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2 winners and 4 losers from the NFL divisional playoff round

The Chiefs deserved their win, but the future belongs to the Browns.

Divisional Round - Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

I know this is a difficult morning in Cleveland. Local fans were rooting for the Browns to win, heck everyone outside of Kansas City was praying we’d get a Browns vs. Bills AFC Championship game, but it just wasn’t to be.

I get that it’s disappointing, but dang Cleveland, Browns fans should be over the moon this morning. This was unquestionably the best season the team has had since being re-launched in 1999 — and there’s really something to build off here. We’ve seen scant few winning seasons for the Browns, but this feels like the first where there’s a real foundation that can be built off. A solid future that is actually set up for success, with young talent, the right coaching, and finally a front office that can put everything together.

Not only are all the stars aligning for Cleveland, but circumstance has made it that it’s unlikely the Browns will be the laughing stocks of the NFL again, at least for a while. Congratulations Houston for playing yourselves and earning that mantle.

The fact is, Baker Mayfield proved this season that he can carry a team. The run game base created success. Cleveland has receivers who can operate in the modern NFL and stretch the field, and the defense is full of young, hungry players who are bringing confidence to the Browns in the first time in forever.

When Jarvis Landry signed with the Browns in 2018 he described a locker room and culture that was a mess. He publicly talked about seeing players who didn’t really care enough to give their full effort on the field. It seemed rich coming from a player who moved to Cleveland from Miami, but he was right. In that two year span everything has turned around, and the Browns are full of professionals.

Nothing can take away what was achieved this season for Cleveland, not even a disappointing loss to the Chiefs. This is something that can become repeat success, and that’s more valuable than anything.

Winner: Aaron Rodgers.

There’s just something that feels right about seeing Aaron Rodgers play astounding football, and have fun while doing it. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but in the years before Matt LaFleur took over the Packers it was like Rodgers was on auto-pilot.

Sure, he was still functionally excellent and playing great football, but there was a lack of spark to his game. It’s like he wasn’t having fun playing the game, and while that’s no a prerequisite to success, a player who’s having fun gives us more exciting moments, and makes us feel everything jus that little bit more.

Only Rodgers can speak to his love of the game, but I just don’t get that same checked out feeling I did a few years back. Against the Rams he was smiling on the sideline, beaming in his post-game interview, and loving every second of being in front of the (albeit smaller) Lambeau crowd.

It really wasn’t that long ago people questioned whether Rodgers would be done with football soon. Now he’s back, tearing it up, and he’s playing astoundingly well.

Loser: The Rams’ pass rush.

Now look, I know a vast majority of this is due to the Packers’ offensive line, which might be the best in football, but still the fact the vaunted Los Angeles defense was able to do NOTHING on Saturday is a huge let down.

Letting Aaron Rodgers have such a clean pocket meant that the Rams never really had a chance. It’s basically the blueprint for teams left in the playoffs for how NOT to deal with Rodgers, but what makes it so tricky is how resilient he is against edge rushes and safety blitzes because of his mobility.

But, as far as the Rams go, their biggest shot was to pressure the Packers’ QB, and didn’t manage to. A massive missed opportunity, and a huge disappointment.

Loser: One five minute span for the Baltimore Ravens.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a worse five minute span for a team that the close of the third quarter, and into the early fourth for the Baltimore Ravens. Lamar Jackson threw a 101 yard pick-six, that basically sealed the game for the Bills, followed by Jackson taking a huge hit that put him in concussion protocol for the rest of the game, and completely shut the door.

It was a devastating end to a sloppy, otherwise tight football game. It would have been so much fun to see Jackson try to fight back under adversity with a quarter to go, and instead we had a wet blanket ending to one of the best games of the weekend on paper.

Loser: The dumbest rule in football.

If there’s one thing Browns fans can be bitter about it was this crap. This rule sucks, and it needs to change. Nothing more to say, really.

Oh, one thing ... this was targeting too. Which was missed.

Loser: The old man fight on Sunday night.

Buccaneers vs. Saints was a lesson in why we should never distill a football game to quarterback vs. quarterback. All week long we were subjected to platitudes about the career of Tom Brady and Drew Brees like this was some prize fight waiting to be enjoyed by millions.

Instead we got a wet fart of a football game where the supporting casts needed to prop up their old man quarterbacks, neither of whom could excel on the field. Brady finished with a stat line of a rookie QB, Brees ended with that of a bad rookie QB. Time comes for us all.

Anyway, congrats to the Buccaneers, who made the NFC Championship game and earned the right to be sacrificed at the altar of the Packers.