Last season, the four road teams won and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. It was the opposite this time — the four home teams won. The difference between this year and last? Those road teams from a year ago — Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay — all won their divisions in 2016 and earned home games.
So what’s next for the wild-card teams that were knocked out? Trying to maintain and build upon their status, of course. Maybe just one or two will be back in the playoffs next season — that’s just how it goes in the NFL. Of last year’s playoff field, the two Super Bowl teams (Denver and Carolina), as well as Arizona, Washington, Minnesota and Cincinnati, didn’t make it to the playoffs this season. That’s 50 percent.
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Here’s how I rank each wild-card loser’s chances of returning to the playoffs next season:
The overtime drive included an Elway-to-Steve Watson pass for 28 yards that converted a third-and-12 that moved the ball to the Browns¡¯ 22-yard line. Karlis kicked the game-winner four plays later.
Most of the players involved have told the story countless times at alumni gatherings or fan events. Watson went on to become an assistant coach on Mike Shanahan¡¯s staff, while the holder for the field goals and extra points that day, a backup quarterback named Gary Kubiak, won Super Bowl 50 last February as the Broncos coach.
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Last season, Kubiak said: ¡°Just to be there, be a part of that team, those are the kind of moments you want to be around. They¡¯re why you play, why you coach.”