Column: Not-so-instant replay: All four NFL divisional games are rematches
The temperatures fell but the snow never did. There were no whiteouts on the NFL’s wild-card weekend, only blowouts.
Houston beat Oakland by 13. Seattle beat Detroit by 20. Pittsburgh beat Miami by 18. Green Bay beat the New York Giants by 25.
All the home teams won, the opposite of last year’s first round when the visiting teams went 4-0. Now, all four of the divisional games are rematches from the regular season — and three of those games had lopsided outcomes.
Seattle plays at Atlanta. The Seahawks held off the visiting Falcons in Week 6, 26-24.
Houston plays at New England. The Patriots rolled over the visiting Texans in Week 3, 27-0.
Pittsburgh plays at Kansas City. In Week 4, the Steelers pounded the visiting Chiefs, 43-14.
And Green Bay at Dallas is a rematch of a Week 6 game at Lambeau Field, where the Cowboys won, 30-16.
All those games took place in the first half of the season, however, and teams can change dramatically in the 10-plus weeks in between.
“Everybody’s a new team in the playoffs, man,” Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said. “They see stuff on film, because you done played a whole season. So they go back on film and look at plays that worked on you. It’s a new team every time, and then [teams with first-round byes] get two weeks to study you.”
In the weekend capper Sunday, Giants Coach Ben McAdoo returned to Green Bay, where he was an assistant under Packers Coach Mike McCarthy for eight seasons. Theirs was a warm reunion on a bitter-cold day.
Reunions will be a theme in the divisional round. Texans Coach Bill O’Brien is a former New England offensive coordinator. Atlanta Coach Dan Quinn was defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll for both of Seattle’s Super Bowl teams. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley is the former head coach of the Chiefs.
The NFC teams catch a break. Both games will be played in climate-controlled stadiums, whereas the AFC games will take place in can’t-start-the-car cold.
Every game features a Super Bowl-winning quarterback against a ring-less hopeful. It’s New England’s Tom Brady and Houston’s Brock Osweiler, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Kansas City’s Alex Smith, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas rookie phenomenon Dak Prescott.
If there’s a blowout in the making, it’s the Texans playing at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are 5-0 against Houston since 2012, including a playoff game, and outscored the Texans in those games, 171-79. Brady didn’t even play in the Sept. 22 game, as he was still serving his four-game suspension. It was rookie Jacoby Brissett who presided over that laugher.
The Steelers have lost three of their last four at Arrowhead Stadium, although one of those was so long ago, Roethlisberger was still in college. More relevant was the game earlier this season in which the Pittsburgh quarterback threw for five touchdowns, two of them to Antonio Brown, and finished with a near-perfect passer rating of 152.5.
Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell were lethal Sunday, each scoring a pair of touchdowns. Bell, who missed the playoffs each of the previous two seasons with knee injuries, was careful to not get carried away with his performance.
“We have to understand,” he said, “the same passion and dedication that we put in this week to beat Miami, that’s how Kansas City is going to try to beat us.”
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said that having already played the Falcons this season “helps a ton.”
“We understand them, we understand what they like to do,” he said. “They’ve got an incredibly dynamic offense, a ton of playmakers, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. We feel like we gave them a couple [plays] in the game we played previously, mental errors, miscommunications in the third quarter. But we look forward to coming back and it being a great ballgame.”
The Cowboys and Packers know each other from this season, sure, but a bigger story line this week could be the last time Dallas made a playoff run, two years ago. The end of that road for the Cowboys came at Green Bay, a 26-21 loss marked by a controversial reversal that determined Dallas receiver Dez Bryant failed to make a catch near the goal line.
Aaron Rodgers is famous for telling Packers fans to R-E-L-A-X.
In this game, the Cowboys are seeking something else: R-E-V-E-N-G-E.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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