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Around the NFL: Wild weekend sets up unpredictable championship games

By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The divisional round intrigued many around the league, but the way things panned out didn't follow suit with a lot of the best football minds the media has to offer.

There were underdogs that prevailed, games that ended with drama, and that usual playoff atmosphere that sets up a great Championship weekend.

Here are short recaps of the three divisional games (for the Eagles, see Saturday's recap) this past weekend, and how the teams matchup in their respective NFC/AFC Title games next weekend.


Patriots silence Titans, advance to 7th straight AFC Title Game

This outcome didn't come as any surprise to anyone, as most logical people penned the Patriots to advance to the Championship game no matter who their opponent was going to be.

The Chiefs were upset by the Titans to get to this game, and the way things started out, it looked like there may be another upset in the works.

Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense got the scoring going first and early, taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but after that, Tom Brady led his charge and dismantled the Tennessee defense.

From the second quarter on, the Patriots scored five total touchdowns, all capped off with a four-yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski with 10:22 left in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 35-7 lead.

Corey Davis found the endzone one more time for the Titans late in the fourth, but it was too little, too late as the Patriots took the Divisional Round W, 35-14.

Brady just had one of those typical days throwing the ball, completing 35 of his 53 pass attempts, throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns. His leading receiver on the night was Danny Amendola, with 11 receptions for 112 yards, however he didn't score a TD. Gronkowski, James White, and Chris Hogan were the beneficiaries on the Brady touchdown throws.

Marcus Mariota didn't have the worst day for the Titans, as he didn't throw any interceptions to the Pats' defense, but it wasn't enough in the end, as the defense didn't do enough to stop the magic that is Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. Mariota was 22-for-37 with two touchdowns.

The Patriots defense had a field day against the Titans' run defense, as Tennessee only ran 16 times for 65 yards. Without DeMarco Murray activated, the Titans' weakness was shown blatantly, as either Mariota or Derrick Henry were able to get anything solid working.

In the end, the better team advanced, and now we have the opportunity to possibly witness the return of the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the second straight season.


Jaguars stun Steelers in Pittsburgh in high-octane shootout

This is the game that a lot of people had circled on Sunday for the Steelers to win.

Obviously, this was no shoo-in for Pittsburgh, but many liked the chances for the Steelers after falling to the Jaguars earlier in the season in destructive fashion.

Back on October 8, the Steelers fell to Jacksonville by a score of 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger had by far one of the worst games of his career, throwing five total interceptions to the stellar Jags' defense.

This was at Heinz Field nonetheless.

On Sunday, the stage was different, being the playoffs, but the objective was the same: Beat the Jaguars.

What happened after that no one saw coming. Leonard Fournette found the endzone twice for the Jaguars to open up the game, taking an early 14-0 lead. With 11:31 remaining in the second quarter, T.J. Yeldon ran the ball four yards for yet another Jaguars score, hiking the lead up to 21-0 early on.

For a team that managed to only score 10 points against a lowly Bills team just a week ago, no one saw this coming.

The Steelers finally found a way to get back in the game, with a 23 yard pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown to make it a 21-7 game.

But with 2:20 to play until the half, Roethlisberger turned the ball over via fumble and Telvin Smith returned the ball 50 yards for the Jacksonville TD, making it 28-7.

Luckily, the Steelers were able to end the half on a high note, with a Roethlisberger 36-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant to make it 28-14 with 25 seconds remaining.

With 9:09 left in the third quarter, Le'Veon Bell made it a game again after receiving a 19-yard pass from Big Ben for the 28-21 score.

Now in the fourth quarter, Leonard Fournette ran in for his third TD of the game, gaining a little bit of separation, a 35-21 lead for the Jaguars with 10:34 to play.

Antonio Brown, who by the way returned from his calf injury for the first time, made an insane 43-yard grab from Roethlisberger to make it a 35-28 ballgame.

It was Blake Bortles to Tommy Bohanon on the 14-yard score to give the Jags a 42-28 lead with 4:19 to play, but Le'Veon Bell's eight yard run with 2:18 left made it a one score, 42-35 game that gave the Steelers life.

The Steelers needed to utilize an onside kick, which backfired, as the Jaguars extended the lead to 45-35 after a Josh Lambo field goal with 1:45 to play.

The Steelers needed a miracle trailing by 10 with under two minutes to play, and with one second left, Roethlisberger got yet another TD pass connected to JuJu Smith-Schuster for four yards, but that would be the end of the game. The Jaguars waltzed out of Heinz Field with a 45-42 upset win to get to the AFC Title Game for the first time since 1999.

Blake Bortles was 14-of-26 with 214 yards and a TD, while Roethlisberger wowed in a losing effort, going 37-of-58 with 469 yards and five touchdown with an interception.

The biggest factor for the Jaguars taking the win was the running game, as rookie Leonard Fournette exploded for 109 yards on 25 carries with three scores.


Vikings walk-off after blowing 17-point lead to advance to NFC Championship Game

For a game that seemed pretty close to being over early on, the Vikings ended up prevailing after the lead changed four times in the final three minutes of the game.

The Vikings found themselves up 17-0 with quite a bit of time left in the second quarter, but late in the third, the Saints started to get their game going.

It was Drew Brees to Michael Thomas for 14 yards to make it a 17-7 Vikes lead with 1:18 to play in the third.

But that would do it for scoring until the fourth quarter when Drew Brees led the offensive charge, capped off with a three-yard TD grab by Michael Thomas again with 13:09 to play. The Vikings led 17-14.

Kai Forbath hit a 49 yard field goal with 10:12 to play in the fourth quarter to put the Vikings up by six points.

With 3:01 to play, the Saints weren't finished, completing the comeback, with a 14 yard grab by Alvin Kamara to put the Saints up 21-20.

With the Vikings in a position to kick a field goal with 1:29 left, Forbath hit the field goal of his career, a 53-yarder to seemingly five the Vikings the win 23-21.

But Drew Brees being Brees wouldn't be denied, driving down the field to put Will Lutz in position to kick the go-ahead field goal with 0:25 left to give the Saints a 24-23 lead.

And then, well you know what happens next.


Well there you have it, the three games that set up an amazing forthcoming Championship weekend. It'll be Patriots/Jaguars in the first game, and for most of you, your Eagles taking on the Vikings for a trip to Super Bowl LII.

Keep an eye out for week-long Eagles coverage leading up to Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field on SportsTalkPhilly.com and @EagledelphiaPA on Twitter.

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