Before watching the Divisional Round, we look back at the prior playoff history of each of the four Divisional Round matchups. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports Jan 15, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed (20) intercepts a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) as defensive back Jimmy Smith (22) looks on in the fourth quarter of the 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Houston Texans 20-13. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Eight teams will take the field for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs and in each case, the matchup will be a rematch of a playoff game we’ve seen in the past. In two of the cases, the matchup will be a rematch of several past playoff games.

Of course, in the case of some of the previous games, pretty much none of the players or even coaches remain. But the fans? They’re a different story. The fans are still around and definitely remember the past.

For everyone else, this is the past that those fans will spend at least some time thinking of on Saturday or Sunday. This is a look back at the prior playoff history of each Divisional Round matchup.

Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens

One previous meeting: Ravens lead series 1-0

  1. Ravens 20, Texans 13 (2011 AFC Divisional Round)

After missing the playoffs in their first nine seasons of existence, the Texans punched their postseason ticket for the first time in franchise history in 2011. Houston defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in the Wild Card Round to earn a trip to Baltimore.

Despite trailing 17-3 after one quarter, the Texans started the game strong. Houston’s Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 60 yards and while the offense sputtered, the Texans still took an early 3-0 lead. After forcing a punt, Houston seemed well positioned to add to its lead, but a fumble from returner Jacoby Jones (one year away from being a playoff hero for the Ravens) set Baltimore up. The Ravens stole the momentum and dominated the rest of the quarter.

They struggled to put Houston completely away, however. It was a 17-13 game at halftime. It remained that way in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens intercepted two passes in their own territory. The first from Ladarius Webb came with the Texans down 17-13 and threatening to take the lead. The second, from Ed Reed, came after the Ravens went up 20-13, which effectively sealed the game.

Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Nine previous meetings: 49ers lead series 5-4

  1. Packers 27, 49ers 17 (1995 NFC Divisional Round)
  2. Packers 35, 49ers 14 (1996 NFC Divisional Round)
  3. Packers 23, 49ers 10 (1997 NFC Championship)
  4. 49ers 30, Packers 27 (1998 NFC Wild Card Round)
  5. Packers 25, 49ers 15 (2001 NFC Wild Card Round)
  6. 49ers 45, Packers 31 (2012 NFC Divisional Round)
  7. 49ers 23, Packers 20 (2013 NFC Wild Card Round)
  8. 49ers 37, Packers 20 (2019 NFC Championship)
  9. 49ers 13, Packers 10 (2021 NFC Divisional Round)

As soon as toe meets rubber on Saturday, this rivalry will take its place as the most common matchup in NFL playoff history. It’s safe to say this rivalry’s history is as complicated as it is vast.

By the numbers, it’s an even rivalry. The 49ers hold a slim 5-4 lead. Both teams have won multiple times on the other’s home field. The funny thing about this rivalry, though, is that it’s never felt particularly even. From 1995-2001, the Packers dominated. From 2012-2021, it was all 49ers. Quarterbacks Jordan Love and Brock Purdy will both get their first taste of the rivalry on Saturday night. Will Love and Green Bay wrestle control of the rivalry back or will Purdy and San Francisco maintain it?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Detroit Lions

One previous meeting: Buccaneers lead series 1-0

  1. Buccaneers 20, Lions 10 (1997 NFC Wild Card Round)

Detroit’s Barry Sanders enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, becoming just the third player in league history to reach 2,000 yards rushing in a single season. Tampa effectively took Sanders out of this game by opening up a 13-0 lead at halftime and going up 20-0 in the third quarter. But even after a long, time-consuming drive yielded no points, Detroit did manage to claw back into the game with a Jason Hanson field goal and a one-yard touchdown run from Tommy Vardell.

Down 20-10, Detroit looked ready to get the ball back in good field position, but Tampa quarterback Trent Dilfer connected on a 50-yard pass play to Robb Thomas to convert a critical third-and-five. The Buccaneers still had to punt, but the first down enabled them to run time off of the clock and flip the field position battle.

The Lions got the ball back one more time. With time running out, Frank Reich, replacing an injured Scott Mitchell, found Sanders on a third down. Sanders crossed midfield for a 14-yard gain before being brought down. Reich ran up to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball. Unfortunately for Reich and the Lions, the 14-yard completion came on a third-and-15. Reich spiked it on fourth down.

Only eight seconds remained in a 10-point game when Reich spiked it. So, even if we could somehow turn that spike into a touchdown pass, it wouldn’t have changed the final outcome. Still, a quarterback spiking the ball on fourth down to end the season is a scenario that practically begs for the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills

Five previous meetings: Chiefs lead series 3-2

  1. 1966 AFL Championship: Chiefs 31, Bills 7
  2. 1991 AFC Divisional Round: Bills 37, Chiefs 14
  3. 1993 AFC Championship: Bills 30, Chiefs 13
  4. 2020 AFC Championship: Chiefs 38, Bills 24
  5. 2021: AFC Divisional Round: Chiefs 42, Bills 36

While they don’t have the quantity of matchups that the Packers and 49ers have, the Chiefs and Bills carry a deep history.

The 1966 AFL Championship was the first followed by a Super Bowl. The visiting Bills largely dominated the game in Buffalo, though the Bills stayed within striking distance for most of it. In the fourth quarter, Kansas City scored two touchdowns to put the game away. That gave the Chiefs the right to represent the AFL against the Packers in Super Bowl I. It was also the only time in this rivalry’s history that a playoff game was won by a road team.

Kansas City made two more trips to Buffalo in the early 1990s. And as was the case with every AFC playoff opponent of the era, the Chiefs were no match for the Bills. Jim Kelly and Andre Reed connected for a pair of first-half touchdown passes in the 1991 game to help Buffalo open up a 17-0 halftime lead. If the game wasn’t over then, it was when Kelly and James Lofton connected in the third quarter to put the Bills up 24-0.

Two years later, the Chiefs managed to stay in the game a little longer, but ultimately, it was a similar story. Even with Joe Montana knocked out of the game in the third quarter, a two-yard touchdown run from Marcus Allen capped a 90-yard touchdown drive to bring the Bills to within seven points. But a fourth-quarter field goal from Steve Christie and a later touchdown run from Thurman Thomas put the game away and sent Buffalo to its fourth straight Super Bowl.

In the 2020s, the rivalry has been defined by the quarterbacks — Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Overall, the Mahomes vs. Allen series is tied 3-3. In the playoffs, the upper hand has been decided with Mahomes and the Chiefs.

In 2020, Kansas City scored a decisive win in the AFC Championship Game to earn its second straight Super Bowl trip. The Divisional Round rematch a year later was one of the best playoff games in NFL history. And while Allen couldn’t have done much more, Mahomes and the Chiefs won.

Come Sunday night, something has to give. Either the Chiefs will score the first post-merger playoff road win for either team in the rivalry — which would also be Mahomes’ first road playoff win. Or, Allen and the Bills will do their part to maintain the home team’s dominance and finally notch a playoff win against a Mahomes-led Chiefs team.

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