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After a new, bigger-than-ever Wild Card weekend, eight teams remain alive for a trip to the Super Bowl.
There will be four match-ups this weekend in the NFL’s Divisional playoff round. Those who win will advance to the conference championship game. In only one of the four match-ups however, have the teams met before in the playoffs.
Better Than Before?
The only meeting this weekend between teams who have met before in the playoffs will take place on Saturday in Green Bay. The top-seeded Green Bay Packers and No. 6 seed Los Angeles Rams will meet for the third time in the playoffs. For fans, who like close, competitive games, they’ll hope things are better than before.
In the prior two playoff meetings between the teams, the home squad won both times and in the Divisional round. The most recent meeting was decided by 28 points. Before that was a 21-point contest.
In the most recent contest between the teams, the then St. Louis Rams handed the Packers their worst playoff loss ever. In the Divisional round during the 2001 season, the Rams topped Green Bay, 45-17. St. Louis forced eight turnovers and intercepted Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre six times.
Aeneas Williams returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. Linebacker Tommy Polley also had two interceptions for St. Louis. On offense, quarterback Kurt Warner passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams would go on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship before falling to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The only prior playoff meeting in Green Bay came during the 1967 season as the Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field, 28-7. It would be the Rams, who would actually score first in that one, but the Packers closed with 28 unanswered points.
Bart Starr was an efficient 17-for-23 passing for 222 yards and a touchdown. Travis Williams rushed for two touchdowns for Green Bay. The Packers would go on to beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.
With a win on Saturday, Green Bay would reach the NFC Championship for a second straight season. It would be the Rams’ second NFC Championship appearance in three years.
First Time for Everything
The other three match-ups will be between teams meeting in the playoffs for the first time.
Entering this year’s playoffs, there were only two AFC teams that the Buffalo Bills had never met in the playoffs — the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens. The Bills beat the Colts last week 27-24 and will now play host to Baltimore.
After Buffalo notched its first playoff win in 25 years last weekend, the Ravens advanced with a 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans last week. The teams will meet on Saturday as Baltimore looks to advance to the AFC Championship for the first time since 2012 when it went on to win the Super Bowl. The last AFC Championship appearance for Buffalo came in 1993 when the Bills won the AFC for a fourth straight season.
The other AFC match-up comes on Sunday and features the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week for its first playoff win in 26 years. The Browns have not reached the AFC Championship since 1989.
The final match-up of the weekend takes place in the NFC as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit the New Orleans Saints. This will be the third meeting between the teams this season, but the first-ever postseason match-up.
Tampa Bay got its first playoff win since Super Bowl XXXVII last week with a 31-23 victory over the Washington Football Team. After beating the Chicago Bears 21-9 last week, the Saints will look to advance to the NFC Championship for the second time in three years. Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady has won his last eight starts in the Divisional round.
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.