The NFL calls it Wild Card Weekend for a reason, and with crazy comebacks, missed chip-shot kicks and 30 yards in flags without even a snap, this weekend was as Wild—capital W—as it gets. Here are a few worthwhile notes from the first four playoff games of the year.


The four road playoff teams in the NFL Wild Card round all won for the first time in history this weekend, dating back to the league’s playoff expansion from 10 teams to 12 in 1990. The last time all road teams won in Wild Card weekend was 1989, the last year of just two Wild Card games.

Four times since 2004, three Wild Card games were won by teams playing away from home, but never, until this year, had all four teams traveled in the first weekend and continued on in the playoffs.

Since 2002, when the NFL expanded to eight divisions, cutting the number of Wild Card teams from three to two in each conference, the road teams are now 26-30, hardly much of a home field advantage. Even before this season’s sweep, home teams in the Wild Card round had won just under 58 percent of their games under the current format, with that mark dropping below 54 percent now.

It’s worth noting that from 1990­—when the league expanded the playoffs to 12 teams—to 2001—the last year of three divisions and three Wild Card teams in each conference—the road teams’ collective record on Wild Card weekend was 13-35. So either the NFL is getting what it wants with (usually) more competitive first-weekend match-ups, or it’s being foolhardy in continuing to give division winners first-round home games regardless of record.

Things get historically tougher on the road as the playoffs go along. Since 2002, road teams in the NFL playoffs are a combined 53-87, including this weekend’s sweep. Road teams in the Divisional round are just 18-34 since 2002, with three road teams winning in the same weekend just once. A road sweep in the Conference title round has happened just once since 2002, and thrice since 1990’s expansion. Road teams are 9-17 in the Conference title round since 2002 and 20-30 since 1990.



Kansas City’s shutout victory over Houston was the first playoff shutout since the Carolina Panthers blanked the New York Giants 23-0 in the Wild Card round in 2005.

Per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN, the win was also the first shutout in Andy Reid’s coaching career, spanning 293 games in the regular season and postseason.

The shutout was the Chiefs’ first in their franchise playoff history, in 24 games, spanning back to 1962. The last shutout the Chiefs recorded in any game was a Week 7 blanking of Oakland, 28-0, in the 2011 NFL season.



While searching for the last playoff shutout in the NFL, an interesting note about low-scoring games showed up. The last time two teams in the same Wild Card round failed to reach double-digit points was 2005, with the aforementioned shutout by Carolina and New England’s 28-3 win over Jacksonville that same Wild Card weekend.

The last time two teams failed to reach double figures in any round was back in 2009—now seven playoff seasons ago—when Indianapolis beat Baltimore 20-3 and Minnesota defeated dallas 34-3 in the Divisional round.

This is kind of nuts, but before this weekend—when the Texans were shut out and Seattle held Minnesota to nine points in that frigid 10-9 win—two teams in an ENTIRE playoff season were held to single digits just three times since 2002.

Again, there are 11 playoff games each season, and in the last 12 years two teams were held to single digits in the same postseason just three times. It happened this weekend, already.

In 2002 there were four teams held to single-digits (or less) that postseason. Since that year, there have been just 15 teams held to single digits (or less) in the playoffs, spanning 132 games.



In Pete Carrol’s first year in Seattle, the Seahawks finished 7-9 and qualified for the playoffs, winning one game before falling in the divisional round. In those two games, Seattle surrendered a combined 71 points.

Seattle missed the playoffs the following year, but since 2012, they have played in nine playoff games, including two Super Bowls, and have given up just 160 points, for an average of 17.8 points per game.

Carroll’s defense has given up 30 or more points in the playoffs just once since 2012—a 30-28 loss to Atlanta in 2012—but has twice as many games under 20 points (6) than over (3).

Per Elias, Seattle’s win was the fifth playoff victory to come under Carroll after his team was down by two scores or more, an NFL record.



Nine for 81. Eight for 111. Ten for 78.

Eighteen for 221.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals combined for 18 penalties and 221 yards—and that’s without one declined penalty for defensive holding on Cincinnati—more in both yards and flags than any other two Wild Card games combined this weekend.

What’s somewhat amazing is that Pittsburgh was flagged 10 times for 142 yards to the Bengals’ eight for 79 yards and won, after the final two penalties for Cincinnati—whether you agree with either, both or neither—proved the difference in the game.

In a game marred in extra-curricular pushing, shoving and hard hitting, it’s incredible that just three of the 18 penalties were called in the fourth quarter. Until the 22-second mark of the final quarter, the only flag in the fourth came on the third scrimmage play, a 42-yard pass interference penalty on Will Allen, who took down A.J. Green, leading to Cincinnati’s first touchdown.

