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Saturday and Sunday Wild Card Broadcast Information (All times listed are Eastern)

ATLANTA (11-5) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5), 8:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Scott Kaplan; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Atlanta), 82 (Los Angeles Rams); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Atlanta), 82 (Los Angeles Rams)

Tennessee (9-7) at Kansas City (10-6), 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN/ABC: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (Field reporter), Adam Schefter (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Dan Miller, Trent Green, Hub Arkush; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Tennessee), 82 (Kansas City); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Tennessee), 82 (Kansas City)

Buffalo (9-7) at Jacksonville (10-6), 1 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter), Jay Feely (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Ian Eagle, Mike Mayock, Steve Tasker; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Buffalo), 82 (Jacksonville); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Buffalo), 82 (Jacksonville)

Carolina (11-5) at New Orleans (11-5), 4:30 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter), Chris Myers (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Kugler, Dan Fouts; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Carolina), 82 (New Orleans); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Carolina), 82 (New Orleans)

Saturday and Sunday Officials
ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:30 p.m. Saturday: Ed Hochuli
Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Jeff Triplette
Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday: John Hussey
Carolina at New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. Sunday: Tony Corrente

Saturday and Sunday Odds (Home teams in Caps)

Saturday

Favorite           Spread  Underdog       O/U
KANSAS CITY        – 8     Tennessee      44 1/2
LOS ANGELES RAMS   – 6 1/2 Atlanta        49

Sunday

Favorite           Spread  Underdog       O/U
JACKSONVILLE       – 8     Buffalo        39 1/2
NEW ORLEANS        – 6 1/2 Carolina       48 1/2

Saturday and Sunday Injury Report

ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m. Saturday

ATLANTA – Atlanta reports no injuries

Los Angeles Rams
DOUBTFUL – WR Michael Thomas (Ankle)

Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:35 Saturday

Tennessee
OUT: RB DeMarco Murray (Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: G Quinton Spain (Back)

Kansas City
OUT: DB Phillip Gaines (Elbow)
DOUBTFUL: DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Tamba Hall (Knee), DE Jarvis Jenkins (Knee), WR Albert Wilson (Hamstring)

Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday

Buffalo
OUT: CB Shareece Wright (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: RB LeSean McCoy (Ankle), LB Matt Milano (Hamstring), T Jordan Mills (Ankle), WR Deonte Thompson (Shoulder), QB Joe Webb (Ankle)

Jacksonville
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Lee (Ankle), RB T.J. Yeldon (Illness)

Carolina at New Orleans, 4:35 p.m. Sunday

Carolina
QUESTIONABLE: WR Devin Funchess (Shoulder), T Matt Kalil (Illness), G Trai Turner (Concussion), QB Derek Anderson (Illness)

New Orleans
QUESTIONABLE: DT Trey Hendrickson (Ankle), T Terron Armstead (Thigh)

Saturday and Sunday Weather
ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:30 p.m. Saturday: Mostly cloudy and 64 degrees
Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. Saturday: Mostly sunny and 29 degrees
Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Sunday: Mostly cloudy and 54 degrees
Carolina at New Orleans, 4:30 p.m. Sunday: Game indoors

Broadcast Information, Officials and Injury Report courtesy the National Football League; odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel

 

17 weeks of regular season football done.

Weeks of OTA’s, training camp, the draft, done.

After an exciting finish to the regular season, the NFL’s second season has arrived.

The NFL postseason begins with four games on Wild Card Weekend. Below is the Playoff schedule (All times Eastern)

Wild Card Round

Saturday, January 6
AFC – Tennessee at Kansas City, 4:35 p.m. on ESPN/ABC
NFC – ATLANTA at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m. on NBC

Sunday, January 7
AFC – Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC – Carolina at New Orleans, 4:40 p.m. on FOX

Divisonal Round

Saturday, January 13
NFC: New Orleans/Carolina/Atlanta at Philadelphia, 4:35 p.m. on NBC
AFC: Kansas City/Tennessee/Buffalo at New England, 8:15 p.m. on CBS

Sunday, January 14
AFC: Jacksonville/Kansas City/Tennessee at Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC: Los Angeles Rams/New Orleans/Carolina at Minnesota, 4:40 p.m. on FOX

Championship Round
AFC: 3:05 p.m. on CBS
NFC: 6:40 p.m. on FOX

Week 17 came right down to the wire. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010. Three playoff berths (Atlanta, Buffalo and Tennessee) and one division (NFC South) were decided on the last day of the regular season.

The final 12 teams are now set. It doesn’t matter how you got here. All that matters is that you’re here. Here is the seeding for both the AFC and NFC.

AFC
1. New England (13-3, AFC East champion)
2. Pittsburgh (13-3, AFC North champion)
3. Jacksonville (10-6, AFC South champion)
4. Kansas City (10-6, AFC West champion)
5. Tennessee (9-7)
6. Buffalo (9-7)

NFC
1. Philadelphia (13-3, NFC East champion)
2. Minnesota (13-3, NFC North champion)
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-5, NFC West champion)
4. New Orleans (11-5, NFC South champion)
5. Carolina (11-5)
6. Atlanta (10-6)

The NFL playoffs, which conclude on February 4 with Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on NBC at 6:30 p.m, begins this Saturday and Sunday with Wild Card Weekend.

The Eagles and Jaguars both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Five of the eight division winners – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year.

And there are eight new teams in this year’s playoff field – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Panthers in the NFC and Jaguars, Titans and Bills in the AFC – which is tied for the most in a season (2003) since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. Since 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

For 12 teams that are taking part in the 2017 NFL playoffs, it’s their second season. Forget what you did in the past. It’s what you do now. It’s a different season. In the regular season, you lose, you play next week. Here, it’s win and you advance; lose and your next game is next year.

While that’s going on, there are six coaching positions that are now open. The New York Giants, Arizona, Chicago Oakland, Indianapolis and Detroit have hung their “Now Hiring” signs out. Get those resumes ready.

Of the 12 teams that are in the post-season, Atlanta, New England, Pittsburgh and Kansas City are repeat customers from last year, while the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Minnesota return to the post-season, with the Bills breaking the longest drought, as they are in for the first time since the Clinton adminstration (1999).

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY IN WEEK 17: New England, who defeated the New York Jets, 26-6 clinched, the Number 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Pittsburgh, who won the AFC North, are the Number 2 seed in the AFC and will have a first-round bye.

Jacksonville, who won the AFC South, are the Number 3 seed and will host Buffalo in the Wild Card round at 1:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon on CBS. Buffalo, who defeated Miami 22-16, clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1999.

Kansas City, who won the AFC West, are the Number 4 seed and will host Tennessee in the Wild Card round Saturday at 4:35 p.m. on ESPN/ABC. Tennessee clinched a playoff berth with a 15-10 win over Jacksonville Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

In the NFC, Philadelphia will enter the postseason as the Number 1 seed and have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Minnesota, who won the NFC North, clinched a first-round bye with a 23-10 win over Chicago and will be the number 2 seed.

The Los Angeles Rams, who won the NFC West, are the Number 3 seed and will host Atlanta in the Wild Card round Saturday evening at 8:15 p.m. on NBC. The Falcons clinched the number 6 seed and a playoff berth with a 22-10 win over Carolina Sunday in Atlanta.

New Orleans, despite losing at Tampa, won the NFC South division title and are the Number 4 seed and they will host Carolina in the Wild Card round Sunday at 4:40 p.m. on FOX.

•Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt had a 35-yard rushing touchdown on his only carry in the Chiefs’ win at Denver. Hunt finished the season with 1,327 rushing yards and is the second rookie not selected in the first round to lead his league in rushing yards in the common draft era (since 1967). Cincinnati’s Paul Robinson led the AFL with 1,023 rushing yards in 1968.

•New Orleans running backs Alvin Kamara (1,554) and Mark Ingram (1,540) became the first running back teammates in NFL history to each record at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season. Kamara, who had 128 scrimmage yards with a rushing touchdown and returned four kickoffs for 155 yards, including a 106-yard touchdown in Sunday’s loss at Tampa Bay, finished the season with eight rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and one kickoff-return touchdown. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff-return touchdown.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ win over the New York Jets. Brady, who turned 40 years old earlier this year, finished the season with 4,577 passing yards and is the oldest player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards. The previous record was held by Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (38 years old), who led the NFL with 3,468 passing yards in 1978.

•Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith finished the season with 4,042 passing yards, five interceptions and a league-best 104.7 passer rating. Smith is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards and throw fewer than 10 interceptions in five consecutive seasons. New England’s Tom Brady, who finished the season with an NFL-best 4,577 passing yards with eight interceptions, joined Smith as the only players to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons. Smith did not play in the Chiefs’ win at Denver Sunday afternoon.

•Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 317 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ win over Carolina in Atlanta. Ryan has 41,796 career passing yards and passed Peyton Manning (41,626) for the most passing yards by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had five catches for 80 yards in Sunday’s victory. Jones, who has 9,054 career receiving yards, reached the 9,000-yard mark in his 95th game and is the fastest in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth held the previous record (98 games).

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown finished the season with an NFL-best 1,533 receiving yards. Brown, who also led the league in receiving yards (1,698) in 2014, is the first player in franchise history to lead the NFL in receiving yards multiple times. Brown has 582 receptions and 7,848 receiving yards over the past five seasons, the most in NFL history over any five-year span for both categories.

Pittsburgh rookie Ju Ju Smith-Schuester had nine catches for 143 yards with a touchdown and added 122 kickoff-return yards, including a 96-yard touchdown, in the Steelers’ 28-24 win over Cleveland at Heinz Field. Smith-Schuster, who turned 21 in November, finished the season with 1,157 all-purpose yards (917 receiving, 240 kickoff-return) and is the youngest player in NFL history to record 1,000 all-purpose yards in a season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: FROM WILD CARD ROUND TO SUPER BOWL: Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl nine times. At least one Super Bowl participant in six of the past 12 years played a Wild Card game.

The Wild Card round participants to win the Super Bowl:

SEASON – TEAM (SUPER BOWL RESULT)
1980 – Oakland (Defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10)
1997 – Denver (Defeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24)
2000 – Baltimore (Defeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7)
2005 – Pittsburgh (Defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10)
2006 – Indianapolis (Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17)
2007 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14)
2010 – Green Bay (Defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25)
2011 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17)
2012 – Baltimore (Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31)

NEW YEAR, NEW TEAMS: Philadelphia (13-3, NFC East) and Jacksonville (10-6, AFC South) both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Five of the eight division winners – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year.

Eight new teams are in this year’s playoff field – Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints and Panthers in the NFC and Jaguars, Titans and Bills in the AFC – which is tied for the most in a season (2003) since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. Since 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Six of the eight new teams in the playoffs this year will play on Wild Card Weekend: Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans, and Tennessee.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

SEASON – PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS
1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (ATLANTA, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (ATLANTA, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (ATLANTA, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, ATLANTA, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (ATLANTA, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)
2016 – 6 (ATLANTA, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland)
2017 – 8 (Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tennessee)

POSTSEASON QUARTERBACKS: Quarterbacks Drew Brees of New Orleans and Matt Ryan of Atlanta have enjoyed postseason success in their careers. They both rank among the leaders in many postseason passing categories, including passer rating, completion percentage and 300-yard games.

Ryan (102.4) and Brees (100.7) are two of only four quarterbacks in NFL history to have a passer rating of at least 100 in the postseason (minimum 150 attempts). The other two – Bart Starr (104.8) and Kurt Warner (102.8) – are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason passer rating (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK (COMPLETIONS/ATTEMPS – YARDS; TD-INTERCEPTIONS, RATING)

Bart Starr (130/213 – 1,753; 15-3, 104.8)^
Kurt Warner (307/462 – 3,952; 31-14, 102.8)^
Matt Ryan (194/285 – 2,244; 18-7, 102.4)*
Drew Brees (306/464 – 3,539; 24-6, 100.7)*
Aaron Rodgers (378/595 – 4,458; 36-10, 99.4)
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Ryan (68.1 percent) has the highest postseason completion percentage in NFL history (minimum 150 attempts) and Brees (65.9 percent) ranks fourth.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason completion percentage (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK (COMPLETIONS/ATTEMPTS – PERCENTAGE)
Matt Ryan (194/285 – 68.1)*
Kurt Warner (307/462 – 66.5)^
Ken Anderson (110/166 – 66/3)
Drew Brees (306-464 – 65.9)*
Warren Moon (259-403 – 64.3)^
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Brees has thrown for at least 300 yards in six postseason games in his career. With 300 passing yards against Carolina on Sunday, Brees would join Tom Brady (12) and Peyton Manning (nine) as the only quarterbacks to have at least seven 300-yard passing games in NFL postseason history.

The quarterbacks with the most 300-yard passing performances in NFL postseason history:

PLAYER – MOST 300-YARD PASSING GAMES IN POSTSEASON
Tom Brady – 12*
Peyton Manning – 9
Drew Brees – 6*
Joe Montana – 6^
Aaron Rodgers – 6
Kurt Warner – 6^
*Active in 2017 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

NEW FACES: Several teams will feature a quarterback making his first career playoff start. Among those slated to start on Wild Card Weekend are Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota.

