Two rookie quarterbacks will start this weekend: San Francisco’s Brock Purdy and Miami’s Skylar Thompson. This will be the first playoff round since the 2012 wild-card round (Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson) to feature multiple rookie starting quarterbacks. Only three other rookie quarterbacks drafted outside the first round have ever won a postseason game (Wilson, T.J. Yates, Shaun King).
It takes four consecutive victories for teams in the wild-card round to win a Super Bowl title. Wild-card participants have won the Super Bowl 11 times since 1970 (when the NFL installed the wild-card system), including in each of the past two seasons.
Seahawks at 49ers
Geno Smith led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.8 percent, the first time since 2015 the NFL leader did not complete at least 70 percent of his passes. However, he did complete 74 percent (55-of-74) of his pass attempts in the two games he faced the 49ers’ top-ranked defense this season. Go figure. Smith’s completion percentage by down:
- First: 75.5
- Second: 66.1
- Third: 63.1
- Fourth: 84.6 (11-of-13)
In the red zone, Smith completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, (37-of-70), averaging a minuscule 3.71 yards per attempt.
Christian McCaffrey had 767 scrimmage yards and 7 TDs in his last six games; Seattle allowed the second most yards to running backs this season. With 100 receiving yards on Saturday, McCaffrey would become the third running back ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in multiple postseason games (Tony Nathan, Lenny Moore).
Chargers at Jaguars
The Chargers have allowed 145.8 rushing yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. That’s 30-plus yards per game more than any other playoff team in the AFC and the worst yards-per-carry average allowed in the Super Bowl era.
Trevor Lawrence, whose passer rating increased by 23.3 percentage points from last season, was one of the NFL’s most efficient passers in the latter half of the season. In fact, Justin Herbert (70.1) and Lawrence (69.7) own the two highest completion percentages in the NFL since Week 9.
Dolphins at Bills
In two games this season, the Dolphins sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen six times and forced him to fumble five times. The five turnovers were more than a quarter of Allen’s total (19) for the entire season.
As a member of the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill had 20 catches for 322 yards and a touchdown against the Bills in two playoff games. But it’s been Jaylen Waddle who has done the most damage against Buffalo’s secondary this season. His 216 receiving yards is the most of any player against the Bills this season. Among his seven catches were four that were at least 32 yards long (67, 45, 32, 32).
Giants at Vikings
For the first time in NFL history, five teams that hired a new head coach prior to the season advanced to the playoffs: Jaguars (Doug Pederson), Dolphins (Mike McDaniel), Vikings (Kevin O’Connell), Giants (Brian Daboll) and Tampa Bay (Todd Bowles). The Giants-Vikings game will be the fourth playoff game since 1970 to feature two rookie head coaches.
When the Giants and Vikings met in Week 16, they combined for 90 passes. Kirk Cousins had 48 attempts (34-48, 299 yards, 3 TD), while Daniel Jones had 42 ((30-42, 334, 1 TD, 1 INT). Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson was targeted more times (16) than Dalvin Cook had rushing attempts (14). Side note: Week 16 at Minnesota was the only game in the last three seasons in which the Giants produced 300-plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards.
Ravens at Bengals
In five games without Lamar Jackson this season, the Ravens have a 2-3 record and have failed to score more than 17 points. They scored 16 against the Bengals in Week 18 with undrafted rookie Anthony Brown starting for Jackson.
Since their Week 9 bye, the Bengals are 8-0, with a plus-six turnover differential and averaging close to 30 points per game.
Cowboys at Buccaneers
Tom Brady, who has never lost to the Dallas Cowboys in his career (7-0, most recently Tampa won 19-3 in Week 1), has as many career playoff victories (35) as the Cowboys do all-time as a franchise.
In five postseason games with Tampa Bay, RB Leonard Fournette has totaled 555 scrimmage yards (111 per game) with a touchdown in each game. Going back to the 2017 postseason with Jacksonville, Fournette has scored a touchdown in seven consecutive playoff games. He can become the third running back in NFL history to score a touchdown in eight consecutive postseason games (Thurman Thomas (9), and Emmitt Smith (8).