arodgersusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Happy Monday everyone, it's Wajih AlBaroudi here with everything you need to know from a jam-packed NFL weekend. The NFL's championship games are set after a thrilling divisional round that eliminated the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Josh Allen

We are going to take a look at all of the action, and also dig into a potential divorce between the New Orleans Saints and Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton. 

Let's start with an NFL Sunday football fans won't forget anytime soon. 

Good morning to everyone but especially to...

patrick-mahomes-chiefs-3-getty.jpg

THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AND LOS ANGELES RAMS

This year's divisional round was one for the ages. You can even make the case that it was the greatest playoff weekend in the history of the leagueEvery game came down to the very last play, and in the final two contests on Sunday -- Rams vs. Buccaneers and Bills vs. Chiefs -- all four quarterbacks played to their superstar potential.

The Chiefs downed the Bills, 42-36, in an absolute showdown between arguably the league's two best passers. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo's Josh Allen combined for seven touchdowns and 686 passing yards in the Chiefs' overtime win at Arrowhead. 

A whopping 25 points came in the game's final two minutes and when it was all said and done, this was one of the best NFL games ever. Here's how the dramatic ending played out: 

  • 1:54 - Allen hits Gabriel Davis for a 27-yard touchdown on fourth and 13 then converts the two-point conversion on a pass to Stefon Diggs  
  • 1:13 - Tyreek Hill blazes past the Bills' defense for a 64-yard catch-and-run score
  • 0:13 - Allen finds Davis once again for a 19-yard touchdown
  • 0:08 -  Mahomes connects with Travis Kelce for a 25-yard gain, getting Harrison Butker in position for a 49-yard game-tying field goal to force overtime

The Chiefs then got the ball first in overtime, and Mahomes made sure the Bills didn't get a shot to win the game. Mahomes led an eight-play, 76-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass to a toe-tapping Travis Kelce. The ending to this game was so insane that people are calling for the league to change its overtime rules.

In the earlier game, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford orchestrated a game-winning drive of his own against Tampa Bay. Starting with 0:42 remaining in the fourth quarter and one timeout, Stafford found Cooper Kupp for gains of 20 and 44 to set up a game-winning 30-yard field goal from Matt Gay. It was the culmination of a masterful game from Stafford, who completed 28 of his 38 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns. 

The ending broke the hearts of Buccaneers fans who watched their team climb back from a 24-point third-quarter deficit. Tampa Bay scored two touchdowns in the game's final four minutes in this wild finish at Raymond James Stadium: 

  • 3:20 - Brady heaves a 55-yard touchdown to Mike Evans, closing Tampa Bay's deficit to seven
  • 2:32 - Cam Akers loses his second fumble of the game, giving Tampa Bay the ball at the Rams' 26-yard line 
  • 0:42 - Leonard Fournette punches in a nine-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game 
  • 0:00 - Gay hits the game-winning 30-yard field goal 

After both dramatic finishes, the Chiefs and Rams will host the Bengals and 49ers, respectively, in the conference championships. 

And not such a good morning for... 

bills-sad.jpg

THE BUFFALO BILLS

So we just went over how both games ended, but it really can't be stressed enough how well Allen and the Bills' offense played. Second-year wide receiver Gabriel Davis played historically great in a losing effort, recording career highs in catches (8), yards (201) and receiving touchdowns (4). His four touchdown catches are the most ever in an NFL postseason game

The Bills' top-ranked defense, however, wilted under the pressure of Mahomes and Co. Mahomes got seemingly everything he wanted, completing 33 of his 44 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns while adding 69 yards and a score as a rusher. Hill snagged 11 of Mahomes' passes for 150 yards and looked a step -- or three -- faster than everyone in Buffalo's defensive backfield.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott, who has now lost to Andy Reid and the Chiefs in consecutive postseasons, had this to say in the post-game presser: 

  • McDermott: "We're all disappointed. We're all hurt, sick to our stomach. So, you move on and try to get yourself to learn from it. It stings. I'm not going to sugarcoat it."  

McDermott has a Herculean task ahead of him in easing the sting from this loss heading into next season. 

As for the rest of the weekend's NFL action 🏈

robbie-gould-49ers-2-usatsi.jpg

Here's a quick look at the divisional round's other two games, both of which also came with some late-game heroics. What a crazy weekend.

