Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
steelers.com

If you'd like a preview of the AFC and NFC Championship games, you may not have to look any further with prediction pieces than the leaders of each team's offense heading into the NFL's Divisional Round playoff game this weekend.

Four teams each have a quarterback with one game or less of postseason experience, while the others feature nearly double-digit games played (save Matt Ryan, who only has nine).

However, nine starts is a far cry from the three combined starts from four of the remaining eight playoff passers who will suit up this weekend.

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The Titans Marcus Mariota and Jaguars Blake Bortles each made their first career postseason starts last weekend in tight victories over their opponents. Heading into the next round, Mariota will face the Patriots Tom Brady, who has started in a whopping 34 playoff games. Bortles draws Ben Roethlisberger, who has the second-most postseason experience of those left with 20 starts.

Matt Ryan, whose Falcons made it to the Super Bowl last season, draws the Eagles Nick Foles. Foles' lone start also came during his first stint with the Eagles over four years ago, as part of the 2013 season. (The actual game was played in 2014.) In that game, Foles was outstanding, completing nearly 70% of his 33 pass attempts with a 105 QB rating.

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However, his team fell to the Saints, who hit a last-second game-winning field goal to move into the next round. The Saints then and now are led by Drew Brees, who has a dozen starts under his belt. Brees and company will travel to the indoor confines of the Minnesota Vikings who have Case Keenum starting his first-ever playoff game.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how the new blood reacts to the old guard and vice versa. Mariota brought his team from behind to defeat the Chiefs on the road. Does he have more in him to upset Brady and the Patriots at Foxboro?

Foles, who has been suspect in three of his four games with significant playing time this season will attempt to stop Matt Ryan's Falcons coming into Philadelphia and moving on to the NFC title game.

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Blake Bortles has been atrocious as of late and actually ran for one yard more than he passed against the Buffalo Bills in their 10-3 win at home. Can he help lead another Heinz Field upset of the Steelers, as the Jags accomplished in Week 5 of the regular season?

And what should we make of Case Keenum? Will his Cinderella season continue? Or will the Saints keep surging?

All I know is one thing is for certain: no one had Foles, Keenum, or Bortles penciled in as playoff quarterbacks to start the season. Yet, depending on how these games shake out this weekend, we could see a changing of the guard in the NFL.





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