Analysis: Raiders’ savage win gives NFL playoff a head start

Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) celebrates as he walks off the field after scoring the game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Chargers during extra time at an NFL football game on Sunday, Jan.9, 2022, at Las Vegas.  (AP Photo / Ellen Schmidt)

Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) celebrates as he walks off the field after scoring the game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Chargers during extra time at an NFL football game on Sunday, Jan.9, 2022, at Las Vegas. (AP Photo / Ellen Schmidt)

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Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders played to win, knocking out the Los Angeles Chargers from the playoffs and sending the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tournament.

The ground for the NFL playoffs was set when the Raiders clinched the final wildcard spot by beating the Chargers in overtime in a wild game with the winner on Sunday night.

The Raiders could have landed their ticket to the playoffs – and given a spot to the Chargers – by going down on one knee in the final game. Instead, Daniel Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal as time came to an end in overtime for a 35-32 victory.

The Steelers extended Ben Roethlisberger’s career with an overtime victory and had to wait to make sure the Chargers-Raiders didn’t finish tied.

The 49ers also needed extra hours to qualify for the playoffs.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t give up against Carolina, and the reigning Super Bowl champions took second place when Jimmy Garoppolo rallied San Francisco ahead of the Rams.

An NFC Championship rematch against Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay is in line if the Buccaneers and Packers continue to win.

First up, Brady and the Bucs will face Philadelphia on the rest, while Green Bay has a week off.

“He’s our toughest opponent all year,” said Brady, who lost to Nick Foles and the Eagles in the Super Bowl four years ago with New England. “We play against a very talented team and we came to this for a reason. We must do everything to achieve victory. It’s a football team that played very well, good in attack, they have a very good defense, a good front, in very good health. It will be a very difficult game. ”

Tennessee pushed back Houston for the AFC pass, pushing the Chiefs two-time defending conference champions to the second seed.

The modest Jacksonville turned Indianapolis upside down, paving the way for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to claim a victory in Baltimore.

Here are the matches and how things could go next weekend:

SATURDAY

Las Vegas (10-7) to Cincinnati (10-7)

Joe Burrow led the Bengals from worst to first in the AFC North and had the chance to skip the last game while Carr and the Raiders survived a late comeback to win their fourth straight game to advance.

Burrow, dynamic rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon present a tough challenge for the Raiders, who were gassed at the end of their 70-minute marathon against Los Angeles. Cincy hasn’t won a playoff game in 31 years. The Raiders last won a playoff game in 2003. Both teams are expected. Burrow and the Bengals have the advantage because they are rested.

New England (10-7) at Buffalo (11-6)

Rivals AFC East split two games last month, each winning away. The Patriots beat the Bills 14-10 relying solely on their running game when rookie QB Mac Jones threw just three passes. Buffalo responded with a 33-21 victory over New England three weeks later.

Josh Allen led the Bills to the AFC title game last year and they’re back in the chase for the third year in a row with something to prove. Bill Belichick is aiming for his first playoff win without Brady in New England. He should always look for it after this one.

SUNDAY

Philadelphia (9-8) at Tampa Bay (13-4)

The Eagles have come a long way since a 28-22 home loss to the Buccaneers in Week 6. Rookie coach Nick Sirianni and sophomore QB Jalen Hurts brought Philly back from a 2-5 start to an unlikely place in the playoffs. They did it by building on the race. But Tampa has one of the stingiest race defenses in the league, led by nose tackle Vita Vea.

The crushed Bucs lost key players on the stretch to injury and Antonio Brown to the drama. They still have Brady and it is enough. He led the NFL in assists, touchdowns, completed assists and attempts at 44.

San Francisco (10-7) at Dallas (12-5)

Facing elimination, Garoppolo and the 49ers overcame a 17-0 deficit to beat NFC champion West Rams 27-24 in overtime. San Francisco has a strong rushing offense, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, but Dallas has made great strides in defense under the guidance of first-year coordinator Dan Quinn and sensational seasons of rookie linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs.

It will be difficult for the Niners to keep up with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and the Cowboys star offense.

Pittsburgh (9-7-1) at Kansas City (12-5)

Roethlisberger was lucky enough to play one more game, but his last is expected to come in Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got off to a good start after a rough start. Mahomes has Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and too many options for the Steelers to contain.

MONDAY

Arizona (11-6) vs. Los Angeles Rams (12-5)

Monday night’s playoff opener features yet another clash of division rivals. Like the Patriots and Bills, the Cardinals and Rams went their separate ways in the regular season, with each team winning on the road.

Arizona missed an opportunity to win the division by losing at home to Seattle. The Cardinals went 4-6 after a 7-0 start. It’s a new season now. Kyler Murray led Arizona to an impressive road victory in Dallas in Week 17, and the Cardinals need James Conner to play after leaving with injured ribs against the Seahawks.

Matthew Stafford has joined the Rams in search of playoff success. He’s aiming for his first career playoff win with a cast of superstars surrounding him, led by Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. on offense and Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on defense. Even though Los Angeles played better on the road, Stafford should finally secure the victory and keep alive the possibility that the Rams could become the second team to play a Super Bowl in their stadium.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi and his work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/robmaaddi

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