MIAMI (AP) — There’s strength at six! Both No. 6 seeds advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, marking the first time that’s happened in consecutive seasons since the NFL instituted the current 12-team format in 1990.
First, the Tennessee Titans (10-7) sent the New England Patriots (12-5) to their earliest exit in a decade. Then, the Minnesota Vikings (11-6) knocked off the New Orleans Saints (12-5).
Last year, the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles won wild-card games as No. 6 seeds. Both teams lost in the divisional round.
Since 2013, No. 6 seeds are 10-4 in the wild-card round. But those teams were 0-12 the following week. The last time a No. 6 seed reached the conference championship was the 2010 season when the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers did it. The Packers went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Vikings and Titans aim to upset No. 1 seeds on Saturday. Minnesota visits the San Francisco 49ers (13-3) in the early game and Tennessee faces the Baltimore Ravens (14-2) in the nightcap.
The 2005 Steelers are the only other No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl. The 2008 Ravens and 2008 Eagles also reached conference title games as No. 6 seeds before losing.
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Kirk Cousins was 0-15 in his career against teams with a .700 winning percentage before leading Minnesota to an overtime win against the Saints. With the Vikings, he had been 0-10 against 10-win teams, 2-10 against playoff teams, and 3-11-1 against teams with a winning record.
OLD SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Derrick Henry set a postseason franchise record with 182 yards rushing in Tennessee’s win at New England. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed only eight passes against the Patriots, the same number of passes Nick Foles completed on the go-ahead touchdown drive when the Patriots had previously lost a playoff game, Super Bowl 52 against Philadelphia.
OLD SCHOOL FOOTBALL II
The Titans-Ravens matchup features two of the top three rushing teams in the league. The Ravens set an NFL record with 3,296 yards rushing and the Titans had 2,223.
Henry led the league with 1,540 yards rushing while Baltimore got 1,206 from quarterback Lamar Jackson and 1,018 from Mark Ingram.
This will be the fourth time the team with the top rushing offense met the team with the league’s leading rusher in the playoffs during the Super Bowl era. The team with the leading rusher won the first three.
When the Texans (11-6) visit the Chiefs (12-4) on Sunday, it’ll be the third time two quarterbacks under age 25 face off in the divisional round of the playoffs since 1967. Houston’s Deshaun Watson is three days older than Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf had seven catches for 160 yards and a 53-yard TD in Seattle’s 17-9 win over Philadelphia. He set a franchise record and NFL rookie record for most yards receiving in a playoff game.
Aaron Rodgers enters Green Bay’s game against Seattle with 36 TD passes in the playoffs, fifth-most in league history. Tom Brady is first with 73, Joe Montana had 45, Brett Favre had 44 and Peyton Manning 40.
JOIN THE CLUB
Jimmy Garoppolo makes his first career playoff start when the 49ers host the Vikings. He won two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots backing up Brady. Garoppolo is 21-5 as a starter.