The AFC Divisional playoff round cast a spotlight on some of the best offensive playmakers in the sport. All four games came down to the wire, and ultimately youth prevailed.
Two of the four quarterbacks moving onto championship weekend are still playing on their rookie contracts. Young difference-makers such as wide receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Deebo Samuel contributed in big moments, pushing their teams towards victories.
Even teams that lost made impressions. The Buffalo Bills have been one of the worst franchises in professional sports for the past two decades, but their valiant effort against the defending AFC Champion Chiefs, headlined by the star performance of young quarterback Josh Allen, deserves praise.
Some of the worst NFL teams of the past are now entering the spotlight, and they share a common thread: dynamic quarterback play set in a wide-open offense. These young gunslingers are playing beyond their years, and each has the personnel for sustained runs of dominance.
The four divisional games were entertaining but sent a more profound message to non-playoff teams. The league is preparing to enter a new era headlined by new talent, and there is a formula to catch up.
There were strong defensive outings in the postseason, and investing on that side of the ball will pay dividends as the season comes to a close. However, every team left prides themselves on their ability to generate offense in various ways.
The Bengals, Chiefs, Rams, and 49ers remain, and all have arguments in their favor. The core of their arguments is that they have an offensive-minded staff willing to put the ball in their quarterback's hands because of their talent and skill personnel.
The Browns currently have the first piece to that puzzle. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has proven he can call offense in high-pressure situations and has done it for two consecutive seasons.
The other components are still up in the air. Cleveland must improve their wide receiver talent this offseason, which becomes more apparent with each passing playoff game. There are several high-impact wideouts left that make astounding plays on the ball when it is in the air.
Quarterback remains unsolved to this point. The front office backed quarterback Baker Mayfield publicly and appeared content with him returning in 2022. However, he must put together a better effort in 2022 to ensure the Browns can reach where they want to go.
Cleveland played high-level defense during the back half of the season, but offensive football dominates the sport. That trend continues to grow with every season, as teams routinely adapt and find ways to scheme up easy offense.
Good offensive coaching can manufacture a portion of your offense. Good playmakers create when things aren't there. The quarterback should play turnover-free football while simultaneously attacking defenses at every opportunity.
The Browns were heading in this direction before hitting a roadblock during the 2021 season. There are several things people point to, but the bottom line is that the path they must take is clear.
The infrastructure is in place, but now it is time to become one of the most high-powered offenses in football. Otherwise, it will be challenging to catch up to the biggest league powers.