Dates: 13-28 January 2024
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dumped the Philadelphia Eagles out of this season’s NFL play-offs to clinch the final spot in next week’s divisional round.
The Eagles were narrowly beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs in a Super Bowl classic last February and for the second year running were the last team to lose their unbeaten record this season.
They were then 10-1 at the end of November but their season has come to a miserable end, with a 32-9 defeat at Tampa Bay meaning they lost six of their last seven games.
Earlier on Monday, the Buffalo Bills beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-17 to set up a mouth-watering match-up with Kansas City.
Two years ago the Bills lost at that stage after an epic shootout between star quarterbacks Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, which the Chiefs won 42-36 in overtime.
Now the Chiefs will head to Buffalo next Sunday aiming to keep alive their hopes of back-to-back Super Bowl wins – and a third NFL title in five years.
Philadelphia had more wins by the end of November than Tampa Bay managed all season as the Bucs came into the play-offs with a 9-8 record – the worst out of the 14 teams that progressed to the post-season.
Led by Baker Mayfield, who replaced the retired Tom Brady as their starting quarterback this season, the Bucs won five of their last six games to win the NFC South.
And the difference in each side’s form showed on wildcard weekend, with the Bucs gaining a 16-3 lead with three field goals and a 44-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to David Moore.
A Dallas Goedert touchdown just before half-time made it 16-9 and gave the Eagles hope of arresting their slump.
But that evaporated late in the third quarter as Tampa Bay forced Philly to concede a safety and the Eagles’ defence was again found wanting as Trey Palmer scored a 56-yard touchdown.
A late Chris Godwin score made it three touchdown passes and 337 passing yards for Mayfield, who has re-established himself a top QB on his third team since leaving the Cleveland Browns after the 2021 season.
Bills beat Steelers after Buffalo snowstorm
Pittsburgh’s game with the Bills was moved from Sunday to Monday after a state of emergency was declared in the Buffalo region, with strong winds and heavy snow forecast.
The Bills even appealed for fans to help shovel snow from Highmark Stadium, giving them $20 (£15.70) an hour plus hot drinks and breakfast, after several feet fell in upstate New York.
The temperature was -7C – nothing compared to the -20C for the Chiefs’ home win on Saturday – and the Bills caught the Steelers cold by charging into a 21-0 lead with three touchdowns.
Allen produced scoring strikes to tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid in the first quarter, before running it in from 52 yards in the second – the longest run of his career.
Pittsburgh rallied with a Diontae Johnson touchdown shortly before half-time, before the two teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter.
And, although Calvin Austin’s touchdown cut the score to 24-17 in the fourth quarter, Buffalo hit straight back as Khalil Shakir did well after the catch to get into the end zone.
That made it three touchdown passes for Allen and secured the Bills’ sixth straight win since the start of December.