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

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON, ROUND – PASSING YARDS)
Kelly Holcomb, Cleveland (2002, AFC Wild Card – 429)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2009, NFC Wild Card – 423)
Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia (1988, NFC Divisional – 407)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams (1999, NFC Divisional – 391)^
Neil Lomax, St. Louis Cardinals (1982, NFC Wild Card – 385)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SAFE SMITH: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith passed for a career-high 4,042 yards with five interceptions in the regular season, his NFL-record fifth consecutive season with at least 3,000 passing yards and fewer than 10 interceptions.

Smith has made six career postseason starts, completing 132 of 220 passes (60 percent) for 1,481 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions for a 94.5 passer rating.

Smith’s 0.9 interception percentage is the lowest by a quarterback in postseason history (minimum 150 attempts). New Orleans’ DREW BREES ranks third all-time with a 1.3 interception percentage in the postseason (464 attempts, six interceptions).

The lowest career interception percentages in postseason history (minimum 150 attempts):

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (INTERCEPTION PERCENTAGE)
Alex Smith – San Francisco and Kansas City (0.9)*
Tony Romo – Dallas (1.1)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (1.3)*
Bart Starr – Green Bay (1.4)^
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay (1.7)
*Active in 2017 postseason
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

ALL-AROUND ROOKIES: Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,782 scrimmage yards), New Orleans’ ALVIN KAMARA (1,554), Jacksonville’s LEONARD FOURNETTE (1,342) and Carolina’s Christian McCaffery (1,086) were the only rookies with 1,000+ scrimmage yards in 2017 and all four will take the field on Wild Card Weekend.

The rookies with the most scrimmage yards in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON, SCRIMMAGE YARDS)
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis (2006, 412)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000, 378)
Duane Thomas, Dallas (1970, 358)
Timmy Smith, Washington (1987, 351)
James Starks, Green Bay (2010, 330)

The rookies with the most scrimmage touchdowns in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON – SCRIMMAGE TOUCHDOWNS)
William Floyd, San Francisco (1994 – 5)
Norm Standlee, Chicago (1941 – 4)
Tony Dorsett, Dallas (1997 – 4)^
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000 – 4)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

SCORING CHAMPS TO CONFERENCE CHAMPS: The Los Angeles Rams, who scored the fewest points in the league in 2016 (14 points per game), led the NFL averaging 29.9 points per game and became the second team in NFL history (1964-65 San Francisco) to lead the league in scoring after scoring the fewest points in the previous season. Three of the past four regular-season scoring champions – Atlanta (33.8 in 2016), Carolina (31.3 in 2015) and Denver (37.9 in 2013) – advanced to the Super Bowl.

The postseason results of the team with the highest scoring average in the regular season in the past five seasons:

TEAM – SEASON (REGULAR SEASON POINTS/GAME, PLAYOFF RESULT)
Denver – 2013 (37.9, Advanced to SB XLVIII)
Green Bay – 2014 (30.4, Advanced to NFC Championship)
Carolina – 2015 (31.3, Advanced to SB 50)
Atlanta – 2016 (33.8, Advanced to SB LI)
Los Angeles Rams – 2017 (29.9, ???)

New teams making the playoffs and winning divisions… consistent teams excelling once again… records falling… young players making their mark… and so much more.

The 2017 season had it all, including a fantastic finish.

Week 17 came right down to the wire as three playoff spots and one division title – the NFC South – were decided on the last day of the season. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.

Philadelphia (NFC East) and Jacksonville (AFC South) both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

Five of the eight divisions were won by a team that finished in third or fourth place in the division last year – Jacksonville (AFC South), the Los Angeles Rams (NFC West), Minnesota (NFC North), New Orleans (NFC South) and Philadelphia (NFC East).

Each of the 12 teams still in Super Bowl LII contention can look back at the eventful and unpredictable 2017 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs was.

Philadelphia (13-3) captured the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the first time since 2004, while New England, who finished atop the AFC with a 13-3 record, won their ninth consecutive AFC East title, extending their NFL-record streak. The Patriots are the only team in NFL history with at least 12 wins in eight consecutive seasons.

“We have to beat good teams no matter what. That’s what the playoffs are,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long told USA Today. “Thirteen wins is great, but we have to make it worth something. That means playing our best in the playoffs.”

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. Eight teams that missed the postseason in 2016 – Buffalo (9-7), Carolina (11-5), Jacksonville (10-6), Los Angeles Rams (11-5), Minnesota (13-3), New Orleans (11-5), Philadelphia (13-3) and Tennessee (9-7) – accomplished the feat this year, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

“There are a lot of happy guys in that locker room, a lot of emotions running pretty wild, guys just happy to be a part of it,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott after clinching the team’s first postseason berth since 1999. “This is a team; these guys play as a team. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we are very grateful for this opportunity and it’s a well-earned opportunity, and so my hat goes off to everyone involved.”

The NFL is never short on surprises, and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2017:

TERRIFIC TURNAROUNDS

•Philadelphia (NFC East) and Jacksonville (AFC South) both clinched respective division titles after finishing in last place in 2016. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD, PRIOR SEASON RECORD)
2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3, 8-8)*
2004 – ATLANTA (11-5, 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4, 4-12)*
2005 – Chicago (11-5, 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5, 6-10)*
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5, 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3, 6-10)*
2006 – New Orleans (10-6, 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6, 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7, 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5, 1-15)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8)**
2010 – Kansas City (10-6, 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8, 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6, 6-10)*
2012 – Washington (10-6, 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4, 7-9)*
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6, 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7, 4-12)
2016 – Dallas (13-3, 4-12)
2017 – Jacksonville (10-6, 3-13) and Philadelphia (13-3, 7-9)
* Tied for last place
** Won Super Bowl

•Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

This season, eight teams – Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, the Los Angeles Rams, Minneosta, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Tennessee – qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason last year, tied with the 2003 season for the most such teams since 1990.

PASSING

•NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2017.

The league-wide completion percentage (62.1) and passer rating (86.9) both rank as the fourth-highest totals in league history. The league-wide interception percentage of 2.5 percent was the third-lowest of any season in NFL history.

•Eight quarterbacks passed for at least 4,000 yards in 2017: New England’s Tom Brady (4,577), Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (4,515), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (4,446), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (4,334), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (4,251), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (4,095), Washington’s Kirk Cousins (4,093) and Kansas City’s Alex Smith (4,042).

Brees (4,334) extended his NFL-record streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards, while Stafford (4,446) and Ryan (4,095) each recorded their seventh consecutive season with 4,000+ passing yards, tied for second-longest streak in league annals.

Five quarterbacks finished the season with a passer rating of at least 100: Smith (104.7), Brees (103.9), Brady (102.8), Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz (101.9) and Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff (100.5).

•New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees led the NFL with 386 completions this season and has 6,222 career completions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (6,300) and Peyton Manning (6,125) as the only players in NFL history with at least 6,000 completions. Brees reached the milestone in his 240th career game and is the fastest in NFL history to accomplish the feat (Manning, 259 games and Favre, 286). Brees completed 386 of 536 attempts this season for an NFL-record 72.0 completion percentage, surpassing Sam Bradford’s record of 71.6 percent set in 2016. Brees owns three of the top four single-season completion percentages in NFL history.

Brees, who has 70,445 career passing yards, joined Manning (71,940) and Favre (71,838) as the only players in league history with at least 70,000 career passing yards. Brees reached the milestone in his 248th career game and is the fastest in league history to accomplish the feat.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady, who turned 40 years old earlier this year, led the NFL with 4,577 passing yards and is the oldest player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards. The previous record was held by Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (38 years old), who led the NFL with 3,468 passing yards in 1978. Brady’s 4,577 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes in 2017 are both the most by a quarterback in a single season at the age of 40 or older. Brady has 66,159 career passing yards and became the fourth player in NFL history to reach 65,000 career passing yards, joining Peyton Manning (71,940), Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (71,838) and Drew Brees (70,445).

Brady, who has won 89 career regular-season road starts, surpassed Manning (85) for the most regular-season road victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady had four games with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in 2017. In 18 career seasons, Brady has 55 games with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions, surpassing Peyton Manning (51) for the most such performances in NFL history.

•The New York Giants’ Eli Manning (51,682), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (51,065) and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (50,348) each reached 50,000 career passing touchdowns during the season, becoming the seventh, eighth and ninth quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, to reach the mark. Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger, who were all selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, are the first trio from the same draft class to each record 50,000 career passing yards. Rivers (4,171) and Roethlisberger (4,164) became the eighth and ninth players in league annals, respectively, to reach 4,000 career completions.

•Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (313) became the 11th player in NFL history to record 300 career touchdown passes and reached the mark on his 4,742nd career attempt, the fewest attempts at the time of a player’s 300th touchdown pass in NFL history.

•Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers ranked second in the NFL with 4,515 passing yards and reached the 3,500-yard mark for the 10th consecutive season (2008-17). Rivers is the third quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,500 yards in 10 consecutive seasons, joining Peyton Manning (13, 1998-2010) and Drew Brees (13, 2005-17).

•Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith finished the season with 4,042 passing yards, five interceptions and a league-best 104.7 passer rating. Smith is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards and throw fewer than 10 interceptions in five consecutive seasons. New England’s Tom Brady, who finished the season with an NFL-best 4,577 passing yards with eight interceptions, joined Smith as the only players to accomplish the feat in four consecutive seasons.

•Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has 41,796 career passing yards and passed Peyton Manning (41,626) for the most passing yards by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history.

•Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes and threw 19 fourth-quarter touchdowns, surpassing Eli Manning (15 in 2011) for the most in a single season in NFL history.

•Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz, who set a single-season franchise record with 33 touchdown passes, became the third quarterback in NFL history to have at least 25 touchdown passes (28) and five or fewer interceptions (five) through his team’s first 11 games, joining Tom Brady (2007, 2015, 2017) and Aaron Rodgers (2011, 2014).

•Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum posted a passer rating of at least 100 in four consecutive games from Weeks 10-13, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Farve (2009) and Daunte Culpepper (2000 and 2004) for the longest streak in franchise history.

•San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo won each of his five starts with the 49ers and is one of five quarterbacks since 1970 to win each of his first seven NFL starts.

RUSHING

•Several running backs enjoyed historic seasons in 2017:

Nine players registered at least 1,000 rushing yards this season – Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,327), Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley (1,305), Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (1,291), Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy (1,138), New Orleans’ Mark Ingram (1,124), Chicago’s Jordan Howard (1,122), Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Gordon (1,105), Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (1,040) and Denver’s C.J. Anderson (1,007). Two players registered at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2017 – Gurley (13) and Ingram (12).

•Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards and was the second rookie not selected in the first round to lead his league in rushing yards in the common draft era (since 1967). Cincinnati’s Paul Robinson led the AFL with 1,023 rushing yards in 1968. Hunt is the sixth rookie since 1970 to lead the league in rushing.

•Indianapolis running back Frank Gore (14,026) surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (13,259), Jerome Bettis (13,662) and LaDanian Tomlinson (13,684) to move into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. The only players with more career rushing yards are Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726), Barry Sanders (15,269) and Curtis Martin (14,101).

•Arizona running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 159 yards on a career-high 37 carries in Week 9. Peterson has 19 career games with at least 150 rushing yards and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (18) and Emmitt Smith (18) for the fourth-most games with at least 150 rushing yards in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (25), Jim Brown (22) and Walter Payton (20) have more such games in their careers. Peterson, at 32 years old, became the third-oldest player in NFL history with at least 150 rushing yards in a game, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famers John Riggins (35 years old) and John Henry Johnson (34 years old).

•Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy reached 10,000 career rushing yards on his 2,145th carry and became the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to achieve the milestone. The only players to reach 10,000 career rushing yards in fewer attempts are JIM BROWN (1,936), Adrian Peterson (2,004), Barry Sanders (2,020) and O.J. Simpson (2,085). Brown, Sanders and Simpson are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

RECEIVING

•Five players registered at least 100 receptions in 2017: Miami’s Jarvis Landry (112), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (109), New Orleans’ Michael Thomas (104), Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen (102) and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown  (101).

Six players recorded at least 1,200 receiving yards in 2017: Brown (1,533), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (1,444), Allen (1,393), Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins (1,378), Minnesota’s Adam Thielen (1,276) and Thomas (1,245). Three players had at least 10 touchdown catches in 2017: Hopkins (13), Green Bay’s Davante Adams (10) and Seattle’s Jimmy Graham (10).

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown led the NFL with 1,533 receiving yards and has 7,848 receiving yards since 2013, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (7,594 from 1999-2003) for the most receiving yards by a player over any five-year span in NFL history. Brown, who has 582 receptions since 2013, also surpassed Harrison (563 from 1999-2003) for the most catches by a player over any five-year span in NFL history. Brown ranked fifth in the NFL with 101 catches and is the first player in league history with at least 100 catches in five consecutive seasons. Brown, who has 733 career catches since entering the league in 2010, reached 700 career receptions in the fewest games in NFL history (111).

•Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has 15,545 career receiving yards, moved into third place in NFL history in receiving yards. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (22,895) and Terrell Owens (15,934) have more career receiving yards in league history. Fitzgerald, who has played his entire career with Arizona, and Rice (19,247 with San Francisco) are the only players in NFL history to reach 15,000 career receiving yards with a single team. Fitzgerald, who was 34 years, 70 days old when he reached 15,000 receiving yards, became the second-youngest player in NFL history to accomplish the milestone, trailing only Rice (33 years, 72 days old).

Fitzgerald has five career seasons with at least 100 catches, tied for the second-most in NFL history behind Brandon Marshall (six). Fitzgerald, who recorded his 14th consecutive season with 50+ catches, tied Anquan Boldin (14 consecutive seasons from 2003-16) for the longest such streak to begin a career.

•Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry led the NFL with 112 catches and has 400 catches since entering the league in 2014, the most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history. Landry had at least five receptions in all 16 of Miami’s games this season and joined Antonio Brown (2013, 2014), Pierre Garcon (2013) and Jimmy Smith (2001) as the only players in league annals to accomplish the feat. Landry, who entered the league as a second-round pick in 2014, is the only player in NFL history with at least 80 catches in each of his first four seasons.

•Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, who has 585 career receptions, reached 500 catches in his 80th career game, tying Anquan Boldin for the fewest games to reach the milestone in NFL history. Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ Week 12 win against Tampa Bay in Atlanta. Jones has three career games with at least 250 receiving yards and is the only player in NFL history to have multiple 250+ yard receiving games.

•Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen recorded at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in Weeks 11-13 and became the first player in NFL histo​ry to have at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a touchdown reception in three consecutive games.

•Dallas tight end Jason Witten (12,448 receiving yards) joined Tony Gonzalez (15,127) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 12,000 career receiving yards. Witten, who has spent the entirety of his 15 career seasons with the Cowboys, passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (11,904) for the most career receiving yards in franchise history.

•Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has 114 career touchdown catches and passed Tony Gonzalez (111) for the most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.

•Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski led all NFL tight ends with 1,084 receiving yards and joined Tony Gonzalez (four) and Jason Witten (four) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least four seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards.

•Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green had 1,078 receiving yards this season and became the first player in NFL history with at least 950 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons.

•New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. recorded his 300th career reception in his 45th career game and became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 300 career receptions (Anquan Boldin, 47 games).

•New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas ranked third in the NFL with a franchise-record 104 catches this season and has 196 catches since entering the league in 2016, the most by any player in his first two career seasons. Thomas, who had 92 catches as a rookie in 2016, joined Odell Beckham, Jr. as the only players in NFL history to record at least 90 receptions in each of their first two seasons.

•Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans had 1,001 receiving yards and has at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. Evans joined Randy Moss (six) and A.J. Green (five) as the only players in NFL history with at least four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career.

VERSATILE PERFORMANCES

•Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley led the NFL with 2,093 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns (13 rushing, six receiving), becoming the third different player in NFL history to have at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and more than five touchdown catches in a single season. The other two players to accomplish the feat are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 and 2001).

•Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell ranked second in the NFL with 1,946 scrimmage yards, the third-most in a single season in franchise history. Bell recorded 6,286 scrimmage yards in his first 50 career games, trailing only Edgerrin James (6,506) and Pro Football Hall of Famers LaDanian Tomlinson (6,425) and Eric Dickerson (6,294) for the most by a player in his first 50 games in NFL history.

•New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (1,554) and Mark Ingram (1,540) became the first running back teammates in NFL history to each record at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season.

•Indianapolis running back Frank Gore, who finished the season with 1,206 scrimmage yards (961 rushing, 245 receiving) is the only player in NFL history to record at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in 12 consecutive seasons. Gore (77 rushing, 17 receiving) became the sixth player in NFL history with at least 75 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns in his career, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton and LaDanian Tomlinson.

•Kansas City wide receiver-return specialist Tyreek Hill led the NFL with six touchdowns of at least 50 yards (five receiving, one punt return). Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has 11 touchdowns of 50+ yards (five receiving, three punt return, two rushing and one kick return), tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (11) for the second-most in a player’s first two seasons in NFL history. Only Devin Hester (13) had more such touchdowns in his first two seasons.

•Chicago rookie running back Tarik Cohen became the first player since Terry Metcalf (1975) and the first rookie since Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) to have a punt-return touchdown, rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and passing touchdown in a single season.

•Carolina quarterback Cam Newton recorded his sixth career game with at least three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown in Week 4, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young, Drew Brees, Jack Kemp, Tobin Rote and Billy Wade for the most such games in NFL history. Newton, who threw four touchdown passes and rushed for 95 yards in Week 10, is the only quarterback in NFL history with two career games with at least four touchdown passes and 95 rushing yards.

Newton, who has 4,320 career rushing yards, became the fourth quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 rushing yards, joining Michael Vick (6,109), Randall Cunningham (4,928) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young (4,239). Newton has 54 career rushing touchdowns and is the only quarterback in NFL history with 50 rushing touchdowns.

•New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown, who turned 38 years old in July, became the third player in NFL history with at least two rushing touchdowns in a single game at the age of 38 or older.

•Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had 4,093 passing yards and rushed for four touchdowns, becoming the only player in NFL history to have at least 4,000 passing yards and four rushing touchdowns in three consecutive seasons.

•Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas extended his consecutive snaps played streak to 10,363 before leaving the Browns’ Week 7 game against Tennessee with an injury.

KICKING

•There were 107 field goals of at least 50 yards converted in 2017, the most in a single season in NFL history.

•Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri scored 109 points in 2017 and has 2,487 career points, surpassing Gary Anderson (2,434) for the second-most points scored in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen (2,544) has more career points. Vinatieri is the only player in NFL history to score 100+ points in 20 different seasons.

Vinatieri has 24 game-winning field goals in the regular season in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime and 10 game-winners in overtime, both the most in NFL history.

•Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka and Detroit’s Matt Prater both converted four field goals of at least 55 yards in 2017, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history. Hauschka converted an NFL-record 13 consecutive 50+ yard field-goal attempts dating back to 2015.

•Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein converted all seven of his field-goal attempts and both of his PAT attempts in the team’s win at Dallas in Week 4. Zuerlein became the eighth player to make at least seven or more field goals in a single game, and his 23 total points scored are tied for the third-highest single-game total by a kicker in NFL history.

•San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould converted all 15 field-goal attempts from Weeks 13-15 and is the first player in NFL history to make at least 15 field goals over a three-game span. The three contests were at Chicago (week 13), at Houston (week 14) and at home against Tennessee (week 15) and the 49ers won all three contests.

•Oakland kicker Giorgio Tavecchio converted all four of his field-goal attempts in the Raiders’ victory at Tennessee on Kickoff Weekend. Tavecchio, who connected on two 52-yard field goals in the contest, became the first player in league history to make two field goals of at least 50 yards in his NFL debut.

DEFENSE

•With all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. Four of the top five NFL teams in scoring defense qualified for the playoffs – Minnesota (15.8), Jacksonville (16.8), Philadelphia (18.4) and New England (18.5). Those four clubs combined for a winning percentage of .766.

•Ten players recorded at least 12 sacks in 2017: Arizona’s Chandler Jones (17), Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell (14.5), Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence (14.5), Minnesota’s Everson Griffen (13), New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (13), Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan (13), Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa (12.5), Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah (12), Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward (12) and Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue (12).

Eleven players had at least five interceptions this season: Tennessee’s Kevin Byard (eight), Detroit’s Darius Slay (eight), Jacksonville’s A.J. BOUYE (six), Baltimore’s Eric Weddle (six), Arizona’s Antoine Bethea (five), Los Angeles Chargers’ Tre Boston (five), Buffalo’s Micah Hyde (five), New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore (five), Kansas City’s Marcus Peters (five), Buffalo’s Jordon Poyer (five) and Minnesota’s Harrison Smith (five).

•Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers had 11 sacks in 2017 and moved into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 154.5 career sacks. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160) have more.

Peppers is the fourth player in​ NFL history to have at least 10 seasons with 10+ sacks, joining Smith (13 seasons), White (12) and Greene (10). Peppers, at 37 years old, became the third player with at least 10 sacks in a single season at the age of 37 or older since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, joining Smith (10 sacks in 2000) and Greene (12 sacks in 1999).

•San Francisco linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks this season, has 105.5 career sacks and is the fourth active player to record at least 100 career sacks.

•Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen recorded at least one sack in each of the Vikings’ first eight games this season and became the third player to record a sack in each of his team’s first eight games of a season since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982, joining Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney (2009) and Robert Mathis (2005).

•Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones had a franchise-record 17 sacks in 2017 and has 40.5 sacks since 2015, the most in the NFL over the span.

•Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa recorded 19 sacks in his first 20 career games, the most sacks by a player in his first 20 games to begin a career since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982.

•Tennessee safety Kevin Byard recorded five interceptions over a two-game span in Weeks 7 and 9 (Titans had a bye in Week 8), tied for the most by an NFL player in consecutive games since the 1970 merger. The week 7 contest was at Cleveland and Tennessee won in overtime and the week 9 contest was against Baltimore in Nashville, which Tennessee also won.

•Atlanta defensive end Adrian Claybord set a single-game franchise record with six sacks in the Falcons’ Week 10 game against Dallas, tied for the second-most in a game since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas (seven on November 11, 1990) had more sacks in a single game.

REMARKABLE ROOKIES

•​In 2017, rookies accumulated 22,219 yards from scrimmage, the second-most in a single season since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

SEASON – MOST SCRIMMAGE YARDS BY ROOKIES*
2014 – 25,944
2017 – 25,787
2012 – 23,244
2013 – 22,651
2015 – 21,887
*Excludes 1987 season

Rookies also totaled 177 touchdowns this season, tied for the second-most in a single season since 1970, excluding the 1987 season.

SEASON – MOST TOUCHDOWNS BY ROOKIES*
2014 – 184
2017 – 177
2013 – 177
2010 – 163
2012 – 157
1983 – 157

*Excludes 1987 season

•Four rookies recorded at least 1,000 scrimmage yards this season: Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (1,782), New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (1,554), Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (1,342) and Carolina’s Chirstian McCaffery (1,086).

Four rookies had at least eight total touchdowns in 2017: Kamara (14), Hunt (11), Fournette (10) and Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuester (eight).

•Houston rookie quarterback DESHAUN WATSON threw 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games this season, the most by a player in his first seven games in NFL history, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (18).

Watson became the first rookie quarterback to throw at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive games (Weeks 4-8, Texans had a bye in Week 7) and his 16 touchdown passes from Weeks 4-8 were the most in league history by a rookie in any four-game span. In Week 8 at Seattle (Seattle won that contest), Watson became the first player in league annals with at least 400 passing yards (402), four touchdown passes (four) and 50 rushing yards (67) in a single game. (Week 4 was a win against Tennessee at home, week 5 was a Sunday night loss against Kansas City in Houston, week 6 was a win over Cleveland in Houston, week 7 was a bye week and week 8 was a loss at Seattle.)

•Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt scored a touchdown of at least 50 yards in three consecutive games to start his career, becoming the only player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Hunt had at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of his first seven games this season and became the only rookie in NFL history with 100 or more scrimmage yards in each of his team’s first seven games of a season. Hunt became the only rookie in NFL history to have two games with at least 200 scrimmage yards, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown, accomplishing the feat in Weeks 1 and 15. (Kansas City beat New England in Foxboro in week one, then beat the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead in week 15)

•Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, in Week 5 at Pittsburgh. Fournette (22 years, 263 days old) became the youngest player in NFL history with a touchdown run of at least 90 yards and the fifth rookie in league annals with a 90+ yard rushing touchdown.
Fournette, who scored a touchdown in each of his first five games this season, became the fifth rookie to score at least one touchdown in each of his team’s first five games of a season.

•Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara had 826 receiving yards and 728 rushing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Taylor (1964) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least 700 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards. Kamara, who had eight rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns this year, is the fourth rookie in NFL history with at least five rushing and five receiving touchdowns, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Doak Walker (1950), Taylor (1964) and Gale Sayers (1965). Kamara, who had a 106-yard kickoff-return touchdown in Week 17 at Tampa Bay, joined Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff-return touchdown.

•New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara (81 catches, five receiving touchdowns) and Carolina’s Christian McCaffery (80 catches, five receiving touchdowns) are the only rookie running backs in NFL history with at least 80 receptions and five touchdown catches. Kamara (81) and McCaffrey (80) rank third and fourth among rookie running backs in NFL history, respectively, in receptions. The two will square off against each other Sunday in New Orleans in the NFC Wild Card game.

•Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (20 years old) became the youngest player to score a touchdown in the NFL since 1964 (Chicago’s Andy Livingston) and the youngest NFL player to catch a touchdown pass since 1930 (Green Bay’s Arnie Herber). Smith-Schuster finished the season with 1,157 all-purpose yards (917 receiving, 240 kickoff-return) and is the youngest player in NFL history to record 1,000 all-purpose yards in a season.

