COLUMN: 2023 NFL Playoffs what if?


AP Photo/Marcio J. Sanchez

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy next to Terry Bradshaw, left, and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt after the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35. (AP Photo/Marcio J. Sanchez)

By Eddie Miller, Sports Reporter

The 2023 NFL playoffs were one of the best in recent memory. Some games were decided by injury and some came down to the wire leaving NFL fans with many questions. What would have happened if Patrick Mahomes never got hit late going out of bounds? What could have happened if Brock Purdy had never gotten injured? 


In the NFC Championship round of the 2023 playoffs, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. The result of the game was a 31-7 victory for Philadelphia. 

The score of that game looks embarrassing for the 49ers. The Eagles dominated, but the score doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

49ers third-string quarterback Purdy, who was selected last in the 2022 NFL Draft, started his NFL career taking the reins for injured 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo went down with an ankle injury in the team’s week 13 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. 

In his time, Garoppolo was able to get the job done, but was not good enough to push the 49ers to the next level. Garoppolo may be a good fit for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, but the multiple flaws in his game put a cap on his success.

Since then, Purdy finished with an efficient 7-1 record, throwing for 1,374 yards and 13 passing touchdowns with only four interceptions. In the postseason, he added 569 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

On San Francisco’s first drive of the game, Purdy went down with an elbow injury, which led to fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson entering the game. After the injury, San Francisco could not gain momentum, only scoring one touchdown in the second quarter. 

Johnson threw for only 74 yards, completing seven of 13 passes. 

As a football player, losing your quarterback early on in such a meaningful game makes it easy to lose hope and harder to gain momentum. From the very moment that Purdy went down the game was over.

With Purdy, the 49ers would have had a much easier time moving the ball down the field. Purdy’s ability to extend plays and throw the ball deep would have opened up the run game and allowed for 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey to get more involved. I believe Purdy would have been able to throw for over 250 yards with two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown and McCaffrey would have rushed for over 100 yards.

The 49ers’ defense would have also had a better performance. Due to losing its Quarterback, the 49ers’ defense was on the field 15 more minutes than the offense was. This made it nearly impossible to keep the Eagles out of the endzone. With Purdy in, the 49ers wouldn’t have been in as many bad situations and would have allowed the 49ers’ defense to play at its best the entire game.



In the AFC Wild Card matchup between Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills and Skylar Thompson’s Miami Dolphins, the Bills came out victorious, winning 34-31. 

The Bills, a Super Bowl favorite with a 13-3 regular season record, were favored to win the game by two touchdowns. Players such as star quarterback Josh Allen, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds helped the Bills become one of the best teams in the league. 

Miami’s season started off strong, with a record of 3-0. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Tyreek Hill were the focal points of the offense. With a healthy Tagovailoa, the Dolphins had records of 3-0 and 8-3. Without Tagovailoa, the Dolphins finished the regular season at an underwhelming 9-8.

Tagovailoa suffered three concussions this season, his last being against the Green Bay Packers in week 16, which put him out for the season. Tagovailoa put up 3,548 yards, 25 touchdowns and had a 105.5 passer rating. When Tagovailoa got hurt, Dolphins quarterback Thompson became the starter. 

Tagovailoa is a much better player than Thompson and shares a much better connection with the Dolphins’ wide receivers. Tagovailoa looked like an MVP candidate when healthy and he would have proved it given the opportunity.

If Tagovailoa was healthy, the Dolphins would have played a much cleaner game. Thompson, who threw two interceptions, had a sloppy performance. Tagovailoa would have turned those interceptions into touchdowns, propelling the Dolphins to a win. This would also benefit the defense, limiting the number of chances the Bills had to score by keeping them off the field. 

Tagovailoa’s injuries throughout the year hurt the Dolphins’ success. So, if Tagovailoa was in full health against the Bills, I think the Dolphins would have won 28-27. 



In the AFC Championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs downed the Cincinnati Bengals by a final score of 23-20. A last-second field goal by Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker secured the win for the Chiefs. 

The game was one of the most anticipated matchups in this year’s NFL playoffs because the teams were so evenly matched, the outcome depended on who made the most mistakes – and that was the Bengals. 

On the last drive of the game, the Chiefs were just outside of field goal range. With 17 seconds left in regulation, while Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was rushing to go out of bounds, Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai hit Mahomes out of bounds. The penalty moved the Chiefs into field goal range, allowing Butker to seal a trip to the Super Bowl for Kansas City. 

If Ossai was not penalized, the Chiefs would have been on the Bengals 48 yard line – a difficult 62-yard field goal for Butker. I think Butker would have missed the field goal, sending the game to overtime.

The penalty crushed the Bengals’ Super Bowl hopes and played a large role in the Chiefs’ win. Regardless, I think even without the penalty, the Chiefs still would have won. 

Similar to the Chiefs’ matchup against the Bills in the 2022 AFC Divisional, the game would have come down to a coin toss. If the Chiefs won the toss, they would have easily scored in their first overtime possession. I think that if the Chiefs lost the toss, the Chiefs’ defense would have kept the Bengals off the scoreboard and forced a punt. 

Prior to the last drive, Mahomes and the Chiefs were firing on all cylinders. Mahomes threw for 326 yards, had two touchdowns and threw no interceptions. Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and tight end Travis Kelce also scored touchdowns. 

I think Mahomes and the Chiefs would have marched down the field, leading to a 27-20 Chiefs victory.