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What To Look For – Super Wild Card Weekend

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MORE TEAMS, MORE GAMES, Wilder: The addition of a third Wild Card team in each conference and the subsequent expansion of the playoffs last year has resulted in a Super Wild Card Weekend of NFL action. For the second consecutive season, there will be six games, with two on Saturday, January 15, three on Sunday, January 16, and for the first time since 1988, an NFL postseason game will be played on a Monday (January 17).

Seven of the 12 teams in action this weekend are new to the postseason in 2021, having missed the playoffs a year ago: ARIZONACINCINNATIDALLASLAS VEGASNEW ENGLANDPHILADELPHIA and SAN FRANCISCO. Two of those teams – Cincinnati (AFC North) and Dallas (NFC East) – won their divisions.

Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before. Additionally, at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years, including 2021.

Each of the 12 teams playing this weekend hope to earn their first of four wins needed to capture the Lombardi Trophy. Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl 10 times, including the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS last season. 

The Wild Card round participants to win the Super Bowl:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWL RESULT
1980Oakland RaidersDefeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10
1997Denver BroncosDefeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24
2000Baltimore RavensDefeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7
2005Pittsburgh SteelersDefeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10
2006Indianapolis Colts*Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17
2007New York GiantsDefeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14 
2010Green Bay PackersDefeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25
2011New York Giants*Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17
2012Baltimore Ravens*Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31
2020Tampa BayDefeated Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, 31-9
*Won division  

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

POSTSEASON ALL-TIME LEADING PASSERS: Three of the top seven most prolific postseason quarterbacks are a part of the 2021 playoff field vying for the Super Bowl LVI title.

Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters the 2021 postseason as the league’s all-time playoff leader in games started by a quarterback (45), wins by a starting quarterback (34), passing yards (12,449), touchdown passes (83), Super Bowl titles (seven) and Super Bowl MVPs (five). He led the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl LV title last season and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING as the only starting quarterbacks to win Super Bowls with multiple franchises.

Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS, who will make his 2021 playoff debut in the NFC Divisional playoffs, ranks tied for second in postseason touchdown passes (45), sixth in postseason passing yards (5,669) and seventh in postseason games started (20) among quarterbacks all-time.

Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER enters the 2021 postseason ranking fifth all-time in passing yards (5,757), fifth in quarterback starts (22) and seventh in touchdown passes (34) in playoff history. 

This postseason, both Rodgers and Roethlisberger can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers BRETT FAVRE (5,855 passing yards, third-most) and JOE MONTANA (5,772, fourth-most) on the all-time postseason passing yards list. 

With a Pittsburgh victory against Kansas City on Sunday night (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Peacock/Telemundo), Roethlisberger would tie Pro Football Hall of Famers TERRY BRADSHAW (14 wins), JOHN ELWAY (14) and PEYTON MANNING (14) for the third-most playoff wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)PASSING YARDS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay12,449
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver7,339
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota5,855
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City5,772
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh5,757
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay5,669
*Active in 2021 postseason

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason passing touchdowns in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay83
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City45
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay45
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota44
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver40
Drew BreesSan Diego Chargers, New Orleans37
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh34
*Active in 2021 postseason

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason starts in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)POSTSEASON STARTS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay45
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver27
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota24
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City23
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh22
John ElwayHOFDenver21
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay20
*Active in 2021 postseason

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

CHAMPS ARE HERE: The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS enter the 2021 postseason aiming to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since New England in 2004. Last year, they became the first team in NFL history to score at least 30 points in four consecutive playoff games within a single postseason in route to a Super Bowl LV championship.

If Tampa Bay scores at least 30 points against Philadelphia on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), it will become the third team ever to score at least 30 points in five-or-more consecutive postseason games. 

The teams to score at least 30 points in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

TEAMGAMES (DATES)
New Orleans Saints6 (Jan. 16, 2010 – Jan. 14, 2012)
Kansas City Chiefs5 (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 2, 2020)
  
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4* (Jan. 9, 2021 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak 

Tampa Bay running back LEONARD FOURNETTE totaled 448 scrimmage yards (112 per game) in the Buccaneers’ four playoff games last year and scored a touchdown in each contest. Going back to his 2017 postseason with Jacksonville, Fournette has scored a touchdown in six consecutive playoff games. 

