LOS ANGELES: The 100th anniversary of the National Football League (NFL) brought a fantastic start to the playoffs. My birthday is January 9th, and the best present a leathered could ask for is great football when it matters most. Three of the four Wildcard games were thrillers, and the last game was an ugly affair that at least had an exciting ending.
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots were sent packing in shocking fashion. So was Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints were as well.
So as we head toward the Divisional, let’s honor football history. All of these games bring up memories of previous games. Some are recent rematches while others have been preserved thanks to NFL Films.
1987 Vikings vs. Saints
In 1987, The 8-7 Minnesota Vikings went on the road and shocked the 12-3 New Orleans Saints.
Then they went to San Francisco and stunned the 13-2 49ers. For those wondering if Joe Montana ever had a bad playoff game, this was it. At home, he threw four interceptions and was benched in a 36-24 loss. While he came back and won it all in 1988 and 1989, the 1987 loss was a gut punch. In 1988, it was Steve Young’s famous 49-yard run that propelled the 49ers to a 24-21 regular-season win over the Vikings.
2000 Titans vs. Ravens
The Titans and Ravens have played some smashmouth boneblack games over the years. In 2000, Brian Billick harped on how the Tennessee Titans were supposedly the best team in football. The Ravens became the first team to ever win in Tennessee’s Adelphia Coliseum 24-23.
In a playoff match for the ages, a 10-10 fourth quarter deadlock saw the Ravens block a field goal and return it for a touchdown. Then Ray Lewis intercepted a pass meant for Eddie George as the Ravens won 24-10 in front of a shell-shocked home crowd. Three years later, the Titans went into Baltimore in the playoffs and stunned the Ravens 20-17.
Eddie George went toe to toe with Ray Lewis and got his revenge, as did Steve McNair. The 2008 season saw Kerry Collins lead the Titans to a 13-3 regular season.
In another bare-fisted slobber knocker playoff game, the Ravens won 13-10. The road team has won in all three playoff games, and points did not come easy. Jeff Fisher ran Buddy Ryan’s defense.
As Coach Billick said, “When you go into the lion’s den, you don’t tippy toe in. You carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, ‘Where is the son of a bitch!’ If you go in any other way you’re going to lose.”
In standing up for his coach, the trash-talking Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharpe thundered, “Yeah, we said it! Whatever they say we said, we said it!”
2016 Chiefs vs. Texans
No, the Chiefs are not playing themselves. They used to be briefly be known as the Dallas Texans. These Houston Texans were created after the Oilers moved to Tennessee. On January 9, 2016, the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans played their only playoff game. The Chiefs returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and blanked the Texans in Houston 30-0. In the 2016 regular season, the Texans got revenge 19-12. Then the Chiefs won in 2017 42-34. In the 2019 regular season, Houston went into Kansas City and stunned the Chiefs 42-34.
2003 Seahawks vs. Packers
The Seahawks and Packers have played some epic games. After the 2003 season, these teams met in the playoffs and went to overtime. The Seahawks won the coin toss and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, “We want the ball and we’re going to score.” He then threw a perfect touchdown pass to Al Harris, who played defense for the Packers.
Green Bay’s 33-27 win was the end of overtime guarantees. The most infamous game between these rivals was the “Fail Mary” game that got the replacement referees fired and the regular referees back on the job. On September 24, 2012, the Seahawks trailed 12-7.
Russell Wilson threw a Hail Mary that appeared to be intercepted in the end zone. It was ruled a touchdown and a 14-12 Seahawks victory in Seattle. In the 2014 season, these teams met in an epic NFC Title Game. Russell Wilson had a miserable day. His fourth interception with 5 minutes left and the Seahawks trailing 19-7 appeared to end it. Yet the Seahawks finally scored a touchdown, got the onsides kick, and scored another touchdown.
The Packers tied the game in overtime. Wilson threw another touchdown pass for a 28-22 Seahawks win. Aaron Rodgers said the Packers would take that loss to their graves. 20 years ago, Walrus Mike Holmgren led the Seahawks to a road win over his former team 27-7 in his first year coaching Seattle.
It was the last time the Seahawks beat the Packers in Green Bay.
Now it is time to make more NFL history with the first Divisional playoff games of the new decade. With that, here is the NFL 2019-2020 Playoffs Divisionals Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
NFL 2020 Playoffs on Saturday, January 11, 2020:
4:30 pm on NBC: NFC: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-7) —
Minnesota showed a ton of heart and guts in winning at New Orleans last week. It was vindication for Kirk Cousins. However, the 49ers will not be caught off guard. Even if Jimmy Garoppolo starts out with jitters, the defense will keep things calm. The key battle is the 49ers running game against the Minnesota defense. The spread is high, and the 49ers are inexperienced. All the playoff games have been close so far. 49ers win but fail to cover.
8:00 pm on CBS: AFC: Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-9.5) —
Tennessee shocked New England last week, but that was not the same New england team as in years past. As impressive as the win was, Baltimore is a wrecking machine who is well-rested. John Harbaugh’s decision not to bench Lamar Jackson in last year’s playoff loss is looking wiser by the minute. The Ravens are a complete team. John Harbaugh is too experienced to let his team take anyone lightly. The spread is high, but the Ravens are that good. After an entire week of close playoff games, this one will not be. Ravens cover.
NFL 2020 Playoffs on Sunday, January 12
3:00 pm on CBS: AFC: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) —
Houston miraculously came back from a 16-0 third-quarter deficit last week, but that was at home. J.J. Watt has the heart of a lion, but Walrus Lite Andy Reid just has too much offensive firepower. Patrick Mahomes has playmakers who can score at will. Speed kills, and Mahomes now has the playoff experience necessary to take the next step. Chiefs cover.
6:30 pm on FOX: NFC: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4) —
Seattle won an ugly battle over a 9-7 Philadelphia team, but Green Bay is a tougher test. Aaron Rodgers now has a defense and does not have to do everything himself. Seattle has a fresh Marshawn Lynch ready to wreak havoc. This is Matt LaFleur’s first playoff game, while Pete Carroll has plenty of experience. This one could be ripe for an upset, but Aaron Rodgers is still burning over the NFC Title Game loss from five years ago. Packers win but fail to cover.
Lead Image: Courtesy Bracket courtesy https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/nfl-playoffs-2020-standings-bracket-matchups/