•Cleveland rookie defensive end Myles Garrett, who was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, became the only player selected first overall to record multiple sacks in his NFL debut since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

•Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt had two sacks and an interception in the Steelers’ Kickoff Weekend win at Cleveland. Watt is the first player to record at least two sacks and an interception in an NFL debut on Kickoff Weekend since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

•New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore (Weeks 14-16) and Indianapolis’ Malik Hooker (Weeks 2-4) both recorded an interception in three consecutive games. Lattimore led all rookies with five interceptions and tied with Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White for the rookie lead with 18 passes defensed.

•Philadelphia rookie kicker Jake Elliott converted a 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in the Eagles’ Week 3 win against the New York Giants. Elliott’s 61-yard field goal is the longest by a rookie in NFL history and tied for the third-longest game-ending field goal in league annals, trailing only Tom Dempsey (63 yards, November 8, 1970) and Matt Bryant (62, October 22, 2006).

After two weeks of going 11-5, we came back to Earth and went 8-8 and for the season, we’re 154-103. Still not bad but things could have been a lot better and because this is the post-season, every game that will be played will be designated “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

With all that in mind, here are Saturday and Sunday’s playoff games.

Tennessee (9-7) at Kansas City (10-6), 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN/ABC. The first contest of Wild Card Weekend takes place in the Show-Me State as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead. Both clubs enter the contest with close wins under their belts.

Tennessee survived a 15-10 scare from Jacksonville last Sunday at Nissan Stadium in a contest that determined their playoff fate. After a scoreless first quarter, Tennessee took a 6-0 lead with 14:04 left before halftime when RB Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota connected on a 66-yard TD strike. Ryan Succop’s PAT try was blocked but he would make up for it, connecting on three field goals and after Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo put his team on the board with a 41-yard field goal with 10:14 before the intermission, the Titans took a 12-3 lead with them to the intermission. Succop would then add his third field goal of the day, a 38-yarder with 7:42 left in the third before the Jaguars would make things close when DE Yannick Ngakoue lived out a linesman’s dream and recovered a fumble and took it back 67 yards for a TD with 10:48 left in regulation. Jacksonville had a chance to take the lead and knock the Titans out of the playoff picture but their hope fell short when Blake Bortles was picked off by Kevin Byard, giving the Titans the ball and allowing them to run out the clock.

Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 116-83 and rookie RB Leonard Fournette led all rushers with 69 yards, while Mariota led Tennessee with 60 yards. Mariota threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks, while Bortles threw for 158 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions. Jacksonville on third down went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 26:33, while the Titans kept the pigskin for 33:27, going 3 of 16 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Kansas City took a 27-24 last second win at Denver last Sunday in the AFC West finale for both clubs. The Chiefs, who won back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in their history, led 14-10 at the half at Sports Authority Field, before the Broncos stormed back late in the game to tie things up at 24-24 with 2:53 left in regulation when WR Demaryius Thomas and QB Paxton Lynch connected on a 6-yard TD pass. Kansas City then got the kickoff and used an 11-play, 67-yard drive that used all of the 2:53 left in the contest and gave the Chiefs the win when K Hank Butker sent a 30-yard field goal try through the uprights for the road win.

Both teams rushed for 110 yards in the AFC West affair in the Rocky Mountains, while Pat Mahomes, who took over for Alex Smith (rest), threw for 284 yards for Kansas City and Lynch threw for 254 yards for the Broncos (Lynch was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions, while Mahomes threw an interception and was sacked twice). Kansas City was 4 of 11 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 29:03 (including the final 2:53 of the contest), while the Broncos were 5 of 12 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down and actually ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 30:57.

The Chiefs not only lead the regular season series 27-22 and have outscored the Titans 1,049-884 (which includes games that were played when the Chiefs were in Dallas and known as the Texans and the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers), they are 2-0 in playoff games with Tennessee.

They last met last year in their last regular season contest and the Titans were 19-17 winners at Arrowhead in week 15. The Chiefs led 17-0 at the break and took that lead with them into the fourth quarter (the third quarter was scoreless) before the Titans outscored Kansas City 12-0 and took the win on a 53-yard field goal by Succop as time expired.

In that meeting, Kansas City outrushed Tennessee 158-148 and Smith threw for 163 yards, while Mariota threw for 241 yards (each had a sack and each threw an interception) at Arrowhead. The Chiefs on third down tries went 4 of 14 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down tries and held the ball for 29:25, while the Titans were 6 of 14 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 30:35, including the final seconds of the contest. Their last playoff meeting took place in 1993 in Houston and the Chiefs left the Lone Star State 28-20 winners in the AFC Divisional Playoff.

The Chiefs in that week 15 meeting at Arrowhead were favored by 5 1/2 and the Titans came away with the 2-point win on the road. Both teams missed the 42 1/2 over/under by combining for 36 points. The oddsmakers like the Chiefs as an 8-point favorite at home with a 44 1/2 over/under. The winner of this one gets a date with either Pittsburgh or New England next week. As for the loser? They’ll get a long plane ride home and have to clear out their lockers. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City and while the Titans will make this one close, the Chiefs prevail in the Show-Me State.

ATLANTA (11-5) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5), 8:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The defending NFC champs make their way to the Left COast for a face off with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons took care of business at home last Sunday against Carolina, taking Cam Newton and the Panthers to task by a 22-10 final in the Big Peach. RB DeVonta Freeman and Matt Ryan opened the scoring in the contest as the Falcons took the opening drive and marched down field, using a 10-play, 75 yard drive that took 4:28 when they connected on a 19-yard TD pass. That lead would last for the entire first quarter and nearly all of the second when Carolina tied things up with a 4-yard TD pass from Newton to WR Darren Funchess with 50 seconds left. The two teams took a 7-7 tie with them to the locker room and Atlanta would take control in the second half, using five Matt Bryant field goals in the second half (Bryant’s longest field goal was 56 yards), while the Panthers were held to a 42-yard field goal by Graham Gano in the third quarter.

Carolina did outrush Atlanta 87-60 but Ryan outpaced Newton, throwing for 317 yards, with Newton throwing for 180 (Ryan was sacked once but did not throw an interception, while Newton was sacked twice and threw three interceptions). Atlanta on third down was 6 of 16 in the revenge game and kept the ball for 34:42, while the Panthers were 5 of 15, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 25:18.

The Rams rested some of their starters against San Francisco in Los Angeles and the 49ers made them pay for that mistake, as San Francisco left the Coliseum with a 34-13 win. Trailing 20-6 at the intermission, the Rams were burned by two TD passes by Jimmy Garafalo (292 yards) and were held to 102 yards rushing, while the 49ers ran for 171 with Los Angeles QB Sean Manion, who took over for Jared Goff, threw for 169 yards with three sacks and no interceptions. Los Angeles was 5 of 15 on third donw, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 30:51, while the 49ers were 6 of 12 on third down, keeping the ball for 29:09.

They’ve met only once in the post-season and the Falcons were 47-17 winners in the Big Peach in the 2004 NFC Divisonal Playoff. As far as overall meetings go, the Rams lead the series 47-28-2 and have outscored the Falcons 1,810-1,321. Atlanta did win the last meeting between the two teams, coming away 42-14 winners in the Coliseum in week 14. Atlanta led 42-0 after 45 minutes of play (they led 21-0 at the half) and held the Rams to a pair of fourth-quarter TDs, one by Todd Gurley and the other by Goff, in a contest that would eventually cost Jeff Fisher his job. While the Rams did outrush Atlanta 104-66, Ryan threw for 237 yards and three TDs and Goff threw for 235 yards with a pair of sacks and three interceptions. Atlanta was 4 of 13 on third down on the West Coast and kept the ball for 27:08, while the Rams ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:52, going 6 of 14 on third down conversions.

In the week 14 contest on the Left Coast, the Falcons’ 28-point win was good enough to cover the 6-point spread and the 56 combined points were more than enough to cover the 45 over/under. This time, the Rams are the darlings of the boys and girls in Vegas and they’ve made them 6 1/2 point favorites with a 49 over/under. Both numbers make sense. The Rams are in the playoffs for the first time since they were in St. Louis in 2001, while the Falcons are the defending NFC champs. The Falcons are like Kathy Bates… they’re older and have more experience in the post-season and that will propel them into the next round. Atlanta pulls off the upset on the West Coast and covers the 6 1/2.

Buffalo (9-7) at Jacksonville (10-6), 1 p.m. on CBS. One team hasn’t been to the post-season since the Clinton administration. The other hasn’t been in a decade. They meet in northern Florida on Sunday afternoon as the Buffalo Bills return to the Sunshine State for an AFC Wild Card meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Buffalo backed their way into the post-season after they took care of Miami 22-16 at Hard Rock Stadium last Sunday in the Sunshine State. The Bills led 10-0 at the intermission in Miami Gardens, then led 19-3 at the end of the third quarter before the Dolphins managed to outscore them in the final 15 minutes of action 13-3. Miami made it a 6-point contest with 1:56 left in regulation when QB David Fales, who took over for Jay Culter, scored from a yard out. Miami then recovered the onside kick and were in business to end the hopes of the Bills and their fans but things changed for the better for Buffalo, as S Jordan Poyer picked off Fales, giving the Bills the ball back and running out the clock.

The contest had its moments of chippiness when Miami’s Jarvis Landry and Buffalo’s Ryan Groy exchanged punches in the final quarter of play. Both were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and Landry’s day was over, as he was asked by the officials to leave the contest with 6:21 after Landry scored on a 1-yard run. Buffalo outrushed Miami 126-93, despite losing RB LeSean McCoy (ankle) and Tyrod Taylor threw for 204 yards with a TD and four sacks, while Fales threw for 265 yards with a TD, a sack and an interception. The Bills on third down went 5 of 12 and kept the ball for 31:04, while the Dolphis kept the pigskin for 28:56, going 5 of 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs.

Then after their win over Miami, they waited in their locker room to see if they would make it into the post-season and got that much needed help from Cincinnati, who were trailing in Baltimore late before Andy Dalton and WR Tyler Boyd connected on a 49-yard TD pass with 44 seconds left to give the Bengals a 31-27. The Bengals then stopped Baltimore’s attempt to take the lead back, Cincinnati got the ball and the Bills got into the playoffs.

Jacksonville comes back to EverBank Field after their 15-10 loss to Tennesee in the Music City last Sunday. While the Jaguars already secured their playoff spot, for Tennessee, it was a contest at Nissan Stadium that determined their playoff fate. After a scoreless first quarter, Tennessee took a 6-0 lead with 14:04 left before halftime when RB Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota connected on a 66-yard TD strike. The Jaguars then blocked Ryan Succop’s PAT try but he would make up for it, connecting on three field goals and after Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo put his team on the board with a 41-yard field goal with 10:14 before the intermission, the Titans took a 12-3 lead with them to the intermission. Succop would then add his third field goal of the day, a 38-yarder with 7:42 left in the third before the Jaguars would make things close when DE Yannick Ngakoue lived out a linesman’s dream and recovered a fumble and took it back 67 yards for a TD with 10:48 left in regulation. Jacksonville had a chance to take the lead and knock the Titans out of the playoff picture but their hope fell short when Blake Bortles was picked off by Kevin Byard, giving the Titans the ball and allowing them to run out the clock.

Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 116-83 and rookie RB Leonard Fournette led all rushers with 69 yards, while Mariota led Tennessee with 60 yards. Mariota threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks, while Bortles threw for 158 yards with a pair of sacks and a pair of interceptions. Jacksonville on third down went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 26:33, while the Titans kept the pigskin for 33:27, going 3 of 16 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

Buffalo and Jacksonville have met only once in the post-season and it was in their very first meeting in 1996 in upstate New York and the Jaguars left what was then Rich Stadium with a 30-27 win in the AFC Wild Card game. Otherwise, the Bills lead the series 8-6, Buffalo has outscored Jacksonville 314-299 and were 28-21 winners in Orchard Park last year (Jacksonville’s last win over the Bills came in London in 2015, when they came away with a 34-31 win on the other side of the pond).

In that week 12 meeting along the shores of Lake Erie, the Bills trailed 7-6 at the half, then pulled away from Jacksonville in the final 30 minutes of play, scoring the game winner with 10:46 left in the contest when WR Josh Hunter and QB Tyrod Taylor connected on a 16-yard TD pass to send Bills fans home happy, if not warm (game time temperature? 42 degrees with a 35 degree wind chill). Jacksonville outrushed the Bills 183-153 and McCoy led all rushers with 103 yards and a pair of TDs, while Taylor threw for 166 yards with five sacks and Blaine Bortles throwing for 126 yards, with a pair of TDs and two sacks. Jacksonville was 8 of 15 on third down (they were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and the Jaguars ruled the clock and kept the ball for 33:35, while the Bills were 26:25 in time of possession, going 5 of 12 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

In the week 12 contest, Buffalo just missed the 7 1/2-point spread, winning by 7 but both teams covered the 45 1/2 over/under with 49 points. Jacksonville’s the favorite of the boys and girls in Vegas and they’re favored by 8 with a 39 1/2 over/under. Both of those numbers make a lot of sense. Both haven’t been in the post-season in a while, so things could very well be close. However, Jacksonville will keep their fan base happy and take this one in the Sunshine State, even though the Bills could make it closer than the 8.

