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2021 What To Look For - Wild Card Weekend

2021 What To Look For - Wild Card Weekend

01/14/2022
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Wild Card Weekend means the playoffs are underway for the NFL.

Like last year, two additional teams have qualified for the playoffs, and the opening round will feature six games, including the first postseason game played on a Monday since 1988.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, aiming to defend their title, are seeking to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots in 2004.

Three veteran quarterbacks will look to add to their career totals and climb the ranks in postseason accolades.

For many other things to watch for this weekend, read on…

 


MORE TEAMS, MORE GAMES, MORE WILD: 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: ARIZONA, CINCINNATI, DALLAS, LAS VEGAS, NEW ENGLAND, PHILADELPHIA 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:

SEASON

TEAM

SUPER BOWL RESULT

1980

Oakland Raiders

Defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10

1997

Denver Broncos

Defeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24

2000

Baltimore Ravens

Defeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7

2005

Pittsburgh Steelers

Defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10

2006

Indianapolis Colts*

Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17

2007

New York Giants

Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14

2010

Green Bay Packers

Defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25

2011

New York Giants*

Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17

2012

Baltimore Ravens*

Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31

2020

Tampa Bay

Defeated Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, 31-9

*Won division

 


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:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING YARDS

Tom Brady*

New England, Tampa Bay

12,449

Peyton ManningHOF

Indianapolis, Denver

7,339

Brett FavreHOF

Green Bay, Minnesota

5,855

Joe MontanaHOF

San Francisco, Kansas City

5,772

Ben Roethlisberger*

Pittsburgh

5,757

Aaron Rodgers*

Green Bay

5,669

*Active in 2021 postseason

 

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

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Tom Brady*

New England, Tampa Bay

83

Joe MontanaHOF

San Francisco, Kansas City

45

Aaron Rodgers*

Green Bay

45

Brett FavreHOF

Green Bay, Minnesota

44

Peyton ManningHOF

Indianapolis, Denver

40

Drew Brees

San Diego Chargers, New Orleans

37

Ben Roethlisberger*

Pittsburgh

34

*Active in 2021 postseason

 

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

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

POSTSEASON STARTS

Tom Brady*

New England, Tampa Bay

45

Peyton ManningHOF

Indianapolis, Denver

27

Brett FavreHOF

Green Bay, Minnesota

24

Joe MontanaHOF

San Francisco, Kansas City

23

Ben Roethlisberger*

Pittsburgh

22

John ElwayHOF

Denver

21

Aaron Rodgers*

Green Bay

20

*Active in 2021 postseason

 

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:

TEAM

GAMES (DATES)

New Orleans Saints

6 (Jan. 16, 2010 – Jan. 14, 2012)

Kansas City Chiefs

5 (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 2, 2020)

 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4* (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:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

GAMES (DATES)

Thurman ThomasHOF

Buffalo

9 (Jan. 17, 1993 – Jan. 2, 1999)

Emmitt SmithHOF

Dallas

8 (Jan. 23, 1994 – Dec. 28, 1996)

Marcus AllenHOF

L.A. Raiders

7 (Jan. 8, 1983 – Jan. 5, 1986)

Terrell DavisHOF

Denver

7 (Jan. 4, 1997 – Jan. 17, 1999)

John RigginsHOF

Washington

7 (Jan. 15, 1983 – Dec. 30, 1984)

 

 

 

Leonard Fournette

Jacksonville, Tampa Bay

6* (Jan. 14, 2018 – Feb. 7, 2021)

*Active streak

 


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:

PLAYER

TEAM

CONSECUTIVE GAMES

Tom Brady

New England

12 (Feb. 1, 2015 – Feb. 3, 2019)

Drew Brees

New Orleans

9 (Feb. 7, 2010 – Jan. 13, 2019)

Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City

8* (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 FLACCO, DONOVAN 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:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

GAMES WITH 100 REC. YARDS

Jerry RiceHOF

San Francisco, Oakland Raiders

8

Julian Edelman

New England

6

Michael IrvinHOF

Dallas

6

Travis Kelce

Kansas City

6


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.


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 DEFENSE

NO. 2 DEFENSE

SEASON

ROUND

RESULT

Buffalo

New England

2021

AFC Wild Card

???

