Maybe the one thing the wild card round of the NFL playoffs taught us is that home field advantage is nice, but isn’t that important. The Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers were all playing on the road. But for the first time in the WC round history, all the road teams won the game.
So is chasing the #1 or #2 seeds stupid? Having a bye week, especially for a team trying to bring back players from injuries, is nice, and no one has ever really complained about it, unless it killed off some momentum completely. But when you look at the basis of it all, the good teams win on the road or at home. The good teams don’t let rust and the long wait of the bye week get to them.
The special feat of a clean sweep for the road teams had two sides to it: One, two division champions that weren’t very good teams on an all-NFL sort of comparison, and two incidents that had a lot to do with luck and not so much quality.
The Kansas City Chiefs won ten straight games, home and away, on a not so difficult schedule heading into the playoffs. They were scorching, so not having a bye week wasn’t hurting them. The Houston Texans got into the playoffs based on the reality of playing in a bad division, going 5-1 in the AFC South, while posting a 4-6 record outside the division. They didn’t just lose because of a situation they couldn’t change: They made mistakes during and before the game. But the Chiefs got a nice little draw by having to go to Houston.
You can say the same of the Packers, playing against a Washington Redskins team that didn’t beat a single team with a winning record on their way to clinching the first place in the NFC East. And maybe they have found a franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins, and maybe the Packers weren’t heading into Washington in the best of forms. But quality is hard to hide, especially when there’s such a huge difference, and the Redskins aren’t coached by some genius who can find an answer to every inferiority.
And then there was the “tragedies” in bad weather the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings had to endure. The Bengals were on the receiving end of a field goal, snatching away victory from them. But it had a lot to do with Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones losing their mind, not to mention bad officials allowing Joey Porter to walk on the field and taunt Bengals players. A lot of what if’s, but it ended with Chris Boswell sending the Steelers into the divisional round.
The Vikings didn’t have anyone do something stupid or illegal. There was the fumble by Adrian Peterson, a repeat of the mistake by Jeremy Hill. There was Russell Wilson making that incredible play in which he almost fumbled the ball, almost got sacked for a loss of like 25 yards and still pulled off the pass, which led to a touchdown on the next play. And yet the Vikings got one more big stop, which led them to going down the field and getting to a 27-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds on the clock. Only Blair Walsh sent it wide left, giving the Seahawks a stunning win, in probably the most memorable moment of the first weekend in the NFL playoffs.