Carolina (11-5) at New Orleans (11-5), 4:30 p.m. on FOX. Newton vs. Brees, Round 3. They’re back. This time, it’s for a chance to advance to the next round of the NFC playoffs. Both teams limp into the Big Easy with road losses under their belts to close out the 2017 regular season.

Cam Newton and the Panthers were taken to task at Atlanta, falling 22-10 in the Big Peach. RB DeVonta Freeman and Matt Ryan opened the scoring in the contest as the Falcons took the opening drive and marched down field, using a 10-play, 75 yard drive that took 4:28 when they connected on a 19-yard TD pass. That lead would last for the entire first quarter and nearly all of the second when Carolina tied things up with a 4-yard TD pass from Newton to WR Darren Funchess with 50 seconds left. The two teams took a 7-7 tie with them to the locker room and Atlanta would take control in the second half, using five Matt Bryant field goals in the second half (Bryant’s longest field goal was 56 yards), while the Panthers were held to a 42-yard field goal by Graham Gano in the third quarter.

While Carolina did outrush Atlanta 87-60, Ryan outpaced Newton, throwing for 317 yards, with Newton throwing for 180 (Ryan was sacked once but did not throw an interception, while Newton was sacked twice and threw three interceptions). Atlanta on third down was 6 of 16 in the revenge game and kept the ball for 34:42, while the Panthers were 5 of 15, 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 25:18.

New Orleans let a 24-23 lead at Tampa Bay get away from them as the Bucs roared back to take a 31-24 win at Raymond James Stadium. The Saints led 14-13 at the half and took a 17-13 into the start of the final 15 minutes of play before Tampa Bay took the lead for the first time with 14:04 left in regulation when S Isiah Johnson picked up a Saints’ fumble and returned it seven yards for a 20-17 lead. That lead would not last very long as New Orleans took the lead back when Drew Brees and WR Zach Line connected on a 3-yard TD pass with 7:07 left. Tampa Bay would chip away at the lead with a 42-yard field goal to make things a 1-point contest with 4:31 left to play, then take the lead back for good when Jameis Winston and WR Chris Goodwin connected on a 39-yard TD pass with nine seconds left. Winston and Mike Evans would then connect on the two-point conversion to make it a 7-point contest. New Orleans then got the kickoff and moved the ball to their 33-yard line but time ran out on the Saints and Tampa Bay took the win.

Tampa Bay outrushed New Orleans 110-92 and Brees threw for 245 yards, while Winston threw for 363 yards in the rematch (both men threw a TD pass, Winston threw three interceptions) for the Buccaneers. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries at Raymond James Stadium; the Saints were 6 of 12 (0 of 1 on fourth down), while Tampa Bay went 13 of 18 (the Bucs were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and time was on the side of Tampa Bay, who held on to the ball for 31:33 to New Orleans’ 28:27.

The teams will meet in the postseason for the first time but they met twice in regular season play. New Orleans swept the season series this year, winning 34-13 at Carolina in Week 3 (September 24) and 31-21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 13 (December 3).

In the week three contest in Charlotte, the Saints took a 17-6 lead with them to the intermission at Bank of America Stadium and never looked back, as Brees threw three TDs in the game in the Tar Heel State. New Orleans outrushed Carolina 149-132, Brees threw for 220 yards with no interceptions, while Newton struggled, throwing for 167 yards with four sacks and three interceptions. Both teams were 50 percent on third down tries (New Orleans was 6 of 12, Carolina was 7 of 14) and New Orleans ruled the clock and kept the ball for 31:09 to Carolina’s 28:51.

New Orleans pulled the sweep in front of the home folkes in the Big Easy in week 13, taking the 10-point NFC South win over their rivals. This time, it was the Kamara/Ingram show as the two scored three rushing TDs (Kamara with two) and Brees threw for 269 yards, while Newton had a little better outing, throwing for 183 yards and a pair of TDs (each QB was sacked twice and did not throw an interception), connecting with Christian McCafferty and Darren Funchess on both tosses. The Saints again outrushed Carolina, this time tallying 148 yards (Ingram led all rushers with 85 yards), while Carolina tallied 112, with Newton accounting for 51 of those yards. As well as both teams did on third down in the first meetings, such was not the case in the second contest, as Carolina was 3 of 10 on third down tries (the Panthers were 0 of 2 on fourth down), while the Saints were 6 of 15 but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1. Time was once again the BFF of the Saints, as they kept the ball for 33:21, while the Panthers held the pigskin for 26:39.

In the week three contest in the Tar Heel State, the Panthers were favored by 6 and the Saints covered the spread, winning by 21. The two clubs combined for 47 points, barely missing the 48 over/under. As for the second meeting, which took place in week 13, the oddsmakers in Vegas liked the Saints as 4 1/2-point favorites and they did kept the boys and girls in Vegas happy, winning by 10 in the Big Easy and both teams covered the 48 over/under with 52 points. The Saints are favored again, this time by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 48 1/2. Both numbers make sense. Both teams have QBs that can light up scoreboards. This time, it’s for a chance to move on to the Divisonal Round that starts next Saturday and that’s for the winner. The loser? They’ll have an entire offseason to think things through as they’re clearing thelr lockers and getting ready for OTAs and the draft. They say the third time’s the charm. That’s not going to be the case for New Orleans. Cam and the Panthers get revenge for the two losses and comes out of the Big Easy with the upset and could cover the 6 1/2 in the process.

 

Kansas City at Houston, 4:35 p.m. Saturday on ESPN and ABC: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter). Westwood One: John Sadak, Mark Malone, Scott Kaplan (field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Kansas City), 82 (Houston). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (Kansas City), 82 (Houston).

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m. Saturday on CBS: Jim Nantz, Phill Simms, Tracy Wolfson (field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts, Laura Okmin (field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Pittsburgh), 82 (Cincinnati).  XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (Pittsburgh), 82 (Cincinnnati).

Seattle at Minnesota, 1:05 p.m. Sunday on NBC:  Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, James Lofton, Hub Arkush (field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Seattle), 82 (Minnesota). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (Seattle), 82 (Minnesota).

Green Bay at Washington, 4:40 p.m. Sunday on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews/Chris Myers (field reporters). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Boomer Esiason, Tony Boselli (field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Green Bay), 82 (Washington). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (GB), 82 (Washington).

Saturday and Sunday Odds

Saturday’s Games
Favorite             Spread    Underdog           O/U
Kansas City          +  3      HOUSTON            50
Pittsburgh           +  2 1/2  CINCINNATI         46 1/2

Sunday’s Games
Favorite             Spread    Underdog           O/U
Seattle              +  5 1/2  MINNESOTA          41 1/2
WASHINGTON           +  1      Green Bay          45 1/2

Saturday and Sunday Injury Report

Kansas City at Houston

Kansas City – No Injuries to report

Houston – No Injuries to report

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Pittsburgh – No Injuries to report

Cincinnati – No Injuries to report

Seattle at Minnesota

Seattle – No Injuries to report

Minnesota – No Injuries to report

Green Bay at Washington

Green Bay – No Injuries to report

Washington – No Injuries to report

Saturday and Sunday Weather
Kansas City at Houston, 4:35 p.m. Saturday (Game indoors; if roof is open, partly cloudy and 55 degrees)
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m. Saturday (Cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers and 44 degrees)
Seattle at Minnesota, 1:05 p.m. Sunday (Sunny and Cold and 0 degrees, with a wind chill of -14)
Green Bay at Washington, 4:40 p.m. Sunday (Partly cloudy and 53 degrees)

Broadcast information and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Dons Best and USA Today, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.
 

It’s the second season. It’s a second chance for teams are in the post-season party to improve their lot, while knocking off a foe in the process.

It’s easy.

Win.

Advance.

Lose.

Your next game is in 2016.

While 12 teams are fighting to either keep the Lombardi Trophy or win their own, 20 other teams will be at home, sitting and watching and wondering what they could have done to be in the post-season party. This time, it’s not about them.

It’s about you.

Sounds somewhat narcissistic, we know. But that’s football. As Herm Edwards once said, “you play to win the game.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Think of it as a pep talk. It’s what you’ve worked for since OTA’s started, then the draft, then a summer where you had coaches yell and cuss at you, sleeping in college dorms and fighting with the heat and that rookie or free agent that’s looking for your job.

For teams like New England, Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay and Seattle, it’s “been there, done that, got the t-shirts.” For teams like Carolina, it’s their second chance in as many years to be in the post-season and want to prove that they didn’t do it with smoke and mirrors.

All that work, sweat, heat, fighting bugs, fighting teammates, having coaches yell at you in such a manner Marine Gunnery Seargents would have a smile on their faces. It’s all worth it. You’ve played 16 games, had a bye week and now it’s go time.

UNPREDICTABLE NFL: Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Four teams – Houston (9-7, AFC South champions), Kansas City (11-5, Wild Card), Minnesota (11-5, NFC North champions) and Washington (9-7, NFC East champions) – accomplished the feat this season.

The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:

SEASON – PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS
1990 – 7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)
1991 – 5 (Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)
1992 – 6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1993 – 5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)
1994 – 5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)
1995 – 4 (Atlanta, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)
1996 – 5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)
1997 – 5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)
1998 – 5 (Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)
1999 – 7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2001 – 6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)
2002 – 5 (Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)
2003 – 8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)
2004 – 5 (Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)
2005 – 7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)
2006 – 7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2007 – 6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2008 – 7 (Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)
2009 – 6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)
2010 – 5 (Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)
2011 – 6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)
2012 – 4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)
2013 – 5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)
2014 – 5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)
2015 – 4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)

Many close games and great comeback victories… new teams making the playoffs and winning divisions… consistent teams excelling once again… records falling… young players making their mark… and so much more! In case you were wondering… The average margin of victory in NFL games this year was 11.06 points, the lowest in 19 seasons.

The 2015 season really did have it all, including a fantastic finish.

Week 17 came right down to the wire as 11 of the 16 games scheduled for the final day of the regular season had playoff implications for at least one of the teams involved. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.

The 2015 season featured a trend of many exciting games with close finishes, as nearly 55 percent were decided by one score – 140 of 256 games were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season in NFL history.

Each of the 12 teams still in Super Bowl 50 contention can look back at the wild ride that was the 2015 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs was.

Carolina (15-1) secured the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs and became just the seventh team in NFL history to win 15 games in a season.

“I’m an optimist but even 15-1 is a lot,” says Panthers head coach Ron Rivera about advancing to the postseason after the team posted the league’s top regular-season record. “This is very satisfying but we still have a lot of work to do. I am proud of what this football team is becoming.”

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. Four teams that missed the postseason in 2014 – Kansas City (11-5), Minnesota (10-5), Houston (9-7) and Washington (9-7) – accomplished the feat this year.

“I feel very proud to be associated with this team,” says Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, whose team clinched the AFC South division title with a win over Jacksonville in Week 17. “Now the second season starts and that’s exciting. It is also really exciting that we didn’t back in to the playoffs. We won our way in and that is pretty cool,” he told the Houston Chronicle, KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV.

The Chiefs won 10 consecutive games to finish the regular season and are the only team in NFL history with a 10-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season. Kansas City finished with an 11-5 record, the best in NFL history by a team that suffered five consecutive losses during a season.

“I love every one of these wins, our team loves every one of them and we cherish every one of the wins,” says Chiefs head coach Andy Reid about the team’s winning streak heading into the postseason. “Any time you can win in the National Football League, it is a major accomplishment. I’m just talking about one game, let alone all of them in the streak we had.”

Green Bay (10-6 in 2015) earned the 750th total victory in franchise history this season. The Packers are 751-567-37 and joined the Chicago Bears as the only teams in NFL history to reach 750 total wins. The Redskins (9-7 in 2015; 601-583-27 all-time) reached 600 total victories.

The 2015 season also proved that consistency is difficult but not impossible, to maintain in the NFL. New England won their seventh consecutive AFC East division title (2009-present), which ties the 1973-79 Rams for the most consecutive division championships in NFL history. The Patriots, who finished with a 12-4 record, became the second team in NFL history with at least 12 wins in six consecutive seasons.

The NFL is never short on surprises and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2015:

COMPELLING COMPETITION
•Games continued to be this close, as more than half of all games were decided by one score.

GAMES DECIDED BY ONE SCORE
POINTS – GAMES (PCT.)
8 or Fewer – 140 of 256 (54.7%)
7 or Fewer – 131 of 256 (51.2%)
3 or Fewer –  59 of 256 (23.0%)
•This season, 140 of 256 (54.7 percent) were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season in NFL history.

SEASON – MOST GAMES DECIDED BY EIGHT OR FEWER POINTS
2015 – 140
2002 – 137
2003 – 132
2011 – 132
2010 – 131
2012 – 131
2013 – 131

•In 2015, 131 of 256 games (51.2 percent) were decided by seven or fewer points, also the most of any season in NFL history.