Pittsburgh

Green Bay

2010

Super Bowl XLV

GB 31, PIT 25

Pittsburgh

New England

2004

AFC Championship

 NE 41, PIT 27

Tampa Bay

Philadelphia

2002

NFC Championship

TB 27, PHI 10

Chicago

Philadelphia

2001

NFC Divisional

PHI 33, CHI 19

Baltimore

Tennessee

2000

AFC Divisional

BAL 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 QB

TEAM

SEASON

ROUND

OPPONENT

RESULT

Mac Jones*

New England

2021

AFC Wild Card

at Buffalo

???

Robert Griffin III

Washington

2012

NFC Wild Card

Seattle

SEA 24, WAS 14

Joe Flacco

Baltimore

2008

AFC Championship

at Pittsburgh

PIT 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 TEAM

AWAY TEAM

SEASON

ROUND

RESULT

Buffalo ( 194)

New England ( 159)

2021

AFC Wild Card

???

Baltimore Colts ( 171)

Pittsburgh ( 204)

1976

AFC Divisional

PIT 40, BAL 14

Dallas ( 179)

L.A. Rams ( 210)

1973

NFC Divisional

DAL 27, LAR 16

 


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:

ROUND

DATE

GAME

RESULT

2021 NFC Wild Card

Jan. 17, 2022

Arizona at L.A. Rams

???

1988 NFC Wild Card

Dec. 26, 1988

L.A. Rams at Minnesota

MIN 28, LAR 17

1983 NFC Wild Card

Dec. 26, 1983

L.A. Rams at Dallas

LAR 24, DAL 17

1977 NFC Divisional

Dec. 26, 1977

Minnesota at L.A. Rams

MIN 14, LAR 7

1977 NFC Divisional

Dec, 26, 1977

Chicago at Dallas

DAL 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:

DATE

GAME

QUARTERBACKS (DRAFT YEARS)

RESULT

Jan. 17, 2022

Arizona at L.A. Rams

Kyler Murray (2019) & Matthew Stafford (2009)

???

Jan. 4, 2014

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Alex Smith (2005) & Andrew Luck (2012)

IND 45, KC 44

Jan. 9, 2000

Dallas at Minnesota

Troy AikmanHOF (1989) & Jeff George (1990)

MIN 27, DAL 10

Jan. 1, 1995

New England at Cleveland

Drew 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)

TEAM

FIRST POSTSEASON START

Baker Mayfield (2018)

Cleveland

2020 AFC Wild Card at Pittsburgh

Alex Smith (2005)

San Francisco

2011 NFC Divisional vs. New Orleans

Michael Vick (2000)

Atlanta

2002 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:

ROUND

GAME

COACHES

COMBINED AGE

1970 Divisional

Miami at Oakland Raiders

Don ShulaHOF & John MaddenHOF

75 years, 253 days

2020 Divisional

L.A. Rams at Green Bay

Sean McVay & Matt LaFleur

76 years, 67 days

1972 Divisional

Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh

John MaddenHOF & Chuck NollHOF

77 years, 245 days

2021 Wild Card

Arizona at L.A. Rams

Kliff Kingsbury & Sean McVay

78 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.
 


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:

PLAYER

TEAM

 ROUND

PASSING YARDS

Dak Prescott

Dallas

 2016 NFC Divisional vs. Green Bay

302

Andrew Luck

Indianapolis

 2012 AFC Wild Card at Baltimore

288

Andy Dalton

Cincinnati

 2011 AFC Wild Card at Houston

257

 


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:

PLAYER

TEAM

 ROUND

RECEIVING YARDS

DK Metcalf

Seattle

 2019 NFC Wild Card at Philadelphia

160

Jeremy Maclin

Philadelphia

 2009 NFC Wild Card at Dallas

146

Keith Jackson

Philadelphia

 1988 NFC Divisional at Chicago

142

 

 
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:

PLAYER

TEAM

 ROUND

SCRIMMAGE YARDS

Billy Cannon

Houston Oilers

 1960 AFL Championship

178

Cam Akers

L.A. Rams

 2020 NFC Wild Card at Seattle

176

Paul Lowe

L.A. Chargers

 1960 AFL Championship

170

 


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.

 
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will recognize individual and team “Milestones” throughout the 2021 season. Joining the Hall in celebrating the year’s accomplishments will be 11 of the health systems that are network providers providing quality medical care and services across the country in partnership with Hall of Fame Health. They are Baylor Scott & WhiteVanderbilt University Medical CenterHonorHealthFlagler Health Tampa General HospitalOhioHealthNorthShore HealthSystemProvidence St. John’sHCA Gulf CoastUCSF Health and Array Behavioral Care
 
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