The 2023 NFL regular season came to a dramatic close on Sunday, with multiple playoff spots and seedings coming down to the wire. Several surprising outcomes shaped the playoff bracket, which features a compelling mix of veterans and upstarts.
Bills Earn No. 2 Seed in Thriller Over Dolphins
In one of the day’s most anticipated matchups, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Miami Dolphins 34-31 to secure the AFC’s No. 2 seed . The game was a back-and-forth thriller, with each Josh Allen touchdown pass matched by big plays from Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa.
But the Bills put together a clutch late drive to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired. Buffalo overcame huge adversity this season after Damar Hamlin’s terrifying on-field collapse, going 6-1 down the stretch behind Allen’s MVP-caliber play. They finished tied with Kansas City record-wise but lost the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed.
Still, earning a first-round bye is monumental for Buffalo. This dangerous team has its sights set on finally clearing the AFC Championship hurdle that has stymied them the past two seasons.
AFC Playoff Seedings
|Kansas City Chiefs
|Los Angeles Chargers
NFC East Title Comes Down to Final Play
While the Bills and Dolphins decided a division title, the NFC East also astonishingly came down to the last play . The Dallas Cowboys just needed any kind of win over the Washington Commanders to clinch the East. Instead, they trailed late in the fourth quarter.
But Dak Prescott led a remarkable last-minute TD drive, hitting tight end Dalton Schultz for the winning score with seven seconds left. The Cowboys survived with a 26-24 victory, securing the NFC’s No. 2 seed and preventing a total collapse. Dallas clearly benefitted from extra rest for Prescott and others in Week 17 and now host a playoff game next weekend.
NFC Playoff Seedings
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|San Francisco 49ers
|New York Giants
Jaguars’ Historic Collapse Ends Playoff Hopes
No team endured a more nightmarish finale than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who controlled their own destiny before their defense completely fell apart. They led the Tennessee Titans 16-3 at halftime but allowed a staggering 27 unanswered points in the second half to lose 27-16 . Jacksonville’s previously formidable pass rush vanished, rarely pressuring Ryan Tannehill as he easily led four straight scoring drives.
The Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 and haven’t won a postseason game since 2008. This loss crushes their impressive turnaround season under new coach Doug Pederson. Instead of preparing for the playoffs, Jacksonville now faces a long offseason filled with questions at quarterback and elsewhere. Trevor Lawrence showed flashes of his potential but not enough consistency in year two.
More Playoff Field Takeaways
- Tom Brady and the underwhelming Tampa Bay Buccaneers somehow won the dreadful NFC South at 8-9, guaranteeing them a home playoff game. Don’t count out Brady stunningly leading this flawed team on another run.
- Brock Purdy’s late-season emergence guided San Francisco to the NFC’s No. 2 seed, a bye week, and home-field advantage in the divisional round. The 49ers are still dangerous with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and the NFL’s #1 defense.
- Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers set up a wild card rematch at Lambeau Field against the Giants, just weeks after New York’s upset 27-24 win in London. Rodgers is still seeking his first NFC Championship Game appearance in over a decade.
The opening Super Wild Card weekend features plenty of juicy matchups between bitter rivals and teams seeking redemption. The playoffs are always full of surprises, but Buffalo, Kansas City, and San Francisco appear to have the clearest paths to Super Bowl contention after securing byes and home games. But renowned playoff performers like Brady, Rodgers, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes know not to overlook any opponent this time of year.
Strap in for what should be another epic NFL postseason!
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