The next flag thrown was the unnecessary roughness call on Vontaze Burfict before Adam Jones got the second 15-yarder walked off for unsportsmanlike conduct after a spat with Pittsburgh assistant Joey Porter. That was 30 yards on one play, and 72 in the quarter on three flags, and still the rest of the game saw more flags than any other game this weekend. The way the game ended, it’s hard to believe how the rest of that quarter had gone.



The comeback and insane finish to the Steelers win over the Bengals was noteworthy, but it wasn’t historic. Per Elias (via ESPN):

Cincinnati became the sixth team to erase a fourth-quarter deficit of 15+ points in a postseason game. Just two of the six eventually won the game.


I… guess?

Kirk Cousins is a free agent at the end of the year, which, for Washington, means right now after losing 35-18 at home to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Cousins had an interesting year for Washington, starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, and leading his team to the playoffs; their first trip since Robert Griffin III’s rookie season (note: also Cousins’ rookie season).

Much has been made this week that in regular season home games for Washington, Cousins completed 74.7 percent of his passes for 16 scores and just three turnovers. He also ran for four scores. On the road, Cousins had a completion percentage of 65.4, with 13 passing and one rushing touchdowns, to 11 turnovers.

Cousins was 29-of-46 against the Packers for 329 yards and one touchdown (which should have been two if DeSean Jackson had extended the football past the goalline). Cousins also ran for a score, and fumbled three times, losing just one. He wasn’t the reason Washington lost the game, but his performance does take a bit of the late-season shine off his year, leading to questions of how much Washington will be willing to invest in him this off-season.

Let’s start the “Is Kirk Cousins elite”conversations now.

Seriously…should we? In December and January, Cousins was 111-of-151 (73.5 percent) with 13 touchdowns to just one interception. He certainly peaked as the season went along, leading Washington to the playoffs.

Over the season, his numbers dipped as the game got late, however. He had a 71.4 percent completion rate in the first half of games, down to 67.2 in the second half. His completion rate in the fourth quarter was the lowest of any quarter, down to 65.9 percent, but he did throw seven fourth-quarter touchdowns to just one interception. He also had 22 touchdowns to no interceptions in the opponents’ red zone over the course of the season.

He was good. And if you are in Washington, yes, you should like that. And yet, is he elite? Because he’s probably going to need to be to advance in the playoffs. At least that’s the case this year.



This is rightly skewed, because Peyton Manning did a whole bunch of nothing to help his team get to the playoffs this year, the second half of Week 17 somewhat notwithstanding. But it is interesting to see how elite each of the quarterbacks still in the playoffs has been, and where each was drafted, with five of the eight remaining signal callers still with the teams that drafted them.

In the NFC, Cam Newton had the best year of his career for Carolina. He was taken first overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. He faces Russell Wilson, who made a case himself for MVP this year after back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl. Wilson was taken in the third round, 75th overall, by Seattle in the 2012 NFL Draft.

In the other NFC divisional game Carson Palmer, yet another MVP candidate this season, was drafted first overall in 2003 by Cincinnati. Palmer is with the third team in his NFL career, after a career resurgent stint in Oakland. He hosts Aaron Rodgers, two-time and reigning NFL MVP, who was taken 24th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by Green Bay.

Also taken in the first round of that year’s draft was Alex Smith, who was the top pick for San Francisco. Smith, like Palmer, has had a career resurgence of the last few seasons, leading Kansas City to the playoffs this year despite losing his starting running back early in the year. Smith isn’t quite the elite slinger the others on this list are, and he was hovering over the “bust” moniker after his time in San Francisco, but he has done a solid job reinventing himself with the Chiefs.

Smith will face Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend, the notoriously-late pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Selected in the 6th round, and 199 overall, two-time MVP Brady (and to a lesser extent Wilson) have shown that you don’t need to be a first-round pick to become one of the game’s best.

It doesn’t hurt, though, as Peyton Manning has shown over his career. Manning was the top pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, taking the Colts to the playoffs in 11 of the 12 years he was healthy enough to play, winning one Super Bowl. In his four seasons in Denver, the Broncos have won 12 or more games every year, making it to the Super Bowl once. He has five MVP trophies, the most of any player. And yet, just the one Super Bowl.

The guy he faces, Ben Roethlisberger has no MVPs, but two Super Bowl rings. Roethlisberger was the third quarterback selected in the 2004 NFL Draft, going 11th overall.

Having a franchise quarterback is no guarantee of playoff success, but it seemed to help four teams advance on Wild Card weekend. Plus, not having one—Houston, we look in your general direction—could be a harbinger for failure.

About Dan Levy

Dan Levy has written a lot of words in a lot of places, most recently as the National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. He was host of The Morning B/Reakaway on Sirius XM's Bleacher Report Radio for the past year, and previously worked at Sporting News and Rutgers University, with a concentration on sports, media and public relations.