It’s day two of NFL Wild Card weekend with the AFC North’s lone representative taking the field at 1:05pm. This marks just the second time since 2007 that the AFC North hasn’t had at least two teams (4 times) or three teams (twice) in the playoffs.
To put this in perspective, the AFC West and East have only had two representatives three times in that span thanks to their success this season, and the loley Central has had two reps just twice. That said, the Central was the last division other than the North to have three teams competing in the playoff (2007).
Does the below content look familiar? Good then you are one of the few who doesn’t go directly to the message boards, and most probably didn’t read it yesterday (which is another way of saying I’m lazy and am recovering from a bachelor party).
The 2016/2017 playoff field is an interesting mix of the biggest and smallest media markets, the most loved and hated teams and fan bases, teams with the longest championship droughts, and the most storied and challenged franchises (or combinations thereof). Most stats charted below are quantitative, but naturally opinions vary on how people feel about fans and teams. I attempted to use four published rankings, but the teams were all over the board. For instance The Patriots and Cowboys fans were high on both loyalty and annoyance in most publications, but Bleacher Report had them 17th and 16th, respectively in their greatest fans ranking (although they didn’t disrespect either in their analysis). My criteria for fan ranking is based on attendance during bad seasons, away attendance, media market, and home stadium challenges (location, run down, etc.) For that reason, Packers fans have to be number one. The Packers ARE Green Bay. The 68th media market sells out every game, and their fans are at or near the top of any traveling fan base list.
|Oldest (year)||Championships (year)||Championship gap #years (timeline)||best fan bases||Market size|
|Packers (1921)||Packers- 13* (29*, 30*, 31*, 36, 39, 44, 61, 62, 65, 66, 67, 96, 10)||Cowboys - 20 (1995-present)||Packers||Giants (1)|
|Giants (1925)||Giants 8* (27*, 34, 38, 56, 86, 90, 07, 11)||Packers - 29 (1968-1996)||Chiefs||Cowboys (5)|
|Lions (1930)||Cowboys 5 (71, 77, 92, 93, 95)||Giants - 30 (1957-1986)||Steelers||Patriots (7)|
|Chiefs (1959)||Patriots 4 (01, 03, 04, 14)||Raiders 33 (1984-present)||Patriots||Atlanta (9)|
|Patriots (1959)||Lions - 4 (35, 52, 53, 57)||Seahawks - 40 (1974-2013)||Raiders||Texans (10)|
|Raiders (1960)||Raiders - 4** (67**, 76, 80, 83)||Patriots- 42 (1960-2001)||Texans||Lions (11)|
|Cowboys (1960)||Chiefs 3 (62, 66, 69)||Steelers - 42 (1933-1974)||Seahawks||Seahawks (12)|
|Dolphins (1965)||Dolphins 2 (72, 73)||Dolphins 43 (1974-present)||Giants||Miami (16)|
|Falcons (1965)||Seahawks 1 (13)||Chiefs - 47 (1970-present)||Lions||Steelers (23)|
|Seahawks (1974)||Texans 0||Texans 1999-present||Dolphins||Chiefs (31)|
|Texans (1999)||Falcons 0||Falcons 1966-present||Falcons||Packers (68)|
*prior to 1933, the league standings leader was crowned champion
**prior to the AFL/NFL merger (1966 – 1969), the AFL and NFL crowned individual champions regardless of Super Bowl outcome.
***Listing Oakland as a #6 media market is extremely misleading. They are lumped in with San Francisco and Oakland is obviously a much smaller, poorer area.
Wild Card schedule:
Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ Houston Texans (9-7), 4:35 pm, ESPN
Al Davis is stirring somewhere knowing that his team received the red-headed step-child playoff slot: Saturday afternoon on cable. That’s what happens when your once feared and revered franchise has done little since Bon Jovi was relevant. Of course they are playing the Texans, who are undoubtedly the least exciting team in the playoffs. Now that Raiders QB David Carr is out, there is little star power on either team, and neither will make past the next round.
Detroit Lions (9-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) 8:15 pm, NBC
The most challenging part of this game to viewers won’t be how horribly the Lions have played outdoors this season (winless), the decision making of Lions QB Matt Stafford, or the antics of multiple Seattle defenders. It will of course be that dreaded 12th man ceremony where fans celebrate the stadium sound system’s ability to crank out audio loud enough to damage their ears (Sorry fans, there is no other scientific explanation for a 20 decibel improvement with the only variable being someone’s screaming ability… this goes for you too, Chiefs).
Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6), 1:05 pm, CBS
There is plenty of star power in this one, at least on the Steelers side of the ball. The only misfortune for fans is that Phil Simms will be doing the commentary. It could be too many blows to the head as one of our distinguished writers believes, or it could be breathing too much New Jersey air. Either way, it might not help the viewing experience, but it can be entertaining if you listen carefully.
New York Giants (11-5) @ Green Bay Packers (10-6) 4:40pm, FOX
This is certainly the marquee game of the weekend with two of the most decorated franchises in NFL history, and two teams who have had a couple of epic playoff battles in the recent past.
On to the predictions!
Paul Johansson’s picks (0-0):
Dolphins @ Steelers
The Steelers have their defensive issues, but finished the season with plenty of momentum. The Dolphins only respectable win the entire season was against this very Steelers team, and a blowout at that. Expect the Steelers to return the favor
Dolphins 13, Steelers 30
Raiders @ Texans
The Broncos showed the Raiders what their offense is without their MVP candidate Derek Carr To make matters worse, Houston has the better overall defense. This will be one of those painful games full of turnovers and field goals. I’ll take the home team in a squeaker
Raiders 6, Texans 9
Lions @ Seahawks
The Seahawks defense has been extremely weak down the stretch, and their offense hasn’t looked good against quality teams. Lucky for them, they are facing the Lions and Matt Stafford, who some say is due, and certainly should have more success in the postseason. The Lions just have too many challenges playing outdoors.
Lions 24, Seahawks 26
Giants @ Packers
The Packers seem to have found their mojo, and are looking for revenge if the stat I saw was correct: Manning has as many playoff wins in Green Bay as Rogers.
Giants 20, Packers 28
Jack Crawford’s picks (0-0):
Dolphins @ Steelers
Teams evolve throughout the course of a season, and some regress. The Dolphins have managed to do both.
Dolphins 20, Steelers 31
Raiders @ Texans
No Carr, no problem for the Raiders, who have enough defensive firepower to overcome any semblance of offense the Texans may muster.
Raiders 26, Texans 17
Lions @ Seahawks
“12th Man” or no, Seattle takes this easily at home based solely on the talent discrepancies between the two rosters.
Lions 17, Seahawks 28
Giants @ Packers
“Playoff Eli” hasn’t appeared in the playoffs for some time, and it’s doubtful he’ll be able to stave off a resurgent Aaron Rodgers.
Giants 23, Packers 30