With a touchdown against Philadelphia, Fournette would become the sixth running back all-time to score a touchdown in seven-or-more consecutive postseason games. 

The running backs with the most consecutive postseason games with a touchdown in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES (DATES)
Thurman ThomasHOFBuffalo9 (Jan. 17, 1993 – Jan. 2, 1999)
Emmitt SmithHOFDallas8 (Jan. 23, 1994 – Dec. 28, 1996)
Marcus AllenHOFL.A. Raiders7 (Jan. 8, 1983 – Jan. 5, 1986)
Terrell DavisHOFDenver7 (Jan. 4, 1997 – Jan. 17, 1999)
John RigginsHOFWashington7 (Jan. 15, 1983 – Dec. 30, 1984)
   
Leonard FournetteJacksonville, Tampa Bay6* (Jan. 14, 2018 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak  

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

KANSAS CITY STARS: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS enter the 2021 postseason aiming to become the fourth team ever to advance to three consecutive Super Bowls, joining Miami (1971-73), Buffalo (1990-93) and New England (2016-18). 

Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES is expected to make his ninth-career postseason start, having surpassed 250 passing yards in each of his previous eight playoff starts. With at least 250 passing yards against Pittsburgh on Sunday night (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Telemundo/Peacock), Mahomes will tie DREW BREES (nine consecutive games from Feb. 7, 2010 to Jan. 13, 2019) for the second-most consecutive postseason games with at least 250 passing yards NFL history. Only TOM BRADY(12 from Feb. 1, 2015 to Feb. 3, 2019) has more. 

The players with at least 250 passing yards in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMCONSECUTIVE GAMES
Tom BradyNew England12 (Feb. 1, 2015 – Feb. 3, 2019)
Drew BreesNew Orleans9 (Feb. 7, 2010 – Jan. 13, 2019)
Patrick MahomesKansas City8* (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak

Mahomes has guided the Chiefs to a playoff win each of the past three years and with a victory on Sunday night will become the fourth quarterback ever to win at least one postseason game in four of his first five seasons, joining JOE FLACCODONOVAN MCNABB and RUSSELL WILSON.

Mahomes could also become the sixth quarterback with at least one victory in each of his first four postseason appearances.

Tight end TRAVIS KELCE surpassed 100 receiving yards in each of Kansas City’s three playoff games last season and can join ANTONIO BROWN (four consecutive games from Jan. 3, 2015 to Jan. 15, 2017) and LARRY FITZGERALD (four consecutive games from Jan. 3, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2009) as the only players ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in four consecutive postseason games.

In his career, Kelce has recorded at least 100 receiving yards in six postseason games, tied for the second-most ever. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (eight games) has more.

The players with the most 100-yard receiving games in NFL postseason history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES WITH 100+ REC. YARDS
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco, Oakland Raiders8
Julian EdelmanNew England6
Michael IrvinHOFDallas6
Travis KelceKansas City6


Kelce also recorded at least 10 receptions in both the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LV last year and can become the first player ever to register at least 10 catches in three consecutive postseason games and the first player in postseason history to record four games with at least 10 receptions.

Kelce has 992 receiving yards in 12 career postseason games and can join ROB GRONKOWSKI (1,273 receiving yards) as the only tight ends with at least 1,000 receiving yards in postseason history.

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

TOP OF THE CHARTS: The BUFFALO BILLS finished the regular season with the top-ranked scoring defense (17.0 points per game allowed), while the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ranked second (17.8 points per game allowed). 

After splitting their regular-season series, the teams will meet for a third time on Saturday night in Buffalo (8:15 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+). Since 2000, this will mark the sixth postseason matchup to feature the top-two scoring defenses.

