FROM WILD CARD TO SUPER BOWL: Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl seven times, and at least one Super Bowl participant in five of the past six years played a Wild Card game.
Last year, the Green Bay Packers won four playoff games to become the second No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl. In 2008, the NFC No. 4 seed Arizona Cardinals won three postseason games for a berth in Super Bowl XLIII. Four years ago, the NFC No. 5 seed New York Giants won three road playoff games en route to a Super Bowl XLII victory. In 2006, AFC No. 3 seed Indianapolis won Super Bowl XLI. Six years ago, Pittsburgh became the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
FAMILIAR FOES: This Sunday, Pittsburgh (Wild Card) will travel to play Denver (AFC West Champions) as part of Wild Card Weekend. It marks the seventh postseason meeting between these teams, tying for the third most all-time (Bears vs. Giants, 8; Cowboys vs. Rams, 8). It is the first meeting between the Steelers and Broncos on Wild Card Weekend.
The Steelers-Broncos playoff series is tied (3-3) and of those six games, the winning team reached the Super Bowl five times. Three of those five teams won the Super Bowl the same year.
A RESILIENT BUNCH: The Denver Broncos captured their first AFC West title since 2005 after starting the 2011 season with a 2-5 record. The Broncos became the fifth team in NFL history to reach the postseason after starting 2-5 or worse after seven games.
PASSING FRENZY: Three quarterbacks threw for 5,000 yards this season – the New Orleans’ DREW BREES (5,476), New England’s TOM BRADY (5,235) and Detroit’s MATTHEW STAFFORD (5,038). Only two quarterbacks previously accomplished this feat in a season – Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (5,084 in 1984) and Brees (5,069 in 2008).
This Saturday, Brees and Stafford will face each other as their teams seek a playoff victory. Their combined passing yards in 2011 (10,514) will be the most ever between two opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game.
On Sunday, when the New York Giants host the Atlanta Falcons, quarterbacks ELI MANNING of New York (4,933) and MATT RYAN of Atlanta (4,177) will meet. Their combined passing yards (9,110) will be the second-most in NFL history by opposing starting quarterbacks in a playoff game.
FIRST-TIMERS: Four quarterbacks – Detroit’s MATTHEW STAFFORD, Cincinnati’s ANDY DALTON, Denver’s TIM TEBOW and Houston’s T.J. YATES – will make their first career postseason starts.
Stafford (5,038) set a franchise record for passing yards in a season and became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000-yards in a season. Dalton’s 3,398 passing yards were the fifth most ever by an NFL rookie. Tebow helped the Broncos clinch the AFC West with a six-game winning streak in Weeks 9 through 14. Yates threw for 300 yards against Cincinnati in Week 14 to give the Texans their first 10-win season in franchise history.
ROOKIE-QB RECORD: This weekend’s Wild Card matchup between the Bengals and the Texans will feature two rookie quarterbacks – Cincinnati’s ANDY DALTON and Houston’s T.J. YATES. It will mark the first time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that two rookie quarterbacks have started against each other in a playoff game.
Yates (Round 5, No. 152) will also be the first rookie quarterback drafted in the fifth round or later to start a playoff game in the era of the common draft.
CLUTCH SACKS: Pittsburgh linebacker LA MARR WOODLEY, who has totaled 11 sacks in seven playoff games, is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer CHARLES HALEY (11) for the fourth-most postseason sacks since the statistic became official in 1982. Woodley is the first player in NFL history to record at least one sack in seven consecutive postseason games