NFL Playoffs: Saturday Night Thriller gets the action rolling

The rest of the NFL playoffs have plenty to look forward to after Saturday’s screening.

San Francisco rookie quarterback Brock Purdy made his postseason debut, leading the 49ers to a 41-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Then Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars made a stunning 27-point comeback in a 31-30 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.

Games continue with three more Sundays: Miami in Buffalo, Baltimore in Cincinnati and the New York Giants in Minnesota. The opening weekend concludes Monday night with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys.

But it will be difficult to top the Scheunenbrenner on Saturday night.

The Chargers built a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter after Lawrence threw four interceptions, including three from Asante Samuel. The sophomore then responded by throwing four TD passes and Riley Patterson kicked a 36-yard field goal when time was up for the win.

Lawrence’s exploits may have overshadowed Purdy’s stellar playoff debut for the 49ers.

The rookie completed 18 of 30 passes for 332 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions to win his sixth straight start. The 262nd — and final — pick of last spring’s draft from Iowa State, Purdy’s unlikely story began when he was pushed into action by starter Jimmy Garoppolo after suffering an injury in December.

The Seahawks led 17-16 and kept things tight for most of the three quarters, but the 49ers poured it in late.

Kansas City took first place in the AFC standings after beating Las Vegas 31-13 in Week 18. Philadelphia took the top spot in the NFC, beating the Giants 22-16. These teams have a weekend off before playing in the divisional round next weekend.

Seven of the 14 teams in this year’s playoffs didn’t make the field last season, making the NFL’s wildcard weekend a mix of traditional powerhouses and underdogs.

Here are some other things to know during the postseason:



Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. EST, CBS

New York Giants vs. Minnesota Vikings, 4:30 p.m. EST, Fox

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC


Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN/ABC


This is the third consecutive year of the current NFL playoff format, which features the top seven teams from the AFC and NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically receive the top four seeded teams, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best records that did not win their division are wildcard selections. Because of this, it’s fairly common for a wildcard selection to have a better record — but a worse playoff finish — than a team that finished as division winners.

The 1st seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round – that’s the Chiefs and Eagles – while 2nd seeded 7th, 3rd seeded 6th and 4th seeded 5th is wildcard weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each playoff round. This means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest seeded team will always travel to the highest seeded team.

There are four rounds for the playoffs: the wildcard round is this weekend, the divisional round is Jan. 21-22, the conference championship games are Jan. 29, and the Super Bowl is in Glendale for Feb. 12 , Arizona, planned .


Players and fans watched in horror on January 2 as Buffalo Bills safety guard Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati when his heart stopped and he was resuscitated before leaving the field in an ambulance. Over the next week, the same players and fans reacted with joy to the news of Hamlin’s recovery.

Even better news came on Saturday: Hamlin visited the Bills’ facility with teammates for the first time since being discharged from a Buffalo hospital.

A person with direct knowledge of Hamlin’s schedule confirmed the player’s visit to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Hamlin has kept his schedule and recovery a secret.

Hamlin’s remarkable recovery has made it much easier to focus on the playoffs.

The cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game due to Hamlin’s injury could lead to a major change in the AFC playoff format.

The AFC championship game would be played at a neutral venue if the Chiefs and Bills reach that point under a rule adjustment approved by NFL owners last Friday. That’s because Buffalo (13-3) played a game fewer than Kansas City (14-3) and missed a chance for first place. The Bills defeated the Chiefs 24-20 on October 16 and would have held the tiebreak had the teams finished with the same record. Buffalo lost 42-36 in a divisional round classic in Kansas City last season.

The Chiefs would host the AFC title game against every other team, including the third-seeded Bengals (12-4).


There isn’t a bad matchup in the bunch, but a few stand out.

– Cowboys at Bucs: Brady suffered from his first losing season in his 23-year career, but even by 8-9, the Bucs won the NFC South. They’ll be up against the Cowboys, who were 12-5 and always attract an incandescent spotlight. They will play Monday night.

– Ravens at Bengals: The AFC North rivals clash for the third time this season on Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens are without quarterback and ex-MVP Lamar Jackson because of a knee injury. Instead, it will be Tyler Huntley at center who will make his first postseason start. He faces the Bengals and Joe Burrow, who lost the Super Bowl to the Rams last season.


AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.