SEASON – MOST GAMES DECIDED BY SEVEN OR FEWER POINTS
2015 – 131
2002 – 126
2011 – 125
2003 – 124
2013 – 123

•Sixty-eight percent of games (174 of 256) were within one score in the fourth quarter. The 174 games are tied for the third-most of any season in NFL history.

SEASON – MOST GAMES WITHIN ONE SCORE IN FOURTH QUARTER
2002 – 177
2004 – 175
2015 – 174
2013 – 174
2007 – 173

•Twenty-one games were decided in overtime this season, tied for the fourth-most in a season since overtime was instituted in 1974.

The most overtime games in a season since 1974:

SEASON – MOST OVERTIME GAMES IN A SEASON
2002 – 25
2003 – 23
2012 – 22
2015 – 21
1995 – 21

•Games continued to have a flare for the dramatic, as comebacks were a frequent theme.

In 2015, there were 67 comeback victories in which a team was trailing at some point in the fourth quarter, tied for the third-most in a single season in NFL history.

The most wins after trailing at some point in the fourth quarter:
SEASON – MOST WINS WHEN TRAILING IN FOURTH QUARTER
1989 – 70
2013 – 69
2015 – 67
2008 – 67
2001 – 67

•Washington (9-7) clinched the NFC East division title, which marked the 12th time in the past 13 seasons that one or more teams went from last or tied for last place to a division championship the following year.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:
SEASON – TEAM (RECORD, PRIOR SEASON RECORD)
2003 – Carolina (11-5, 7-9)
2003 – Kansas City (13-3, 8-8)*
2004 – Atlanta (11-5, 5-11)
2004 – San Diego (12-4, 4-12)*
2005 – Chicago (11-5, 5-11)
2005 – New York Giants (11-5, 6-10)*
2005 – Tampa Bay (11-5, 5-11)
2006 – Baltimore (13-3, 6-10)*
2006 – New Orlenas (10-6, 3-13)
2006 – Philadelphia (10-6, 6-10)
2007 – Tampa Bay (9-7, 4-12)
2008 – Miami (11-5, 1-15)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3, 8-8)**
2010 – Kansas City (10-6, 4-12)
2011 – Denver (8-8, 4-12)
2011 – Houston (10-6, 6-10)*
2012 – Washington (10-6, 5-11)
2013 – Carolina (12-4, 7-9)*
2013 – Philadelphia (10-6, 4-12)
2015 – Washington (9-7, 4-12)
* Tied for last place
** Won Super Bowl

•Since realignment in 2002, Carolina (15-1) is the first NFC South team to win the division title in three consecutive seasons.

SCORING
•A total of 11,680 points were scored during the 2015 season, the second-highest total all-time (11,985 points in 2013). Games averaged 45.6 points per game, the second-highest average since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (46.8 points per game in 2013). In all, 1,318 total touchdowns were scored, also the second-most all-time (1,338 in 2013).

•Nine teams scored at least 400 points this season – Carolina (500), Arizona (489), New England (465), Pittsburgh (423), Seattle (423), the New York Giants (420), Cincinnati (419), New Orleans (408) and Kansas City (405) – tying the 2008, 2012 and 2014 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined for a .667 winning percentage, and seven qualified for the playoffs.

PASSING

•NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2015.

The league-wide completion percentage (63.0), league-wide passer rating (90.2) and league-wide touchdown pass totals (842) were at historic levels, topping the previous records set in 2014 (62.6 completion percentage; 88.9 passer rating; 807 TD passes).

The league-wide interception percentage of 2.38 percent was the lowest of any season in NFL history, surpassing the previous mark of 2.52 in 2014.

•Games averaged 705.3 total net yards per game, the best mark in NFL annals (697.0 in 2013). Explosive passing offenses fueled that trend, with an average of 487.7 net passing yards per game, an all-time high (473.6 in 2014).

The league-wide yards per attempt average of 7.25 was the highest in the Super Bowl era, topping the previous record of 7.21 yards per attempt in 2014.

•There were 59 individual performances with three touchdown passes without an interception in 2015, the most of any season in NFL history (58 in 2014).

•There were 11 individual games with five or more TD passes this season, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history (2004).

•An NFL-record 11 quarterbacks had 30+ touchdown passes – Tom Brady (36), Blake Bortles (35), Eli Manning (35), Cam Newton (35), Carson Palmer (35), Russell Wilson (34), Drew Brees (32), Derek Carr (32), Matthew Stafford (32), Ryan Fitzpatrick (31) and Aaron Rodgers (31) – surpassing the previous high of nine in 2014.

•Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (71,940) surpassed Brett Farve (71,838) for the most career passing yards in NFL history.​Manning also registered his 186th career regular-season win as a starting quarterback, tied with Favre for the most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history.

•Drew Brees and Tom Brady both climbed higher on the all-time list for career passing yards and touchdowns. Brees ranks fourth in passing yards (60,903) while Brady is fifth (58,028). Brady and Brees each have 428 touchdown passes, tied for the third-most in NFL history.

Brees has passed for at least 30 touchdowns in eight consecutive seasons, extending his NFL-record streak.

•New England quarterback Tom Brady led the league with 36 touchdown passes, joining Peyton Manning (four) as the only players in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in four different seasons.

•New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees finished the season with 4,870 passing yards, his NFL-record sixth consecutive season with at least 4,500 yards. Brees has seven career 4,500-yard passing seasons, the most in NFL history.

Brees’ 4,870 passing yards were the most in the NFL this season and he is the first player to lead the league in passing yards six times. Pro Football Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Dan Marino each accomplished the feat five times.

Brees had two 400-yard passing games in 2015. In 15 seasons, Brees has 13 career 400-yard passing games, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the second-most such games in NFL history and one shy of the NFL record held by Peyton Manning (14).

Brees had 10 300-yard passing games in 2015. Brees’ 96 career 300-yard passing games are the most in NFL history.

•Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had 21 touchdown passes and has now thrown 10 or more touchdown passes in each of his first 12 seasons, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon for the third-longest streak to start a career in NFL history.

•Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, who is 23 years old, had a single-season franchise record 35 touchdown passes and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford as the only players in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger.

•Indianapolis quarterback Matt Hasselbeck became the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive starts after turning 40 years old.

​RUSHING & RECEIVING

•Several running backs enjoyed historic seasons in 2015:

Six players registered at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2015 – Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman (11), Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill (11), Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (11), Pittsburgh’s De Angelo Williams (11), St. Louis’ Todd Gurley (10) and Carolina’s Cam Newton (10).

Seven players registered at least 1,000 rushing yards this season – Peterson (1,485), Doug Martin (1,402) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gurley (1,106), Darren McFadden (1,089) of the Dallas Cowboys, Chris Ivory (1,070) of the New York Jets, Latavius Murray (1,066) of the Oakland Raiders and Freeman (1,061).

•Minnesota’s Adran Peterson finished the season with an NFL-best 1,485 rushing yards and tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. Peterson is just the third player in NFL history to lead the league in rushing yards after his 30th birthday.

With 11 rushing touchdowns in 2015, Peterson joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (eight) and La Dainian Tomlinson (nine) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns in at least eight different seasons.

•St. Louis running back Todd Gurley led all rookies with 1,106 rushing yards. Gurley had five games with at least 125 rushing yards, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (seven in 1983) for the most ever by a rookie.

•Seven players registered at least 100 receptions in 2015 – Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (136), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (136), Houston’s De Andre Hopkins (111), Miami’s Jarvis Landry (110), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (109), the New York Jets’ Brandon Marshall (109) and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas (105) – the second-most in a season (nine in 1995).

Four players recorded at least 1,500 receiving yards in 2015 – Jones (1,871), Brown (1,834), Hopkins (1,521) and Marshall (1,502) – tied for the most in a season (1995 and 2014).

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown and Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones tied for the NFL lead with 136 receptions, the second-most in a single season in NFL history (Marvin Harrison, 143 in 2002). Brown, who led the league with 129 catches in 2014, has 265 total receptions over the past two seasons, surpassing Harrison (252 in 2001-02) for the most catches in any two-season span in NFL history.

Brown (136 catches for 1,834 yards) and Jones (136 catches for 1,871 yards) are the first players in NFL history to have at least 125 catches and 1,800 yards in a season. Brown had four 185-yard receiving games in 2015, the most in a single season in NFL history.

Jones’ 1,871 receiving yards are the second-most in a single season (Calvin Johnson, 1,964 in 2012).

•Three players reached the 1,000-catch mark this season – Dallas’ Jason Witten (1,020), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (1,018) and San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin (1,009) – marking the first time in NFL history three players recorded their 1,000th career reception in the same season.

•Anquan Boldin of the 49ers had 69 receptions this season, the 13th consecutive season he has caught 50+ passes since entering the league in 2003. Boldin’s streak is the most consecutive seasons with 50+ receptions to begin a career.
Arizona wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD (109 receptions) had more than 50 catches for the 12th consecutive season, the second-longest such streak to begin a career.

•New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. had 96 receptions for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015. Beckham, who had 1,305 receiving yards as a rookie last season, has 2,755 career receiving yards, surpassing RANDY MOSS for the most receiving yards through a player’s first two seasons NFL history.

•New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall had a franchise-record 109 catches this season and is the first player in NFL history with six 100-catch seasons.

Marshall and Jets teammate Eric Decker each had a touchdown catch in nine games in 2015, the most such games by teammates in the same season in NFL history.

•Houston wide receiver De Andre Hopkins had a career-high 1,521 receiving yards this season. In three seasons, Hopkins has amassed 3,533 receiving yards, joining Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to record 3,500 receiving yards before the age of 24.

•Jacksonville wide receiver Allen Robinson (22 years, 132 days), who had 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and a franchise record 14 touchdown catches, became the youngest player in NFL history to register at least 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in a single season.

•Detroit’s Golden Tate (90 receptions), Calvin Johnson (88) and Theo Riddick (80) became just the fifth trio on the same team to each record at least 80 catches in a season.

•Dallas tight end Jason Witten brought his career receiving yard total to 11,215. Witten is the second tight end in NFL history to reach 11,000 career receiving yards (Tony Gonzalez, 15,127).

•Antonio Gates (104) of the San Diego Chargers joined Tony Gonzalez (111) as the only tight ends with 100 career touchdown receptions.

VERSATILE PERFORMANCES
•Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had seven games with both a touchdown pass and a rushing score. Newton has 31 career performances with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in the same game, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young for the most in NFL history. Newton reached the mark in his 78th career game while Young played 169 games in his NFL career.

Newton finished the season with 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns and is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season.

•Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passed for a franchise-record 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2015. He also added 553 rushing yards and is the first player in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes and 500 rushing yards in a single season.

•Seattle rookie wide receiver-return specialist Tyler Lockett had six touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown in 2015, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown in a season.

•Philadelphia’s Darren Sproles had a punt-return touchdown (89 yards) and a rushing touchdown (one yard) in Week 3, which marked the second time in his career in which he had both a punt-return touchdown and a touchdown run in the same game (November 10, 2014). Sproles became the fourth player in NFL history to record multiple games with both a punt-return touchdown and a rushing touchdown, joining Ockie Ander, Curly Oden and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers.

Sproles is also the only player in NFL history with at least 25 receiving touchdowns (28), 20 rushing touchdowns (20) and five punt-return touchdowns (seven).

•Adam Vinatieri (2,253) of the Colts surpassed Jason Hanson (2,150) for third place on the all-time scoring list. With 107 points this season, Vinatieri became the only player in NFL history to score 100+ points in 18 different seasons.

Vinatieri (503) also joined Morten Andersen (565) and Gary Anderson (538) as the only players with 500 career made field goals.

•New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski led the NFL in scoring for the fifth time in his career with 151 points, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Huston (five) and Gino Cappaelletti (five) as the only players to lead the league in points scored at least five times.

•Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who converted four 50+ yard field goals in 2015, tied Jason Hanson (52) for the most 50-yard field goals in NFL history.

DEFENSE
•With all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. Four of the top five NFL teams in total defense qualified for the playoffs – Denver (283.1), Seattle (291.8), Houston (310.2) and Arizona (321.7). Those four clubs had a combined winning percentage of .688.

•The top four teams in turnover margin all advanced to the postseason and won at least 10 games each – Carolina (+20), Kansas City (+14), Cincinnati (+11) and Arizona (+9). Those four clubs had a combined .797 winning percentage.

•Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who led the league with 17.5 sacks in 2015, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only players with at least 15 sacks in three of their first five NFL seasons since the statistic became official in 1982.

•Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus recorded 3.5 sacks in two different games in 2015 and joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Michael Strahan (2001), Reggie White (1986) and Chris Doleman (1998) and Karl Mecklenburg (1985) as the only players to accomplish the feat since the statistic became official in 1982.

•The Houston Texans (J.J. Watt, 17.5; Whitney Mercilus, 12) and Cincinnati Bengals (Carlos Dunlap, 13.5; Geno Atkins, 11) were the only teams with two players who each had double-digit sacks.

