What to Look for in the NFL Divisional Playoffs

SURVIVE AND ADVANCEThe CLEVELAND BROWNS (12-5) and LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-6) both earned victories on Super Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seeds in their respective conferences. In 2019, both the MINNESOTA VIKINGS and TENNESSEE TITANS won on Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seeds while both the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS and PHILADELPHIA EAGLES advanced to the Divisional round of the playoffs as No. 6 seeds in in 2018. 

This marks the first time in which two No. 6 seeds advanced past Wild Card Weekend in three consecutive seasons since 1990, when the NFL expanded the playoffs to six teams per conference.

In both conferences, the No. 5 [BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-5) and TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (12-5)] and No. 6 seeds (Cleveland and Los Angeles Rams) are all still alive in the postseason. With victories by Baltimore and Cleveland in the AFC or Tampa Bay and Los Angeles in the NFC, it would mark the first conference Championship game featuring a No. 5 and No. 6 seed since 1990.

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

YOUTH MOVEMENTAll four starting quarterbacks remaining in the AFC playoffs are under the age of 26. This is the first time ever that all four starting quarterbacks in one conference in the Divisional playoffs are under the age of 26.

Three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft – Cleveland’s BAKER MAYFIELD (No. 1 overall), Buffalo’s JOSH ALLEN (No. 7) and Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON (No. 32) – are projected to start in the AFC Divisional round. This will mark the second time in the common-draft era that three first-round quarterbacks from the same NFL Draft will start in the Divisional playoffs in the same postseason. The only other time this occurred was in the 2008 postseason, when three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft – ELI MANNINGPHILIP RIVERS and BEN ROETHLISBERGER – each started in the 2008 Divisional playoffs.

Saturday night’s game featuring Jackson(24 years, nine days old on Saturday) and Allen(24 years, 240 days old on Saturday) marks the fourth matchup in the Divisional round between two quarterbacks under the age of 25 in the Super Bowl era.

Mayfield and Los Angeles Rams quarterback JARED GOFF, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, are each expected to make the second road postseason starts of their careers this weekend. Mayfield earned a victory in his first postseason start on the road last weekend while Goff won his first road playoff start at New Orleans in the 2018 NFC Championship game. JIM PLUNKETT, the No. 1 overall selection in the 1971 NFL Draft, is the only quarterback who was selected first overall to win each of his first two road postseason starts.

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

LEGENDS OF THE WINTERWhen Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY (43 years, 167 days old on Sunday) and New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES (42 years, two days old on Sunday), the two most prolific passers in NFL history, meet in the NFC Divisional playoffs, it will mark the first postseason game in NFL history to feature two opposing starting quarterbacks age 40 or older and their combined age (85 years and 169 days old on Sunday) is the oldest combined age of opposing starting quarterbacks in a single game (regular-season or postseason) in league annals.​

Brees, who has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 17 consecutive postseason games, needs a touchdown pass on Sunday against Tampa Bay (6:40 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes) to tie Brady (18 consecutive playoff games) for the second-longest such streak in postseason history. Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS has thrown a touchdown pass in 14 consecutive playoff games, tied for the fourth-longest such streak in postseason history.

Rodgers led the NFL with 48 touchdown passes and had a 121.5 passer rating in 2020, the second-highest single-season mark among qualified passers in NFL history. In 18 career postseason starts, Rodgers has 43 touchdowns (40 passing, three rushing) and a 100 passer rating.

With at least two touchdown passes on Saturday against the Rams (4:35 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), Rodgers would tie JOE FLACCO (eight consecutive games) for the most consecutive playoff games with at least two touchdown passes in NFL history.​

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH: The GREEN BAY PACKERS led the NFL in scoring offense (31.8 points per game) while the LOS ANGELES RAMS allowed the fewest points per game (18.5) during the 2020 regular season. Saturday’s meeting between the two clubs (4:35 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes) will mark the eighth postseason game between the top scoring offense and top scoring defense since 1990.

– DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

CHAMPS ARE HERE: The reigning Super Bowl champion KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-2) host the CLEVELAND BROWNS (12-5) in the AFC Divisional round on Sunday (3:05 PM ET, CBS/CBS All Access/ESPN Deportes). The Chiefs look to become the first team since the 2003-04 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.​

Dating back to the 2018 Divisional playoffs, the Chiefs have scored at least 30 points in five consecutive postseason games. With at least 30 points against Cleveland, Kansas City would tie NEW ORLEANS (six consecutive games from Jan. 16, 2010 to Jan. 14, 2012) for the most consecutive postseason games with at least 30 points in NFL history.

Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES has led the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game in each of the past two seasons. With a win on Sunday against Cleveland, Mahomes can become the first starting quarterback under the age of 26 to make three Championship game appearances in NFL history.

Additionally, with a win, Kansas City would become the first AFC team to host three consecutive Championship games in NFL history. The 2002-04 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES hosted three consecutive NFC Championship games.​

Defensive end FRANK CLARK has registered a sack in five consecutive postseason games and can become the third player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record a sack in six consecutive postseason games.

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

ONE IF BY GROUND, TWO IF BY AIR: In the AFC Wild Card round, Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON rushed for 136 yards and one touchdown, his second consecutive postseason game with at least 125 rushing yards.

With at least 125 rushing yards on Saturday night at Buffalo (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Universo), Jackson would become the fourth player in NFL history with at least 125 rushing yards in three consecutive postseason games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers TERRELL DAVIS (four games) and JOHN RIGGINS (three), as well as ARIAN FOSTER (three).

Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS recorded at least 100 receiving yards in both the NFC Divisional playoffs (160 receiving yards) and NFC Championship game (138) last season. Baltimore wide receiver MARQUISE BROWN had 109 receiving yards in the Ravens’ victory on Super Wild Card Weekend and had 126 receiving yards during the 2019 AFC Wild Card round last season.

On Saturday, Adams and Brown can become the seventh and eighth players in NFL history to record at least 100 receiving yards in three consecutive postseason games. Brown would also join LARRY FITZGERALD (first four games) as the only players with 100-or-more receiving yards in each of their first three career playoff games.

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

RUNNING ON THE TUNDRA: Green Bay running back AARON JONES recorded two touchdowns in both the NFC Divisional playoffs (two rushing) and NFC Championship game (one rushing, one receiving) last season, his first two career postseason games.

With at least two touchdowns on Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams (4:35 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), Jones would become the fifth player in NFL history and first since LARRY FITZGERALD (2009-10) with at least two touchdowns in three consecutive playoff games.

Los Angeles rookie running back CAM AKERS totaled 176 scrimmage yards (131 rushing, 45 receiving) in the Rams’ Super Wild Card Weekend victory, the second-most scrimmage yards by a rookie in a postseason game in the Super Bowl era.

With at least 100 scrimmage yards on Saturday at Green Bay (4:35 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), Akers can become the sixth rookie in NFL history with at least 100 scrimmage yards in consecutive postseason games.

COURTESY NFLmedia.com

Posted in NFL
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