Seventeen weeks of football have concluded. It’s playoff time, but six NFL coaches and three general managers have already been fired, retired or transitioned into a different position, probably sullying the start of their postseason festivities.
Coaching changes are being made in Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, New York (the Giants) and Oakland. GM changes have already been made in Cleveland, and last week with the Giants.
Obviously, these teams aren’t participating in the NFL postseason, which begins this weekend to decide who’ll represent the AFC and NFC Conference on Super Bowl Sunday, the fourth of February, this year held at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. It’s sports’ biggest holiday.
The AFC will be repped by the New England Patriots, 13-3 this season, the defending champions who defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in a spectacular, come-from-behind overtime win in the last Super Bowl nearly a year ago. The Pittsburgh Steelers, also 13-3, are the two seed.
Although the Patriots and Steelers both have the same 13-3 record, New England comes out ahead because they won their regular season game against Pittsburgh in December. They both get a bye and have this weekend off to prepare for the winners of the weekend’s AFC Wild Card games.
The 10-6 Jacksonville Jaguars are the three seed. The Kansas City Chiefs, also 10-6, are four, the 9-7 Tennessee Titans are five and the 9-7 Buffalo Bills are six. Only one win separated the Jaguars and Titans, who finished first and second, respectively, in the AFC South division.
Game 1 features the Titans versus Kansas City in KC Saturday, and the Bills versus the Jaguars in Jacksonville Sunday. New England plays in the next round, the Divisional Round, next Saturday, and the Steelers play Sunday.
Last season, Pittsburgh was the three seed; the Chiefs were two. Pittsburgh defeated them 18-16 in the Divisional Round, then lost to the Patriots 36-17 in the AFC Championship the following week.
Jacksonville, Tennessee and Buffalo are new entrants to the AFC postseason, replacing the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders, three teams with less wins than last year. The Bills haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999, Jacksonville since 2007 and Tennessee since 2008.