Divisional round has familiar feel to it
Four rematches on tap
NEW YORK — The divisional round of the NFL playoffs has a familiar feel.
All four of the matchups this weekend are rematches of regular-season games from this season. And Saturday’s games feature coaches going against their former teams.
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn spent four seasons with Seattle, including the 2013 and ‘14 seasons as the team’s defensive coordinator.
The Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl in both seasons, including winning it to cap the 2013 season. Quinn got the better of Pete Carroll and the Seahawks with a 26-24 win at CenturyLink Field in Week 6.
And, Houston’s Bill O’Brien was on Bill Belichick’s staff in Foxborough from 2007-11. O’Brien is looking for a better result on Saturday night after his Texans were dominated 27-0 in September.
The Steelers and Packers both enter Sunday’s games as two of the hottest teams in the NFL. Pittsburgh will enter its matchup at Kansas City on an eight-game winning streak. The Steelers routed the Chiefs 43-14 in Week 4.
And Green Bay will travel to Dallas on a seven-game surge as it tries to knock off the top-seeded Cowboys and get even for a 30-16 loss at Lambeau Field in Week 6.
Seattle (11-5-1) at Atlanta (11-5), Saturday at 11:35 a.m. HST (Fox)
This will be the second postseason meeting between the teams. Both were in the divisional playoffs, and both at the Georgia Dome.
Four years ago, Seattle fell behind 20-0 before Russell Wilson led his team on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to take a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left. However, the Falcons completed two long pass plays and Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal in a 30-28 win.
“It’s one of those games,” Carroll said Tuesday of the loss in January 2013. “It’s one of those games you store away, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on now.”
That game was a rare postseason loss for Wilson, who is 8-3 in his career in the playoffs.
Atlanta has lost five of its past six playoff games. An Atlanta loss would end the Falcons’ 25-year stay in the Georgia Dome. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is scheduled to open next season.
Houston (10-7) at New England (14-2), Saturday at 3:15 p.m. (CBS)
The Patriots are more than a two-touchdown favorite. And with good reason.
New England has won seven
of the eight meetings overall.
The Patriots are 4-0 at Foxborough against Houston, outscoring the Texans a combined 150-49. And that includes a 27-0 rout in Week 3 with Jacoby Brissett was at quarterback because Tom Brady was serving his four-game suspension.
Brady has 22 playoff wins, the most in NFL history. Brady is also the NFL postseason leader in completions (738), attempts (1,183), passing yards (7,957) and touchdown passes (56).
And Belichick has 23 postseason wins, most all time.
Houston’s best hope is for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to get consistent pressure on Brady. The No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft was a big reason why the Texans dominated the Raiders in the wildcard round. He had an acrobatic interception to set up a touchdown in the 27-14 win.
“That kind of boosts us up a little (like), OK we gonna show them,” Clowney said earlier this week of being a big underdog.
“One of the mentalities this week going into this game is we’re the underdogs, always been underdogs all season — let’s go out there and prove to them why we’re here in this second round now.”
Green Bay (11-6) at Dallas (13-3), Sunday at 11:40 a.m. (Fox)
This is the eighth postseason meeting between the teams, which includes such memorable matchups as the “Ice Bowl” in 1967.
And the Packers and Cowboys are tied with the Giants for the most playoff appearances at 32.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has nine playoff wins, tied with Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren for the most in club history.
The Cowboys, who have four straight losses in the divisional round, are looking for their first NFC championship game appearance since the 1995 season.
Dak Prescott will be the first rookie QB to start a playoff game for Cowboys.
Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2010 season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has not won back-to-back playoff games.
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who had an NFL-high 14 touchdown catches in the regular season, will miss the game because of injured ribs.
“We’re a different offense, though,” Rodgers said earlier in the week about his team’s offensive options.
“We’re doing a lot of different things than we were last year, a lot of things better. I think our offensive line is playing better. Our scheme has advanced, and we’re getting more contributions from the tight end at this point.
“Davante (Adams) is a legit receiver in this league, and obviously Randall Cobb, who is established as well,” he said.
Pittsburgh (125) at Kansas City (12-4), Sunday at 3:20 p.m. (NBC)
The game was moved back because of a potential ice storm due to hit the Kansas City area this weekend.
The Steelers beat the Dolphins 30-12 in the wild-card round for their NFL-record 35th postseason win.
Ben Roethlisberger had five touchdown passes in Pittsburgh’s previous meeting against the Chiefs.
“They are a very aggressive defense,” Roethlisberger said. “We were able to utilize some of that the first time we played them. But like I said, we throw that out the window. They may be more conservative. They may just play their game.”
The previous time the Chiefs hosted a playoff game was in January 2011. Their coach for that game was Todd Haley, now the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.
The Chiefs have lost four straight home playoff games, three in the divisional round.
The Chiefs beat the Steelers 27-24 in the wild-card round on Jan. 8, 1994. Joe Montana was the quarterback for the Chiefs, who have not won a home playoff game since.
In fact, the Chiefs have only won two playoff games at home in their history, even though they were a founding member of the old AFL. The other came against the then Los Angeles Raiders in 1991, also in the wild-card round.
LA Chargers hire Lynn
LOS ANGELES -- The Chargers hired Anthony Lynn as their head coach Friday night, one day after announcing their relocation to Los Angeles.
The 48-year-old Lynn is a respected veteran assistant who spent the last two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He moved up during this season from running backs coach to offensive coordinator to interim head coach, presiding over the Bills’ final game after Rex Ryan was fired.
Lynn becomes the first black coach in franchise history.