  • Bengals 19, Titans 16: Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow shook off nine sacks to throw for 348 yards, leading his team to the AFC Championship for the first time since 1988. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson converted the game-winning 52-yard field goal. The Bengals defense spoiled Derrick Henry's return from midseason foot surgery by holding him to 62 yards on 20 carries. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill imploded when it mattered most, tossing three interceptions.   

  • 49ers 13, Packers 10: San Francisco embarrassed the Packers' beleaguered special teams, blocking a field goal before halftime and returning a blocked punt for a touchdown to tie the game at 10 with 4:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. 49ers kicker Robbie Gould hit a 45-yard walk-off field goal, making him 20-20 all-time in the postseason. After allowing a six-yard rushing touchdown to A.J. Dillon on the game's opening drive, the 49ers defense held Aaron Rodgers' Packers to a mere three points the rest of the way. 

Now, let's get into what the Packers' loss means for Rodgers' future in Green Bay. 

What is next for Aaron Rodgers? 🔮

rodgersusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Rodgers' 2021 offseason of trade rumors -- and Hawaiian vacation pics -- quickly turned into a distant memory as he put together another MVP-caliber campaign regular season for the Packers. But after a shocking divisional-round defeat to the 49ers -- which dropped Rodgers' playoff record to 0-4 against the team that took Alex Smith ahead of him in the 2005 NFL Draft -- the 38-year-old's future in Green Bay is in question once again

Our NFL scribe Cody Benjamin laid out the 12 likeliest landing spots for Rodgers, and one likely opened this weekend. Benjamin has the Titans ranked fifth on his list after Tannehill failed to translate his regular-season success into postseason results once again. 

Here's what Benjamin sees in a potential Rodgers-Titans marriage: 

  • Benjamin: "Tennessee has gotten roughly top-10 production from Ryan Tannehill during the QB's nearly three seasons on the job, but the veteran is 0-3 in his last three playoff starts, playing a big role in those defeats. Mike Vrabel knows how to build and maintain a tough winner in the AFC South, but his team is still arguably an elite QB away from getting over the hump. The only feasible way out of Tannehill's contract is a trade, but why wouldn't they explore it? Rodgers, meanwhile, would be right back with a contender, complete with star teammates like Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown."

The Titans have won their division in two consecutive seasons with a run-heavy attack. That makes Rodgers, who's thrived in Matt LaFleur's balanced offense, a great stylistic fit. To make the landing spot even more appealing, Rodgers -- whose family relationships have been icy -- would become the greatest quarterback in his family to play in Nashville, surpassing his brother and former Vanderbilt passer Jordan Rodgers. 

Could the Sean Payton era be over in New Orleans? 🏈

sean-payton-saints.jpg

The New Orleans Saints' first season since Drew Brees' retirement featured a revolving door of quarterbacks, from Jameis Winston to Taysom Hill to Trevor Siemian to Ian Book. Saints coach Sean Payton may have seen enough to know he needs a change. 

According to reports, Payton has not committed to coaching the Saints in 2022 and is considering sitting out the season. Payton has reportedly "gone dark on several people close to him" while he's been vacationing for the past week-plus, casting doubt about his future in the Big Easy.

The loss of Payton would be crushing for New Orleans' offense. Over his 18 seasons as an offensive play-caller, Payton's units have finished in the top 10 a whopping 15 times and in the top five 10 times.

Our NFL scribe Jordan Dajani explained why a Payton exit could dampen the Saints' already troubling QB situation:

  • Dajani: "Taysom Hill signed another extension, but would a different coach want to move forward with him as the No. 1 guy? Additionally, the Saints have to make a decision on Winston, who is looking for a new deal. Losing Payton could also hurt New Orleans' chances of wooing a major player like Russell Wilson to the Bayou."

Should Payton -- who has three years and at least $45 million left on his deal -- leave New Orleans, current Saints defensive coordinator and former Raiders head coach Dennis Allen would reportedly be a top candidate.

What we're watching Monday 📺

🏀Jazz at Suns, 9 p.m. on NBATV
🏀No. 18 Texas Tech at No. 7 Kansas, 9 pm. on ESPN