within 20-13 with a few minutes to go. When Adrian Peterson exited briefly due to injury, it looked like the Packers might be set up for another miraculous home win. Then when Cordarrelle Patterson ran a kick back 71 yards only to have a fumble forced by kicker Mason Crosby, it really looked like Lambeau magic was in effect! But then Rodgers threw an interception in the Vikings end zone with just over two minutes to go. But then–on the very next play, the Vikings fumbled a handoff to Peterson and the Packers almost had the ball back in the red zone. AP fought to recover the ball, but in case you thought this one would end without some more drama, the Packers’ defense forced a punt. It came down to a long throw as time expired, and for a second it looked like Rodgers might complete yet another home field Hail Mary…but it was knocked down, and the Vikings secured the North and will go on to host the Seahawks next week.

Next Saturday, the wild card round kicks off with the Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs and the led Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Steelers. On Sunday, the Seahawks go to Minnesota and Kirk Cousins and Washington will host the Packers. Who will advance in the first round? Will Brady and Manning face off in the postseason yet again? Will Cam and the Panthers go all the way? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your team, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer

Stars falling in the NFL

It’s been another exciting week in the NFL, football fans, though not all of the news is good. Let’s start with the positive: yet another record was set by the New England Patriots‘ quarterback Tom Brady. Brady became the fourth member of the 400-touchdown club on Sunday, joining Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as he hit Danny Amendola in the end zone. The Patriots hammered the Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17, continuing their undefeated start to the season and taking control of the AFC East. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers remained dominant at home as Aaron Rodgers threw for five scores in a Monday Night Football win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Jamaal Charles rushed for three scores, pleasing his fantasy managers greatly, but the Chiefs were well behind for most of the game before a spirited fourth quarter comeback made the 38-28 final look more respectable.

Tom Brady became the 4th member of the 400-touchdown club.

Elsewhere in the league, the headlines were dominated by injuries to high-profile players. In Pittsburgh, big Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field with a scary knee injury. He was diagnosed with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise, both in his left knee, and he’s expected to miss at least four weeks. In Philly and New Orleans, two superstars were out before their games even started: Saints‘ QB Drew Brees was out with a shoulder injury, and Eagles‘ running back DeMarco Murray missed his game with a hamstring injury. The Jets‘ star cornerback Darrelle Revis left their game with a hamstring injury, and a hamstring problem also caused Seattle‘s Marshawn Lynch to leave the game and not return. Davante Adams left the Packers’ game with an aggravation of the tweaked ankle he’s struggling with, and LeSean McCoy reportedly might miss Week 4 with a nagging hamstring injury–yes, really. This seemed to be a particularly bad week for injuries in the NFL, and everyone’s hoping next week won’t be the same.

Which of this week’s rash of injuries will cost their team the most? Who are you counting on to step up in your favorite superstar’s absence? Will Brady and Rodgers stay hot and meet in Super Bowl 50? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your team, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer