As history shows, a first-round playoff bye does not necessarily spell success. Five of the last seven Super Bowl champions went through wild-card weekend en route to the Lombardi Trophy, and with talent spread so evenly across the board among this year’s playoff teams, the eventual champion may be one of the eight that are playing this weekend.
In the AFC, we have a wild-card rematch: the Cincinnati Bengals, who lost to the Houston Texans last year in a blowout. But the Bengals are riding one of the hottest streaks in football, and will be facing a Texan team that has lost its pizzazz over the last quarter of the season.
Then there’s the Luck-driven Colts, who have turned a franchise around with their No. 1 overall pick paving the way and bringing optimism back to Indianapolis. But they have no easy task ahead of them as they head to Baltimore to face a hungry Ravens team that will be rejuvenated by the return of defensive general Ray Lewis.
In the NFC, its a Week 17 rematch between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings squeezed by Green Bay last weekend with a 37-34 victory at home, but they travel to one of the toughest playoff environments, Lambeau Field, to take on a Packer team seeking immediate revenge.
And of course there’s the matchup of the rookie quarterbacks. Each leading their teams to a double-digit win total, Robert Griffen III and the Washington Redskins, winners of seven straight games, play host to Russell Wilson and the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks.
Four clashes, eight teams, each of them just four wins away from raising the Lombardi Trophy.
Taylor C. Snow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org