In the NFC, New Orleans Saints are only the second 13-3 team ever to not earn a first-round bye. (The 1999 Titans were the first team.) In the AFC, the 12-4 Steelers are arguably the conference's most complete team. If I’m the one arguing.
The presence of those two powerhouse teams is just one of the playoff storylines to watch this week.
BENGALS AT TEXANS (Saturday, 4:30 p.m on NBC)
The battle of the rookie quarterbacks
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is the first rookie quarterback not drafted in the first round to start 16 games in a season. Texans quarterback T.J. Yates is the first fifth-round, third-string rookie to start a franchise’s first playoff game. (OK, I’m just assuming that stat is correct.)
One drought, done
Let’s face it: These two teams aren’t true title contenders. Just don’t tell them this isn’t a massive game. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. The Texans haven’t played in a playoff game in their franchise history.
LIONS AT SAINTS (Saturday, 8 p.m. on NBC)
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Aiming for perfection
This is very likely the Saints’ last home game of the year, where they are 8-0. The Saints look like football's best team when they are in the Superdome. It would be a massive upset if New Orleans can’t move on to face the 49ers in the Divisional Round.
FALCONS AT GIANTS (Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX)
Ryan tries to get monkey off his back
Matt Ryan has done a lot of great things in his four-year career, but he hasn’t won a playoff game. The Falcons' front office traded up in the draft for receiver Julio Jones just for games like this. Atlanta’s offense is peaking heading into the playoffs.
Recipe is there for another Giants run
New York snuck into the playoffs, just like in 2007. This time Eli Manning and the New York passing game is playing at much higher level than their championship year. The pass rush is deep, healthy and peaking at the right time. The Giants aren’t nearly as tough running the ball or stopping the run as in ’07, but the pieces are in place for another surprising playoff run.
STEELERS AT BRONCOS (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. on CBS)
What Steelers team is this?
Remember: The Browns nearly beat Pittsburgh Sunday. I have faith the Steelers can pull it together, but they come into the playoffs banged up.
Tebowmania’s toughest test
Forget the Pro Bowl and MVP talk. The Broncos just need Tim Tebow to play at a professional level. He’s 30-for-71 with one passing touchdown, four interceptions, and five fumbles over the last three weeks.
His 22-attempt, 60-yard performance against Kansas City was as bad a big game passing performance as the NFL has seen in years. Life won’t get easier against Pittsburgh.
If Tebow struggles again, the questions about his future in Denver will re-emerge.
PFT: Defensive end finally finds a new team in San Diego — and for a honey of a deal that would be worth a max of $13.35 million.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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Chudzinski: 'Too early' to name a QB
Following Thursday's OTA, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski speaks to the media about his team’s brewing quarterback controversy. He feels the competition will aid in each QB’s progression as a passer, but he isn’t ready to name a starter for Week 1.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.