NFL playoffs: everything you need to know about Super Wild Card Weekend
Six games brimming with history await us as the 2021/22 NFL playoffs get underway this weekend with the wild card round.
For the first time in NFL history, the last two tickets to the playoffs were decided in the final play of the final game of the regular season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Las Vegas Raiders won their games in overtime to qualify for the postseason, in what was probably the most dramatic end to the regular season ever seen.
Following all that excitement - and all the talk that the Los Angeles Chargers and the Raiders would play out a tie that would have sent both into the playoffs at the Steelers’ expense - we now know the 14 teams who’ll be chasing a place at February’s Super Bowl.
There’s plenty of history in the six matchups awaiting us on Wild Card Weekend, so let’s take a look at what has happened when the teams have met in the past.
Las Vegas Raiders vs Cincinnati Bengals: Saturday, 4:15pm ET
In Week 11, the Bengals defeated the Raiders 32-13 in Cincinnati.
In that game, Joe Burrow threw for just 148 yards, but the Bengals picked up 159 rushing yards, including 123 by Joe Mixon, who scored touchdowns on 11 and 20-yard runs.
Derek Carr finished with 215 yards, one touchdown and an interception for Las Vegas.
The Raiders have the better head-to-head record in both the regular season (19-12) and the playoffs (2-0). Both postseason wins came in the divisional round: 31-28 in 1975 and 20-10 in 1990, in Oakland and Los Angeles, respectively.
Cincinnati are at home this time and are favourites in the betting.
New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills: Saturday, 8:15pm ET
Bill Belichick used to enjoy total dominance over the AFC East division, particularly the Buffalo Bills.
However, Buffalo have won three of their last four against the New England Patriots, including a 33-21 victory three weeks ago in Foxborough.
The two teams have met on 124 occasions (with New England registering a dominant 77-46-1 record against the Bills), but only once in the postseason. That was in 1963, when the Patriots were still based in Boston, in a divisional round game that they won 26-8 in Buffalo.
The Bills, who lost 14-10 at home to the Patriots in Week 13, are the bookies’ favourites to win on Saturday night at Orchard Park.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sunday, 1:05pm ET
Tom Brady’s Buccaneers, the reigning Super Bowl champions, beat the Eagles 28-22 in Week 6. Brady threw two touchdown passes and Leonard Fourgette ran for another two TDs.
For Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts finished up with 115 passing yards, but scored two touchdowns from six and two-yard runs in the second half.
The teams are currently even-stevens in regular-season games (8-8) and in the playoffs. They’ve met four times in the postseason, claiming two victories each.
In 1979, the Buccaneers won 24-17 at home in the divisional round; in 2000, the Eagles triumphed 21-3 in a wild card match in Philadelphia; in 2001, again in the first round of the playoffs, the Eagles were 31-9 winners on home turf; and a year later, the Bucs advanced to the Super Bowl after defeating the Eagles 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game.
The bookmakers believe we’ll see Brady and the Bucs in the divisional round.
San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys: Sunday, 4:40pm ET
The 49ers and the Cowboys have played out some real postseason classics. They’ve faced off seven times in the playoffs, with Dallas enjoying the upper hand with a 5-2 record. The Cowboys won divisional-round games in 1970 (17-10), 1971 (14-3) and 1972 (30-28), but the rivalry really got going in the 1981 season.
On 10 January 1982, almost exactly 40 years ago, the 49ers’ dynasty was born with a 29-27 victory over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. The game took its place in the NFL annals thanks to Joe Montana’s dramatic touchdown pass to Dwight Clark with 51 seconds left on the clock, a play that has since come to be known as ‘The Catch’.
One stat has often overlooked: San Francisco won that memorable game despite giving up six interceptions. Montana threw for 286 yards and Clark caught eight balls for 120 yards.
During the 90s, San Francisco and Dallas met in another three championship games: the Cowboys won in 1992 (30-20) and 1993 (38-21), before the 49ers got their revenge for those defeats in 1994, winning 38-28.
The teams haven’t met since in the postseason, and this is the first time they’ve faced each other in the wild card round. Dallas are the favourites in the betting.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs: Sunday, 8:15pm ET
In Week 16, the Chiefs beat Pittsburgh 36-10, with three touchdown passes by Patrick Mahomes, two of which for Byron Pringle. In that game at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City were without their excellent tight end, Travis Kelce, who had tested positive for covid-19 a few days earlier.
The rivalry between these two historic AFC franchises began in 1970, and since then they have met 35 times (with the Steelers 23-12 up), albeit just twice in the postseason.
In 1993, Kansas City won 27-24 after overtime in the wild card round, and in 2016, Pittsburgh triumphed 18-16 in the divisional round. Both games were played at Arrowhead. Ahead of round three, the Chiefs are the bookies’ favourites to win what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final NFL game.
Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams: Monday, 8:15pm ET
Another duel between division rivals. In the 2021 regular season, the away team had the upper hand: Arizona won 37-20 in Week 4 and the Rams returned the favour in Week 14, claiming a 30-23 victory in the desert.
The teams met for the first time in 1937, but have only been NFC West rivals since the 2002 season. With a 41-39-2 record, the Rams have so far had the better of the franchises’ matchups, just one of which has come in the playoffs.
That was a 1975 divisional round clash that the Rams won 35-23 in Los Angeles.
It will be a playoffs debut for Matthew Stafford as the Rams’ quarterback, and for Kyler Murray, who’s in his third year as the Cardinals’ QB.
The Rams are the bookmakers’ favourites to progress to the divisional round.