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NFL divisional playoffs feature duels between rising quarterbacks

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will face the tough task of trying to outscore the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs offense in the AFC divisional playoffs.
(Tim Warner / Getty Images)

None of them was No. 1 overall.

But when it’s all over, one of them will be.

For the first time since the 2010 NFL season, there aren’t any quarterbacks among the final eight who were selected first in the draft.

In fact, only one of them was a single-digit selection — Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill went eighth in 2012 to Miami, which got rid of him anyway.

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Unlike the divisional rounds of the last decade, there’s no Peyton or Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer or Jared Goff.

There are two No. 1 picks remaining in this field, but neither is a quarterback: Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (2014 by Houston) and Kansas City tackle Eric Fisher (2013).

In this year’s second round, the only two quarterbacks who have appeared in a Super Bowl — Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Seattle’s Russell Wilson — are playing each other. The Seahawks play at the Packers in Sunday’s late game.

“To come back here, back East, it’s a long ways, we were able to do it, pull through,” Wilson said after Seattle’s 17-9 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday in an NFC wild-card game. “We’ve been road warriors and it’s exciting.”

Kirk Cousins connects on a 43-yard pass to Adam Thielen in overtime to set up a touchdown three plays later in the Vikings’ 26-20 win over the Saints.

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In the other NFC divisional game, Minnesota at San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, it’s two quarterbacks who began their careers elsewhere: The 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo in New England and the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins in Washington.

“Being a fourth-round pick and kind of working your way up in the league — now you win a playoff game,” Cousins said. “Guess what. You look around and you realize there are more mountains to climb.”

The early game Sunday is Houston at Kansas City, pitting two of the league’s most dynamic young quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. They were drafted in near succession in 2017, with the Chiefs taking Mahomes 10th and Texans grabbing Watson 12th.

In Week 6, Houston won at Kansas City 31-24.

Watson converted a fourth down to run down the clock in that game, but Mahomes was no pushover. The Chiefs star threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will pose a tough test for the Tennessee Titans defense.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will pose a tough test for the Tennessee Titans defense.
(Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to deal with all of the adversity, the ups and downs and the flows of the game, and to be able to keep fighting for 60 minutes,” Watson said after that victory. “That’s what we did. We never got discouraged. We kept fighting, we kept pushing, we kept encouraging and that’s the biggest part about this locker room.”

Saturday night’s game features two skyrocketing star quarterbacks, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Tannehill, both of whom have surprised people with their meteoric rise.

Jackson almost certainly will be the NFL’s most valuable player, and Tannehill has been remarkably productive since replacing the struggling Marcus Mariota.

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In 12 regular-season games, Tannehill had 26 touchdowns — 22 passing — with six interceptions. In six of his final seven games, he had a passer rating of 130.8 or better.

After Jadeveon Clowney knocked out Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles 17-9 in the NFC wild-card playoffs.

The Ravens are 19-3 with Jackson as starter. Since his first NFL start, in Week 11 of last season, Jackson’s 19 regular-season victories are most among NFL starting quarterbacks.

He is the only quarterback in NFL history with at least 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season.

Jackson said last week that he’s ready to put behind him Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Chargers a year ago.

“That game still motivates me,” he said. “I still haven’t played my second playoff game yet. ... That game is over with. We’ve been having a great year this year. We just got to keep it going. I want a Super Bowl. I’m not worried about that. That was my rookie season.”


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