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NFL playoffs: The Bengals are good? And goodbye Tom Brady.

By Riley Stovka, February 9 2022—

On Feb. 13, the Cincinnati Bengals will play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI (56) at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. 

For the second year in a row, one of the teams playing in the Super Bowl will also be from the city that the game is played in. Like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of last year, the Los Angeles Rams have a chance to win a Super Bowl on home soil

The Rams dethroned last years’ champion on their way to the Super Bowl as they beat the Buccaneers in Tampa in the NFC Divisional round, before dispatching the San Francisco 49’s at home to advance to their first Super Bowl since 2018. 

The Bengals, who coming into the playoffs hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991, had to go through both the AFC’s powerhouse teams before reaching SoFi. 

This year’s playoffs have been unlike any other and have made an impressive argument for why the NFL has the best playoffs of any of the major North American sports. 

However, that’s debatable. Football, due to its laborious and violent nature, requires weeks of downtime to allow for its players to recover from the brutal bashing they face on the gridiron. Hockey, basketball and baseball all have seven-game series, allowing for drama, tension and gameplay to span out over the course of a week or so. 

That’s not to say there isn’t a ton of drama baked into the NFL playoffs as is. With the break in between games, sports media of any kind is flooded with reactions, predictions and analysis that is enough to make you think the person writing such a thing must be a huge overthinker. (Which granted is exactly what I am doing right now).

But we only have so little time before the big game this weekend, so why don’t we get into the big questions we all have about this years’ NFL playoffs before the Lombardi Trophy is awarded and this is made old news? 

Are the Bengals good? 

I know, given the fact the Bengals are in the Super Bowl the answer to this question is a resounding, duh. 

But let’s hold on for a minute. As mentioned previously, the Bengals coming into these playoffs had only won a single playoff game in thirty years. Not exactly the mark of a successful and healthy franchise. 

The Bengals also owned a 2–14 record in 2019 and a 4–11–1 record in 2020 — the former of which landed the franchise’s lord and saviour, quarterback Joe Burrow, and the latter of which saw Burrow suffer a gruesome, premature season-ending knee injury. 

So, entering the season the Bengals, as the bottom-feeders they were, had a lot to be optimistic about. Burrow was healthy, they had new spiffy uniforms and their first-round pick, Ja’Marr Chase, didn’t catch a single ball in the preseason. Wait, that last part is also bad.  

In a division shared with a loaded Browns team, an MVP-led Ravens team and a Steelers team that won a dozen games a year prior, the Bengals were overwhelmingly the odd man out in preseason rankings. 

Low and behold they won the division at 10–7, Joe Burrow looked more like Joe Montana and Ja’Marr Chase broke the single-season rookie receiving yards record, and eeked out two stunning upsets against some heavy favourites in Tennessee and Kansas City. 

Now the Bengals have a chance to do something no other Bengal team has ever done — and given this franchise’s track record — may never do again. 

Win or lose, the Bengals season is a monumental success and they should be proud of the accomplishments that no one else on planet Earth thought they were capable of. As a fan of great sports stories, I hope they can pull it off. 

Does this year’s success indicate a new reign of supremacy in the AFC? Or are they a one-and-done like so many teams before them? 

Goodbye Tom Brady

Allow me to share some perspective on the longevity and greatness that is Tom Brady’s career. He has played high-level, Hall of Fame calibre football, for my entire life.

He’s won seven Super Bowls, more than any other NFL franchise. He has set every quarterback record known to the game. He has had potentially three hall-of-fame-worthy careers in one, and he retires as unquestionably the greatest football player of all time. 

Still feels weird to type that. Tom Brady retires. Even at 44 years old it seemed like he was still years off from calling it quits. This past season saw Brady throw for a league-leading 44 touchdowns and 5,316 yards, which also led the league. 

Brady’s final season was potentially his personal best. He wasn’t washed up or worn out like so many other greats at the end of their careers. And his final season would rival and best many other players who are in the prime of their careers, forget prime of their lives. 

In a heartfelt send-off posted to his Instagram, Brady listed his family and wanting to spend more time with them, which influenced his decision to step away from the game. 

In this way, Brady gets what so many others could only dream of. He gets to go out on top and on his terms. He won’t be dragged off the field injury-ridden and crippled by the sport he loved. He won’t sulk through a stadium tunnel as he suffers defeat one last time. He won’t be left wondering what could have been or what he should have done differently. 

Yes, the last football game he’ll ever play will be a loss, but when you win as much as Tom Brady has, in sport and in life, losing one game doesn’t really matter that much. 

So goodbye Tom. For what you mean to the game, we will all miss you. 

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