•Oakland safety Charles Woodson had five interceptions and tied Ken Riley (65) for fifth on the all-time interceptions list.

HIGH SCORES: NFL teams combined to score 11,680 points (45.6 points per game) this season, surpassing 2012 (11,651) for the second-most points scored in a single season in NFL history (11,985 in 2013).

The most combined points scored in a single season in NFL history:
SEASON – MOST COMBINED POINTS SCORED
2013 – 11,985
2015 – 11,680
2012 – 11,651
2014 – 11,565
2011 – 11,356

30 CLUB: Eleven different quarterbacks have passed for 30 or more touchdowns in 2015, the most in a single season in NFL history. The previous high was nine in 2014.

The quarterbacks to throw at least 30 touchdown passes this season:
PLAYER, TEAM (TOUCHDOWN PASSES)
Tom Brady, New England (36)
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (35)
Eli Manning, New York Giants (35)
Cam Newton, Carolina (35)
Carson Palmer, Arizona (35)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (34)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (32)
Derek Carr, Oakland (32)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (32)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (31)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (31)

FANTASTIC RECEIVERS: Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones had nine receptions for 149 yards against New Orleans.

Jones, who had the most receiving yards in the NFL this season with 1,871, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (1,848 yards in 1995) for the second-most receiving yards in a season in NFL history.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown finished the season with 1,834 yards, the fourth-most receiving yards in a season in NFL history.

The players with the most receiving yards in a season in NFL history:
PLAYER, TEAM (YEAR; RECEIVING YARDS)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit (2012; 1,964)
Julio Jones, Atlanta (2015; 1,871)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1995; 1,848)
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (2015; 1,834)
Isaac Bruce, St. Louis (1995; 1,781)

KICKING THE RECORD BOOKS:  New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski led the NFL in scoring for the fifth time in his career with 151 points, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Hutson (five) and Gino Cappelletti (five) as the only players to lead the league in points scored at least five times.

FROM WILD CARD TO SUPER BOWL: Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl nine times. At least one Super Bowl participant in seven of the past 10 years played a Wild Card game.

The Wild Card round participants to win the Super Bowl:
SEASON – TEAM (SUPER BOWL RESULT)
1980 – Oakland (Defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10)
1997 – Denver (Defeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24)
2000 – Baltimore (Defeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7)
2005 – Pittsburgh (Defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10)
2006 – Indianapolis (Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17)
2007 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14)
2010 – Green Bay (Defeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25)
2011 – New York Giants (Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17)
2012 – Baltimore (Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31)

​WINNING PARTICIPANTS: Pittsburgh and Green Bay will each be playing on Wild Card Weekend. Pittsburgh will travel to Cincinnati this Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on CBS, while Green Bay travels to Washington on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. on FOX.

The Steelers (33) and Packers (31) rank second and third, respectively, behind Dallas (34) for the most postseason wins in NFL history. The two teams have combined to win 10 Super Bowls (Pittsburgh six, Green Bay four).

The teams with the most postseason wins in NFL history:
TEAM (WINS-LOSSES, PCT.; SUPER BOWL WINS)
Dallas Cowboys (34-25 .567; 5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (33-22, 600; 6)*
Green Bay Packers (31-20, .608; 4)*
San Francisco 49ers (30-20, .600; 5)
New England Patriots (28-18, .609; 4)**
Oakland Raiders (25-18, .581; 3)
*Plays this weekend
**First-round bye

The clubs’ postseason winning percentages also rank third (Green Bay, .608) and tied for fourth (Pittsburgh, .600) in NFL history.

The teams with the highest postseason winning percentage in NFL history:

TEAM (WINS-LOSSES, PCT.; SUPER BOWL WINS)
Baltimore Ravens (15-8, .652; 2)
New England Patriots (28-18, .609; 4)**
Green Bay Packers (31-20, .600; 4)*
Pittsburgh Steelers (33-22, .600; 6)*
San Francisco 49ers (30-20, 600; 5)
*Plays this weekend
**First-round bye

STREAKING SMITH: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith has made three career postseason starts, completing 66 of 114 passes (57.9 percent) for 873 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions for a 108.6 passer rating.

With two more pass attempts without an interception to begin Saturday’s game at Houston, Smith would surpass Jeff Hostetler (115) for the longest streak of consecutive pass attempts without an INT to start a career in postseason history.

The most consecutive pass attempts without an interception to start a career in postseason history:
POSTSEASON TO START A CAREER
PLAYER, YEAR(S) (CONSECUTIVE PASS ATTEMPTS WITHOUT INT)
Jeff Hostetler, 1991-94 (115)
Alex Smith, 2012-present (114)*
Roger Staubach, 1969-73 (103)
Peyton Manning, 2000-03 (101)
*Active streak

Smith’s nine postseason touchdowns without an interception are already the most consecutive TD passes without an INT in postseason history to start a career.

The most consecutive touchdown passes without an interception to start a career in postseason history:

POSTSEASON TO START A CAREER
PLAYER, YEAR(S) (CONSECUTIVE TD PASSES WITHOUT INT)
Alex Smith, 2012-present (9)*
Roger Staubach, 1969-73 (7)
Tony Eason, 1985-87 (7)
Jeff Hostetler, 1991-94 (7)
*Active streak

RODGER THAT: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown for at least 300 yards in four postseason games in his career.

With 300 passing yards Sunday at Washington, Rodgers would join Peyton Manning (nine), Tom Brady (eight), Drew Brees (six), KURT WARNER (six) and Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana (six) and Dan Fouts (five) as the only quarterbacks to have at least five 300-yard passing games in NFL postseason history.

The quarterbacks the most 300-yard passing performances in NFL postseason history:
PLAYER, MOST 300-YARD PASSING GAMES IN POSTSEASON
Peyton Manning, 9*
Tom Brady, 8*
Drew Brees, 6
Joe Montana, 6^
Kurt Warner, 6
Dan Fouts, 5^
Aaron Rodgers, 4*
*Active in 2015 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

FIRST-TIMER: Three quarterbacks – Houston’s Brian Hoyer, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater and Washington’s Kirk Cousins – will make their first-career postseason starts on Wild Card Weekend.

Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron and Denver’s Brock Osweiler also contributed to their team’s success this season and could make their playoff debut.

The players with the most passing yards in their first career postseason start:
PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON – ROUND, PASSING YARDS)
Kelly Holcomb, Cleveland (2002 – Wild Card, 429)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2009 – Wild Card, 423)
Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia (1988 – Divisional, 407)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams (1999 – Divisional, 391)
Neil Lomax, St. Louis Cardinals (1982 – Wild Card, 385)

MARCHING MARSHAWN: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 100 yards in six postseason games, including his last two playoff games.

​With at least 100 yards on Sunday at Minnesota, Lynch would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (seven) and Terrell Davis (seven) as the only players in postseason history with seven 100-yard rushing games.

The players with the most 100-yard rushing games in the postseason:
PLAYER, TEAM (MOST POSTSEASON GAMES WITH 100+ RUSHING YARDS)
Emmitt Smith, Dallas (7)^
Terrell Davis, Denver (7)
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (6)*
John Riggins, Washington (6)^
Thurman Thomas, Buffalo (6)^
*Active in 2015 playoffs
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

HIGH WATTAGE: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt led the league with 17.5 sacks this season and has five sacks in four career postseason games.

With two sacks against Kansas City on Saturday, Watt would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Dent (nine) and La Marr Woodley (nine) as the only players to have seven or more sacks in their first five postseason appearances since the statistic became official in 1982.

The players with the most sacks in their first five postseason games (since 1982):
PLAYER (MOST SACKS IN FIRST FIVE POSTSEASON GAMES)
Richard Dent (9.0)^
LaMarr Woodley (9.0)
Tim Harris (6.5)
Kevin Greene (6.0)
Michael McCrary (6.0)
J.J. Watt (5.0)*
*Through four playoff games
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Once again, the mission is simple.

Win.

Advance.

Lose.

Kick off is in September 2016.

Here’s a look at the playoff schedule, including Super Bowl 50 (or Super Bowl L for you Roman numeral junkies)…

NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND

Saturday, January 9
AFC: Kansas City at Houston, 4:35 p.m. on ESPN, with simulcast on ABC
AFC: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m. on CBS

Sunday, January 10
NFC: Seattle at Minnesota, 1:05 p.m. on NBC
NFC: Green Bay at Washington, 4:40 p.m. on FOX

NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Saturday, J​anuary 16
AFC: Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City at New England, 4:35 p.m. on CBS
NFC: Minnesota, Washington or Green Bay at Arizona, 8:15 p.m. on NBC

Sunday, January 17
NFC: Washington, Green Bay or Seattle at Carolina, 1:05 p.m. on FOX
AFC: Houston, Kansas City or Pittsburgh at Denver, 4:40 p.m. on CBS

In the Divisional Playoffs, the division champion with the best record in each conference will host the lowest seeded Wild Card survivor. Once teams are seeded for the playoffs, positions do not change:

American Football Conference
1.Denver (12-4, AFC West champion)
2.New England (12-4, AFC East champion)
3.Cincinnati (12-4, AFC North champion)
4.Houston (9-7, AFC South champion)
5.Kansas City (11-5)
6.Pittsburgh (10-6)

National Football Conference
1.Carolina (15-1, NFC South champion)
2.Arizona (13-3, NFC West champion)
3.Minnesota (11-5, NFC North champion)
4.Washington (9-7, NFC East champion)
5.Green Bay (10-6)
6.Seattle (10-6)

The AFC and NFC Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 24 at 3:05 p.m. on CBS and 6:40 p.m. on FOX.

The 2016 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 31 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN and Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, February 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on CBS at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

The playoffs are football’s answer to “musical chairs.” As long as the music is playing and there are chairs, all is right with the world. It’s when the music stops is when the chaos begins and they don’t give Lombardis to the second play winners.

After an exciting finish to the regular season, the NFL’s second season has arrived.

“We’re in the dance and we’ve got to win,” says Cincinnati defensive end Wallace Gilberry. “It’s a new season and a new year. If we stay undefeated, it means we’ve done something special. We’ll take it one day at a time, one game at a time and just get it done.”

Week 17 came right down to the wire as 11 of the 16 games played on the final day of the regular season had playoff implications. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010. And three divisions were decided on the last day of the regular season, including the NFC North in game No. 256 of 256 as Minnesota defeated Green Bay.

“We are excited,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Mike Tomlin told KDKA-TV. “It’s been a tough 16-game fight for us but we are where we want to be. We are where we need to be. We have an opportunity like the others in the field and for that, we’re grateful.”

The final 12 teams are now set. It doesn’t matter how you got here. All that matters is that you’re here.

“We’ve enjoyed the journey and the journey’s not over yet,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, KIRO-TV and KING-TV. “We want to be able to tell our story and hopefully we’ll be able to tell it in the right way.”

The NFL playoffs, which conclude on February 7 with Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium on CBS at 6:30 p.m. begin this Saturday and Sunday with Wild Card Weekend.

“I’m proud of this football team,” Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, KCCO-TV and KARE-TV. “We started out two years ago trying to build something special. It’s not a surprise we are where we are at. These players have earned this opportunity and now we have to go out there and take it.”

The Vikings are one of four new teams in this year’s playoff field, joining Houston, Kansas City and Washington. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before.

12 teams start a journey that will end with one team hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. The other 11 will fight for bragging rights. The journey begins in earnest on Saturday with two Wild Card games and two more on Sunday. As for last week, we were 10-6 (not bad), which means for the season, 156-86. Here are Saturday and Sunday’s picks.

Kansas City (11-5) at Houston (9-7) 4:35 p.m. Saturday on ESPN and ABC. Wild Card weekend opens in the Lone Star State at Kansas City travels to Houston to face the Texans.

The Chiefs enter the postseason riding a 10-game winning streak. Kansas City is the first team in NFL history to win 11 games in a season in which it had a five-game losing streak. “It’s playoff time and there is no tomorrow,” says Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who has nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in three career postseason games. “The mindset in the playoffs is to execute the offense and score points.” Kansas City enters the post-season party with a 23-17 win over AFC West rival Oakland last Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City led 14-10 at the half and then held off a late Raider rally in the final 30 minutes of action when Michael Crabtree and David Carr connected on a 31-yard TD pass with 2:01 left to play in regulation. The Chiefs outrushed Oakland 189-48, while sacking Carr six times. Smtih threw for 156 yards and a pair of TDs i the win that allowed them to sweep the season series with their AFC West rivals, even though he threw a pair of interceptions to go with the two TD passes in the contest. Kansas City went 6 of 13 on third down (1 of 2 on fourth down conversions), keeping the ball for 34:55, while the Silver and Black were 3 of 14, 1 of 1 on third and fourh downs, keeping the ball for 25:05.

