Originally Published: January 9, 2011

Key AFC divisional playoffs questions

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

John Rieger/US PresswireJoe Flacco and the Ravens are moving on. Flacco tossed a pair of touchdown passes, leading Baltimore to a 30-7 rout of Kansas City. The Ravens will head to Pittsburgh for Round 2. Wild-card leaders

The AFC truly enters the divisional phase of the playoffs next week. The two games are between divisional rivals.

But the great part is that the AFC divisional round matches two of the conference's best divisional rivals. The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens. The New York Jets and Rex Ryan get to call out the New England Patriots.

"What better than these four teams,'' Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Everybody wanted to see this matchup [the Steelers and Ravens] because [the teams] split during the regular season. This is Armageddon for both teams.''

The Jets split with the Pats, with each team winning at home. The Ravens won at Heinz Field, but the Steelers came back and won in Baltimore. "It's personal between these two cities,'' Suggs said. "It shouldn't surprise you that these teams are at their throats. This is the NFL at its best.''

Here are the 10 biggest questions surrounding Round 2 of the AFC playoffs.

1. Is it rare to have division rivals meet again in the playoffs?

Divisional playoff rematches are becoming more and more common. Since 2000, divisional rivals have met again in the playoffs 17 times. Last year, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14, completing a three-game season sweep of Philly. Following the 2008 season, the Steelers beat the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, 23-14, and went on to the Super Bowl to face the Arizona Cardinals. "Three-peats'' seem to happen in close divisions such as the AFC North and NFC East, particularly now that the league is broken into eight divisions. The reason is simple. Teams such as the Steelers and Ravens have had stability within their organizations and their rosters and are good enough to win opening-round playoff games to advance. A similar thing is happening in the AFC East now that Ryan is establishing a winning tradition with his Jets. There has been at least one divisional playoff rematch in every year since 2004.

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Key NFC divisional playoffs questions

By Jeffri Chadiha
ESPN.com

The Seattle Seahawks' 41-36 win over the New Orleans Saints should have reminded us of something that makes the NFL playoffs so special: Anything truly is possible. Boasting a 7-9 regular-season record, the Seahawks were easily the worst postseason participant in league history, a squad so unimpressive that they were 10-point underdogs heading into that contest. Yet they're the team that's advancing to the next round instead of the defending Super Bowl champs. Their survival alone makes it that much harder to determine how this postseason will shake out in the NFC.

The key to Seattle's success? An unwavering belief that the regular season no longer matters and that a lack of respect isn't the best motivating force at this time of year.

"We don't do any of that," said head coach Pete Carroll when asked if he pumps his team up by citing its long list of doubters. "We have to do what we do and we don't use outside stuff to motivate [the players]. It's a great standard to live by because we're not going to be intimidated by anybody we play."

Because Seattle has now muddled the playoff picture, it's time to examine 10 questions that might help us make sense of the NFC as the divisional playoff round ensues:

1. Can the Seahawks pull off an upset for the second straight week?

Don't bet on it. It's one thing to create some postseason magic when you're playing at home. It's a whole different ball game when you're talking about finding a comfort zone in somebody else's house. What can't be forgotten in Seattle's win is that the Seahawks started slowly and fell behind by 10 points early. Try doing that at Chicago in January. The game could be over before the Seahawks ever know what's happened. And please don't talk about the confidence Seattle gained by winning in Chicago earlier this season. The Bears surely remember that loss, as well.

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Short Takes

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

According to sources, Marc Trestman, head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, is drawing consideration for NFL offensive coordinator jobs. The 49ers contacted him Friday. The Panthers are considering him because he lives in Charlotte, N.C., during CFL offseasons. … Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel jogged to the locker room after Sunday's 30-7 loss to the Ravens wiping tears from his face. It makes you wonder if the 35-year-old linebacker had played his last game. … Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne deserves to be upset about having only one catch for 1 yard in Saturday's 17-16 loss to the Jets. Normally, Peyton Manning forces a few throws to Wayne when he's closely covered, but Manning targeted him only once. … Give credit to Jets coach Rex Ryan for adjusting the game plan on offense in the second half. With Mark Sanchez overthrowing receivers, Ryan went to more running plays out of running formations. Smart. … Covering themselves in case cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha leaves in free agency, Raiders owner Al Davis contacted the team's other starting cornerback, Stanford Routt, and initiated contract extension talks, according to a source. Routt is a free agent and is coming off a great season. … The Saints have serious concerns after their 41-36 loss to the Seahawks. They have 27 free agents, including offensive linemen Jonathan Goodwin, Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks; safety Roman Harper; linebacker Scott Shanle; and wide receiver Lance Moore. … Receivers coach Ray Sherman interviewed for the Cowboys' head-coaching job as part of the Rooney Rule, but he wasn't retained for Jason Garrett's staff. Does anyone else think that's strange?

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