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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

Brees joins the 400 club

Week four in the NFL is behind us, football fans, and as usual there were interesting storylines from coast to coast. This week wasn’t an injury-fest like week 3, so let’s start with the record-breaker. Drew Brees was the second quarterback in two weeks to join the 400-touchdown club, and he did it in spectacular fashion! His first touchdown pass of the game was TD number 399, and it put him in another elite QB club with 5,000 NFL completions. Number 400 was a real doosy: an 80-yard bomb to running back C.J. Spiller up the sideline, for a walkoff win in overtime! Even better, he did it in prime time, in the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game!

Drew Brees and CJ Spiller celebrate touchdown no. 400!

The NFL Sunday began earlier than usual this week, as the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins played at 9:30am EST in London, England. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick set the tone on the first drive, with a long completion to Brandon Marshall, and the Jets never looked back. They dominated the fins for most of the game, coming away with a 27-14 victory.

The day also saw two games go to overtime. The Indianapolis Colts, without the services of QB Andrew Luck, outlasted the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-13. And in the Thursday night game, former Jaguar Josh Scobee had a rough day. He missed two tough but makeable field goals down the stretch, and the Baltimore Ravens beat Michael Vick and the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-20 in Pittsburgh. Worse still for the veteran kicker, the Steelers promptly released him. Kind of a rough deal for a guy with a long and solid career like Scobee, but the Steelers were really upset about that win slipping away.

In Chicago, quarterback Jay Cutler returned to action to lead the Chicago Bears, who beat the Oakland Raiders 22-20. The 4pm lineup saw a bunch of close games, with the Minnesota Vikings losing 23-20 to the Denver Broncos and the St. Louis Rams surprising the Arizona Cardinals 24-22. Adrian Peterson sprung a lengthy touchdown for the Vikings, but Peyton Manning and the Broncos held on. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals struggled against the Rams’ stout defense, but they, too, held on at the end. Also in the 4 O’Clock time slot, the San Diego Chargers survived a flurry by Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns, and the Monday night game will be remembered for a while, but not for good reasons. The Seattle Seahawks were holding on to a late-game lead against the Detroit Lions, who drove down into the red zone with time winding down. Calvin “Megatron” Johnson caught a pass inside the five yard line, and lunged for the end zone with the ball tucked–or so he thought. Cam Chancellor punched the ball out of Megatron’s grasp, and the ball bounced toward the back of the end zone–where K.J. Wright appeared to very deliberately bat the ball out the back of the end zone. This should have been a penalty and Lions ball inside the one yard line, but instead it was ruled a game-winning touchback and the Seahawks held on for a 13-10 victory! Controversy ensued almost immediately, and everyone was reminded of the infamous “touchception” play that gave the Seahawks another prime-time win under questionable circumstances.

What do you think of the latest infamous non-call to decide a Seahawks game? Who do you think will be the next to join the 400-touchdown club? 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

Gronk doin’ Gronk things

Football fans, the day you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: the NFL season has begun! It kicked off with the nationally televised Thursday Night Football broadcast, in which defending champions New England Patriots hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers. The night kicked off with a big celebration, with CEO Robert Kraft taking the field and the Pats’ faithful sporting an air of defiance after the latest Deflategate developments. At one point they even chanted “where is Roger?” in reference to widely criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell!

When the game kicked off, Tom Brady and the Patriots looked in mid-season form. They marched it up and down the field smoothly, and Brady’s timing with slasher Julian Edelman already looked crisp.

And then there was Gronk.

Rob Gronkowski, one of the most indefensible tight ends in history, had himself a day. His first of two touchdowns was classic Gronk, as he caught a ball near the sideline and broke a few tackles before rumbling to the end zone. His second was a simple route toward the back of the end zone, finishing with a perfect drop-in throw by Brady. Gronk’s third score was another red zone special, completing the hat trick and giving Brady his fourth TD pass of the game. When it all was said and done, Gronk had 94 yards on only five receptions, for three touchdowns and three HUGE spikes in the end zone. Edelman finished with 97 yards on eleven catches, and Brady went 25-32 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Bill Belichick‘s crew handled their opponents from wire to wire, despite some solid looking numbers from the Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger threw for 351 yards, Antonio Brown had nine catches for 133 yards and a score, and DeAngelo Williams silenced his doubters with 127 rushing yards.

Is Gronk the most unstobbable red zone force in the NFL?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Patriots game without controversy. In yet another example of New England opponents facing unexpected hazards, the Steelers’ headsets reportedly malfunctioned for most of the first half. And guess what they were listening to: the Patriots’ radio broadcast. The Pittsburgh coaching staff was, as you would expect, none too pleased. And as teams and players around the league nodded sympathetically, Steelers fans were left to speculate whether this was yet another instance of the Patriots bending the rules. The NFL released a statement to the effect that the matter was under full investigation, and Pats Nation celebrated a 1-0 start.

Where do you stand on the “dirty tricks” allegations against Belichick & crew? Do you think they stand a chance of making another title run? Is Gronk the most unstoppable red zone force in the NFL? As always, 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

#GoFancheer