The playoff games to feature the top-two scoring defenses since 2000:

NO. 1 DEFENSENO. 2 DEFENSESEASONROUNDRESULT
BuffaloNew England2021AFC Wild Card???
PittsburghGreen Bay2010Super Bowl XLVGB 31, PIT 25
PittsburghNew England2004AFC Championship NE 41, PIT 27
Tampa BayPhiladelphia2002NFC ChampionshipTB 27, PHI 10
ChicagoPhiladelphia2001NFC DivisionalPHI 33, CHI 19
BaltimoreTennessee2000AFC DivisionalBAL 24, TEN 10


If New England rookie quarterback MAC JONES makes the start on Saturday, he would become the third rookie quarterback to start a playoff game against the top-ranked scoring defense in the Super Bowl era, joining JOE FLACCO(2008 AFC Championship Game) and ROBERT GRIFFIN III (2012 NFC Wild Card round). 

The rookie quarterbacks to start a postseason game against the top-ranked scoring defense in the Super Bowl era:

ROOKIE QBTEAMSEASONROUNDOPPONENTRESULT
Mac Jones*New England2021AFC Wild Cardat Buffalo???
Robert Griffin IIIWashington2012NFC Wild CardSeattleSEA 24, WAS 14
Joe FlaccoBaltimore 2008AFC Championshipat PittsburghPIT 23, BAL 14
*Expected to start

The Bills led the league in point differential (+194) while the Patriots ranked third (+159). The meeting between Buffalo and New England marks the first Wild Card game since 1978 and third postseason game since 1970 to occur in the first round of the playoffs to feature two teams that each had a +150-point differential.

The first-round playoff meetings between clubs each with a +150-point differential since 1970:

HOME TEAMAWAY TEAMSEASONROUNDRESULT
Buffalo (+194)New England (+159)2021AFC Wild Card???
Baltimore Colts (+171)Pittsburgh (+204)1976AFC DivisionalPIT 40, BAL 14
Dallas (+179)L.A. Rams (+210)1973NFC DivisionalDAL 27, LAR 16


— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

MONDAY NIGHT HISTORY: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS host the ARIZONA CARDINALS on Monday night, (8:15 PM ET, (ESPN/ABC/ESPN2/ESPN+/ESPN Deportes), it will mark the fifth postseason game played on a Monday in the Super Bowl era and first since the 1988 season. Each of the previous three games have also featured the Rams. 

The Monday playoff games in the Super Bowl era:

ROUNDDATEGAMERESULT
2021 NFC Wild CardJan. 17, 2022Arizona at L.A. Rams???
1988 NFC Wild CardDec. 26, 1988L.A. Rams at MinnesotaMIN 28, LAR 17
1983 NFC Wild CardDec. 26, 1983L.A. Rams at DallasLAR 24, DAL 17
1977 NFC DivisionalDec. 26, 1977Minnesota at L.A. RamsMIN 14, LAR 7
1977 NFC DivisionalDec, 26, 1977Chicago at DallasDAL 37, CHI 7

Each team enters the game with a starting quarterback that was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Arizona’s KYLER MURRAY was selected first overall in 2019 and Los Angeles’ MATTHEW STAFFORD was chosen with the first pick by Detroit in 2009. Monday’s meeting will mark the fourth-ever first-round playoff game featuring two starting quarterbacks each selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. 

The first-round postseason games featuring two starting quarterbacks each selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft:

DATEGAMEQUARTERBACKS (DRAFT YEARS)RESULT
Jan. 17, 2022Arizona at L.A. RamsKyler Murray (2019) & Matthew Stafford (2009)???
Jan. 4, 2014Kansas City at IndianapolisAlex Smith (2005) & Andrew Luck (2012)IND 45, KC 44
Jan. 9, 2000Dallas at MinnesotaTroy AikmanHOF (1989) & Jeff George (1990)MIN 27, DAL 10
Jan. 1, 1995New England at ClevelandDrew Bledsoe (1993) & Vinny Testaverde (1987) CLE 20, NE 13

Stafford will be making his fourth-career postseason start (first with Los Angeles), while Murray will be making his postseason debut. With a victory, Murray would become the fourth quarterback that was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft to win his first career postseason start since 2000.

The quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft to win their first career postseason start since 2000:

PLAYER (DRAFT YEAR)TEAMFIRST POSTSEASON START
Baker Mayfield (2018)Cleveland2020 AFC Wild Card at Pittsburgh
Alex Smith (2005)San Francisco2011 NFC Divisional vs. New Orleans
Michael Vick (2000)Atlanta2002 NFC Wild Card at Green Bay

With Arizona’s KLIFF KINGSBURY (42 years old) and Los Angeles’ SEAN MCVAY (35), Monday’s game will also feature the fourth-youngest combined age between two opposing head coaches in a postseason game since 1970. 

The youngest combined age of head coaches in postseason games since 1970:

ROUNDGAMECOACHES COMBINED AGE
1970 DivisionalMiami at Oakland RaidersDon ShulaHOF & John MaddenHOF 75 years, 253 days
2020 DivisionalL.A. Rams at Green BaySean McVay & Matt LaFleur76 years, 67 days
1972 DivisionalOakland Raiders at PittsburghJohn MaddenHOF & Chuck NollHOF77 years, 245 days
2021 Wild CardArizona at L.A. RamsKliff Kingsbury & Sean McVay78 years, 154 days


Arizona running back JAMES CONNER rushed for two touchdowns in each of the two meetings against the Rams this season. With two rushing touchdowns on Monday, he would become the first player ever to record two rushing touchdowns against one team, three times in a single season. 

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

HEY, ROOKIE: Several top rookies from the 2021 season are expected to make their postseason debuts this weekend. 

New England quarterback MAC JONES led all rookies in completion percentage (67.6), passing yards (3,801), touchdown passes (22) and passer rating (92.5). He is bidding to become just the fourth rookie quarterback since 2000 and first since RUSSELL WILSON in 2012 to go on the road and win his first NFL postseason start.

Jones became the third rookie quarterback to ever win six regular-season road games, joining DAK PRESCOTT (2016) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (2004). With a victory at Buffalo on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, CBS, Paramount+), Jones would join JOE FLACCO (seven road wins in 2008) as the only rookie quarterbacks ever to win seven road games, including the postseason. 

Jones surpassed 250 passing yards in seven games this season, the most among all rookies. 

The rookies with the most passing yards ever in their first career postseason start:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDPASSING YARDS
Dak PrescottDallas 2016 NFC Divisional vs. Green Bay302
Andrew LuckIndianapolis 2012 AFC Wild Card at Baltimore288
Andy DaltonCincinnati 2011 AFC Wild Card at Houston257


Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE is making his postseason debut against Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon (4:35 PM ET, NBC/Peacock/Universo). Chase ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,455 receiving yards this season, the most-ever by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. 

He surpassed 100 receiving yards in five games and became the first rookie ever and the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record multiple games with at least 200 receiving yards in a single season. Philadelphia’s DEVONTA SMITH (935 receiving yards this season) is also expected to make his postseason debut this weekend at Tampa Bay. 

The rookies with the most receiving yards ever in their first career postseason game:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDRECEIVING YARDS
DK MetcalfSeattle 2019 NFC Wild Card at Philadelphia160
Jeremy MaclinPhiladelphia 2009 NFC Wild Card at Dallas146
Keith JacksonPhiladelphia 1988 NFC Divisional at Chicago142

 
Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS is making his postseason debut on Sunday night at Kansas City (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Telemundo/Peacock). During the regular season, Harris led all rookies and ranked fourth in the league with 1,667 scrimmage yards (1,200 rushing, 467 receiving). He surpassed 100 scrimmage yards in nine games, including in Week 16 against the Chiefs (110 scrimmage yards).

The rookies with the most scrimmage yards ever in their first career postseason game:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDSCRIMMAGE YARDS
Billy CannonHouston Oilers 1960 AFL Championship178
Cam AkersL.A. Rams 2020 NFC Wild Card at Seattle176
Paul LoweL.A. Chargers 1960 AFL Championship170


San Francisco rookie running back ELIJAH MITCHELL (963 rushing yards this season) and New England rookie running back RHAMONDRE STEVENSON (606) are also each expected to make their postseason debuts this weekend. In last year’s postseason, Los Angeles Rams running back CAM AKERS (131 rushing yards against Seattle in the Wild Card round) was the only rookie to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game.

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