Now, all of them are playing for a chance at being in the Super Bowl. This is hopefully something the Bengals can accomplish next season as well, so we are going to take a look at how these teams got to that point.
The most obvious thing about these three teams are their quarterbacks. Obviously, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, and Nick Foles aren’t the cream of the crop as far as the NFL is concerned, and yet all of them have won at least one playoff game beating the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger.
I think if you had told people this is what we’d be looking at before the Super Bowl, you’d get laughed out of town.
While that is the catchiest storyline, that isn’t how these teams made it to this point. In fact, to explain it I will have to get a little bit cliche. Defense wins championships.
I know I know, it is a phrase as old as the NFL itself, but these teams rode their defenses all season.
The one thing all four of these teams have in common (including the Patriots) is they all finished in the top five among scoring defenses. The only team to not be included was the Chargers who finished third.
Still, these were four of the best defenses from last season. None of them allowing more than 20 points per game. The Bengals allowed 21.8 points per game good enough to be the 16th ranked team in that category.
The Jaguars and Eagles were also two of the best defenses at creating turnovers. The Jaguars ended up forcing 38 turnovers for seven touchdowns, and the Eagles had 30 for five touchdowns.
The Vikings and the Patriots also forced over 20 turnovers last season. Meanwhile, the Bengals had only 13 turnovers all season. They were among the worst in that category.
This Brings us to the other category of these defenses that shows just how great they were. The Eagles and Vikings defenses spent the least amount of time on the field in 2017.
They spent only a little over 27 minutes on the field per game. The Jaguars and Patriots finished sixth and eighth respectively. Both finishing the season being on the field around 29 minutes per game. The Bengals defense spent the most time on the field this season spending nearly 33 minutes per game on the field.
Some people may point to the offense blaming them for how long the defense was on the field, but the defense has just as much blame. The Bengals finished with the eight worst third-down percentage as they allowed opponents to convert 41 percent of their third downs. The Eagles, Jaguars, and Vikings finished among the top three in the NFL in that same stat.
The Bengals could get better in all of these places this offseason. The Bengals new defensive coordinator was able to increase the number of turnovers the Lions produced over the past two years, and his more aggressive style should help the Bengals poor third down defense.
Now, while these defenses took these teams to the playoffs, and they had a huge part in their teams making their way to their respective Conference Championships, each of these teams needed their quarterbacks to go out there and make plays.
Bortles had to add 10 points late in the fourth to hold off the Steelers last week.
Foles completed 23 of his 30 passes without turning the ball over, and Keenum orchestrated a game-winning drive for a field goal, and then threw the miracle touchdown pass to move on to the next round.
The question has to be asked if Bill Lazor will be able to get a performance like that out of Andy Dalton next year.