Houston won the AFC South for the third time in franchise history (2011, 2012). The Texans have won seven of their past nine games, allowing just 12.7 points per game over that stretch and holding opponents to six points or fewer in five of those contests. Houston clinched the AFC South title with a 30-6 win over Jacksonville last SUnday. Houston, who led 20-3 at the half, outpaced Jacksonville 10-3 in the final 30 minutes of play for their ninth win of the season. Texans RB Alfred Blue ran for 102 of his club’s 160 yards in the contest, while the Texan defense held Jacksonville to 32 yards rushing and sacked Blake Bortles eight times. Houston was 8 of 17 on third down tries, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 35:37, while the Jaguars held on to the pigskin for 24:23, going 1 of 12 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down.

“It’s great to be in the playoffs,” says Texans Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt, who led the NFL in sacks (17.5). “It’s great for our team, great for our fans, great for our city. This is what we expect. We expect to win the division and we expect to be in the playoffs. Now we go into the playoffs and we look forward to the opportunity and the challenge ahead,” he told KHOU-TV, KPRC-TV and the Houston Chroncicle.

While they have never met in the post-season, either as the Texans or Oilers, they met in week one in Houston and the Chiefs survived, taking a 27-20 win in the Lone Star State. Leading 27-9 at the half, the Chiefs held off a late Houston rally to take the opening day win. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce caught a pair of Smith TD passes in the early part of the contest to build what they thought would be a safe lead. After a scoreless third quarter, Houston went to work and won the final 15 minutes of play, shutting out Kansas City 11-0 and making the contest a 7-point affair when Texans K Randy Bullock connected on a 47-yard field goal with 83 seconds left in regulation. Houston outrushed the Chiefs 98-97 and Smtih (243 yards) threw three TD strikes, while Brian Hoyer threw for 236 yards with a TD but was sacked four times. Kansas City was 3 of 13 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 35:19, while the Texans were 3 of 14 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 24:41.

In the week one meeting, the Texans were 1-point favorites and the Chiefs covered the spread, winning by 7 and the 47 combined points by both teams easily covered the 41 over/under. This time, the Chiefs are favored by 3 and the over/under’s 40. They raise the curtain in the post-season show and this could be closer than the 3. The Chiefs may not be at home but everything’s up to date in Kansas City as they take the win in the Lone Star State, although the Texans will make it a close contest.

Pittsburgh (10-6) at Cincinnati (12-4). Round 3. It’s the AFC North’s version of Ali-Fraizer.

They still don’t like each other. They meet again along the shores of the Ohio River and the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Roethlisberger vs. McCarren.

They both sit along the Ohio River and that’s all that they have in common.

AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will meet on Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium.

Pittsburgh clinched a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season and defeated Cleveland 28-12. Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown finished the season with 136 catches for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns and is the only player in NFL history with at least 125 catches, 1,800 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in a single season. The Steelers led 14-9 at the half and then proceeded to pull away from the Browns in upstate Ohion in the second half to seal the win an a playoff spot after Buffalo beat the New York Jets 22-17 in Orchard Park. Pittsburgh outrushed Cleveland 86-30 and the Steeler defense sacked Alex Davis seven times and picked him off twice, while Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards and three TDs. Pittsburgh was 2 of 8 on third down tries and kept the ball for 26:03, while the Browns actually ruled the clock, holding the ball for 33:57, going 4 of 16, 1 of 4 on third and fourth downs.

“It’s gratifying to be back in the playoffs,” says Brown. “As a Pittsburgh Steeler, the expectation is to make the playoffs and hoist the Lombardi Trophy. For us to get the opportunity, it’s a step in the right direction.”

The Bengals tied a franchise-record with 12 wins and won the division for the fourth time under head coach Marvin Lewis.

“Every year we’ve improved and now we’re 12-4,” says 10-year veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was selected to his second Pro Bowl. “That’s a heck of an accomplishment. It’s something we’re extremely proud of. We want to keep it rolling.”

The Steelers and Bengals have met once in the postseason and that was in 2005 in Cincinnnati, with the Steelers coming away 31-17 winners in the first round of the AFC playoffs. They split the season series in the 2015 regular season campaign, with each winning on the road. Cincinnati took the first meeting in week eight, coming away 16-10 winners in the Steel City. The Bengals trailed 7-6 at the intermission before rallying in the second half to come away with the 6-point win at Heinz Field and took the lead for good when a healthy Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green connected on a 9-yard TD pass with 2:57 left in regulation. Cincinnati ended the scoring 70 seconds later when Mike Nugent booted a 41-yard field goal with 1:47 left. Pittsburgh did outrush Cincy 116-78 and Roethlisberger did outpace Dalton in passing 262-231 (each had a TD pass, with Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown connecting on a 1-yard pass to open the scoring in the contest) but Roethlisberger was picked off three times, while Dalton was picked off twice (each man was sacked three times). Neither club did anything for their fan bases to write home about on third down tries (Pittsburgh was 3 of 11, Cincinnati was 4 of 15) and neither had a fourth down attempt but the home team did manage to rule the, as Pittsburgh held on to the ball for 30:09 to Cincinnati’s 29:51.

The second meeting saw much better results for Steelers fans as they came to Cincinnati and took a 33-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium. In the week 14 matchup, the Steelers outrushed the Bengals 84-64 in the second contest and leading 16-7 at the half, knocked Dalton (wrist) out of the contest, sacking backup QB A.J. McCarren twice and sacking him three times. The Steelers did much better on third down tries in the second contest, going 8 of 14, while the Bengals were 3 of 8 (again, neither club had a fourth down attempt) and Pittsburgh ruled the clock again, keeping the ball for 35:47 to Cincinnati’s 24:13.

In the first meeting in week eight, Cincinnati covered the 3-point spread (the Bengals were favored in that contest) with their 6-point win but the 48 1/2 over/under was safe, as both teams only combined for 26 points. The Bengals were favored again in the week 14 contest as 3-point favortites but this time Pittsburgh covered the spread, winning by 13. This time, both teams covered the 47 over/under with 53 ponts. This time, the Steelers are the darlings of Vegas, as 2 1/2 point favorites and the over/under is 46 1/2. The winner gets to move on here, while the losers will go back home and clear out their lockers come Monday. Marvin Lewis would like nothing more than to take the playoff monkey off his back and so would Dalton, assuming he plays Saturday. Bengals fans can rejoice. The curse will be broken. Cincy covers the 2 1/2 and pulls the upset along the banks of the Ohio.

Seattle (10-6) at Minnesota (10-6), 1:40 p.m. Sunday on NBC. They met in week 13 in the Twin Cities and now they meet in the playoffs for the first time in their respective histories. The defending NFC champions travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a meeting with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Seahawks are back in the postseason and aiming to return to the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season. Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson led the NFL with a 110.1 passer rating and threw 24 touchdown passes with only one interception over the team’s final seven games, the only player in NFL history with at least 24 touchdown passes and one or fewer interceptions over a seven-game span in a season. Wilson threw for 197 yards last Sunday in the desert and scored four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in Seattle’s 38-7 win at Minnesota in Week 13. The Seahawks manhandled Arizona in Glendale 36-6 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Seattle led 30-6 at the half and held Arizona in check in the final 30 minutes of play. Seattle outrushed Arizona 145-27 and RB Christine Michael did his best Marshawn Lynch impression, rushing for 102 yards. Seattle last Sunday on third down tries went 8 of 15 (Arizona was 5 of 12, 0 of 1 on fourth down) and was perfect on fourth down in their only attempt and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 36:37 to Arizona’s 23:23.

“We know we’ve got a lot of football to play,” says Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who tied for the NFL lead with 14 receiving touchdowns. “We’re on the path we’re supposed to be on and that’s what you want to see heading into the playoffs.”

The Vikings have won three in a row, including a Week 17 victory at Green Bay (20-13) to clinch the NFC North division title. Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson led the league with 1,485 rushing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Marion Motley (1950) and Curtin Martin (2004) as the only players 30+ years old to win the rushing title. In the contest at Lambeau that allowed them to clinch, the Vikings led 20-13 at the end of three quarters before Green Bay rallied to make it a 7-point contest, thanks to a 16-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to TE Richard Rodgers and a 43-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. Minnesota then held off a late Packer rally that would have either sent the game into overtime or given Green Bay the win at home. Minnesota outrushed Green Bay 151-76 and the Packers sacked Rodgers five times, despite throwing for 291 yards. Green Bay went 2 of 15 on third down, 3 of 6 on fourth down at Lambeau and actually won the battle of the clock as they kept the ball for 35:42, while Minnesota went 2 of 11, 1 of 1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 24:18.

“It feels amazing to be the NFC North champions,” Peterson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “It puts us in a position now to make a run to the Super Bowl.” Minnesota makes 1st playoff appearance since 2012 & 1st under Zimmer’s tenure.

As for that week 13 contest in the Twin Cities… Seattle led the Vikings at the half by a 21-0 score and gave up Minnesota’s lone score on a 101-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson. Seahawk rookie RB Thomas Rawls was in “Beast Mode’ himself, rushing for 101 yards and a TD, while the Vikings were held to 31 yards and Teddy Bridgewater was sacked three times at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Seattle was 9 0f 13 on third down tries, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 35:10, while the Vikings were 2 of 10, 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 24:50.

In the week 13 affair in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Seattle was favored by 1 and eclipsed the spread with their 31-point win and both clubs cover the 41 over/under with 45 points. The oddsmakers like the defending NFC champs as a 5 1/2 point favorite and the over/under is 41 1/2. There is one more factor and that’s the weather. The forecasted temperature at kickoff Sunday? A balmy 6 degrees… above zero. That would make it the third-coldest kickoff in NFL post-season history (of course, Ice Bowl in 1967 between Dallas and Green Bay and Freezer Bowl in 1981 between San Diego and Cincinnati; that temp at kickoff? -9 with a wind chill of -59). The weather outside might be frightful but the Seahawks make their march toward another Super Bowl and do it in the Twin Cities, covering the 5 1/2.

Green Bay (10-6) at Washington (9-7), 4:45 p.m. Sunday on FOX. The curtain for Wild Card Weekend drops when Washington hosts Green Bay. The teams have previously met twice in the postseason: 1936 NFL Championship Game (Packers 21, Boston Redskins 6) and 1972 Divisional Playoffs (Redskins 16, Packers 3).

The Packers have won five of the past six meetings between the two teams. The last time the two clubs met (September 15, 2013), Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 480 yards and four touchdowns in Green Bay’s 38-20 victory. Rodgers, who was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl, enters the 2015 playoffs with a 101.0 postseason passer rating, the third-best mark in NFL history. The Packers lead the series 18-13-1 and have outscored Washington 622-507 in regular season action. (Washington’s last regular-season win over Green Bay came in 2010, when the Redskins needed overtime to take a 16-13 win at RFK Stadium.)

“We have to prove to ourselves we can win the big games,” Rodgers told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “There’s belief there but we have to prove it to ourselves. We have to be consistent. If we do that, we have a chance to make a run.” In their 20-13 loss to Minnesota last Sunday night, Green Bay trailed the Vikings 20-13 at the end of three quarters before Green Bay rallied to make it a 7-point contest, thanks to a 16-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to TE Richard Rodgers and a 43-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. Minnesota then held off a late Packer rally that would have either sent the game into overtime or given Green Bay the win at home. Minnesota outrushed Green Bay 151-76 and the Packers sacked Rodgers five times, despite throwing for 291 yards. Green Bay went 2 of 15 on third down, 3 of 6 on fourth down at Lambeau and actually won the battle of the clock as they kept the ball for 35:42, while Minnesota went 2 of 11, 1 of 1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 24:18.

The Redskins won the NFC East, the team’s first division title since 2012. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 192 of 257 passes at home for a 74.7 completion percentage, the highest in NFL history in home games in a season. Cousins set a franchise-record with 4,166 passing yards and is the only quarterback in team history to pass for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns (29) in a single season. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen (14 games in 1967) as the only players in franchise history to throw a touchdown pass in every game in a season.

Washington closed out the 2015 campaign in Arlington and took a slumping Dallas Cowboys team to task 34-23. The Redskins led 24-14 at the half against the Romo-less Cowboys, with Cousins throwing for 176 yards and three TD passes in the NFC East matchup, while Alfred Morris ran for 100 of Washington’s 146 (Dallas had 100 yards rushing, with backup QB Kellen Moore throwing for 435 yards with three TDs and a pair of interceptions).

“It’s important to go into the playoffs with some momentum and a rhythm,” says Cousins about the Redskins’ current four-game winning streak. “To put together four wins in a row in the fourth quarter of the season is important. It’s crucial to keep that momentum and carry it into what will be the biggest game of the year.” Washington, while forcing four Dallas turnovers, went 7 of 14 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 33:57, while Dallas went 2 of 10, 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 26:03.

Washington’s favored by 1 and the over/under is 45 1/2. Since this one’s the last post-season game of the weekend, it’s only fair that this one becomes “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 56 last June and dates a 41-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Both clubs are in survival mode. The winner? They get a road trip to either Glendale or Charlotte and play either next Saturday or next Sunday. The loser? They get to go back home and empty their lockers and start those preps for the draft, OTAs and training camp. Washington, it’s been a good run but the Packers find their swagger in Landover, taking this one on the road and covers the 1.