For the first time in NFL history, four road teams all won in one weekend of the NFL Playoffs. Beginning with the AFC leg on Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs went to Houston and shut out the Texans, while the Steelers edged one out in Cincinnati against the Bengals.
Moving on to the NFC leg on Sunday, once again it was the road teams who got the job done. In the early game, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks began their attempt at reaching a third straight Super Bowl and used a strong 4th quarter and a little luck to knock off the Minnesota Vikings 10-9. In the night-cap, the Green Bay Packers turned in the best offensive performance of the weekend to defeat the Washington Redskins 35-18.
What this weekend shows is that age and experience may be more important than straight up talent when it comes to the playoffs. Despite being the higher seeds, all 4 home teams had quarterbacks making their first ever playoff start: Brian Hoyer, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins.
Bridgewater and Cousins are certainly considered to be the franchise quarterbacks for the Vikings and Redskins respectively and may well go on to have great careers, but this weekend they played second fiddle to Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, two of the best in the game.
Hoyer has been a journeyman for much of his career and struggled to stay on the field this season. However, when he was on the field, he helped the Texans win games along with their stout defense and the breakout season of DeAndre Hopkins.
McCarron served as the backup to Andy Dalton and made 4 starts after Dalton broke his thumb. He handled his new role quite well, going 2-2 and helping the Bengals to earn a #3 seed. That said, if he remains with the Bengals he should return to a backup role.
On the winning side of the weekend are quarterbacks and teams that have much more playoff experience. Alex Smith and the Chiefs last made the playoffs two season ago when they blew a huge lead to Andrew Luck and the Colts in the first round. Smith showed that the Chiefs learned from that experience and earned his second career playoff win in 4 starts.
The other three winning quarterbacks have a combined 4 Super Bowl wins. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers each have made the playoffs 8 different times and Russell Wilson has made three straight playoffs and been to the Super Bowl twice.
Something else to take from this historic weekend is that playoff seeding may be a flawed system. Both the Texans and Redskins had higher seeds despite having worse records than the teams the played against. Houston and Washington both finished at 9-7, enough to win the two weakest divisions in football this year, and played Wild Card teams, Kansas City and Green Bay, with 11 and 10 wins respectively. Additionally, the New York Jets, who finished at 10-6, the same record as the Steelers and Packers, missed out on the playoffs entirely despite finishing with better numbers than 2 playoff teams.
Next week’s match-ups will be the Steelers facing the Broncos, the Chiefs at the Patriots, the Packers at the Cardinals and the Seahawks facing the Panthers.