For Patriots fans, the four playoff games will be a chance to catch up on some players who used to play in New England, while also scouting out the team’s next opponent (either Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City).
Here’s a wild-card-round preview with a Patriots-type twist:
Chiefs at Texans (Saturday, 4:35 p.m., ESPN)
Quick-hit notes: There are five assistant coaches on the Texans’ staff with Patriots ties. ... Wilfork’s playoff experience is a positive for Houston. ... Hoyer was benched after Week 1, which strained his relationship with head coach Bill O’Brien, but now “it couldn’t be better.” ... The Chiefs, who started the season 1-5, have won 10 in a row and have a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year in cornerback Marcus Peters.
Prediction: The Texans’ top-notch coaching should keep them close in a defensive struggle, but Kansas City has won 10 in a row and looks to be a bit more complete. Chiefs 16, Texans 13
Steelers at Bengals (Saturday, 8:15 p.m., CBS)
Quick-hit notes: The Bengals have three players from Rutgers on their roster; the only team in the NFL with more is the Patriots (four). ... Tyler Murphy of Boston College is on the Steelers’ practice squad. ... With starting quarterback Andy Dalton sidelined with injury, AJ McCarron has stepped in for the Bengals and has kept things afloat, having noted that in 2001 Tom Brady did the same in New England. ... If the Bengals win, they come to Foxborough to face the Patriots.
Prediction: Yes, it’s hard to invest in Cincinnati based on its past playoff struggles, but it’s also tough to get over Pittsburgh losing on the road to Ryan Mallett-led Baltimore two weeks ago. Bengals 23, Steelers 17
Seahawks at Vikings (Sunday, NBC, 1:05 p.m. ET)
Former Patriots in the game: DT A.J. Francis (Seahawks), DE Zach Moore (Vikings)
Quick-hit notes: Icy cold temperatures expected are a big storyline. ... Moore, a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2014, spent most of the year on the Minnesota practice squad before a late December call-up. ... Nice to see longtime Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, in his first year with Seattle, have a chance to make his NFL playoff debut. ... Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, of Needham, Massachusetts, has emerged as one of the NFL’s top kickers.
Prediction: The Vikings are a feel-good story, and coach Mike Zimmer deserves a lot of credit in his second season, but the Seahawks look like they’re putting it together at the right time. Seahawks 24, Vikings 17.
Packers at Redskins (Sunday, Fox, 4:40 p.m. ET)
Former Patriots in the game: None
Quick-hit notes: Watching Kirk Cousins’ rise as Washington’s quarterback sparks memories of Patriots-Redskins joint practices in August 2014 and how Cousins looked like their best signal-caller at that time. ... Cousins’ “You like that!” rant was one of the fun storylines of the 2015 season. ... Much like the Patriots, the Packers have been piecing it together at receiver without their top option (Jordy Nelson) and it’s been a struggle at times.
Prediction: Washington has been playing good football of late, and Green Bay has struggled, but hard to go against Aaron Rodgers. Packers 27, Redskins 20.