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Myers: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady won't be denied in playoffs

Tom Brady will lead Patriots into divisional playoff battle against surging Chiefs where a victory could set up another AFC title game against Peyton Manning.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tom Brady will lead Patriots into divisional playoff battle against surging Chiefs where a victory could set up another AFC title game against Peyton Manning.

It’s down to the Elite Eight as the big boys get going in the NFL playoffs this weekend after the Texans didn’t show up, the Bengals melted down, the Vikings froze and Washington finished off a terrible year in the NFC East.

It was the first time all four division winners were eliminated on wild-card weekend. But was it really surprising all the road teams won?

Not at all.

The four losers all went with quarterbacks making their first career playoff start and three of them lost to quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl.

So, in this order, it was really holding form that Brian Hoyer, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins lost to Alex Smith (he at least previously had won a playoff game and was a Super Bowl backup), Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.

Even so, McCarron had his game won until Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones lost their minds in the final minute — a direct and poor reflection on the lack of discipline instilled by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, now 0-7 in the playoffs — and Bridgewater was about to defeat Wilson until usually reliable kicker Blair Walsh pulled a Bill Buckner and shanked a 27-yard field goal on the final play in a one-point loss.

Now the real fun starts.

The divisional round should be competitive with four really good matchups featuring two more Super Bowl-winning QBs in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — if they both win, it’s Brady-Manning XVII in the AFC title game — and likely regular-season MVP Cam Newton and likely MVP runner-up Carson Palmer.

There are compelling story lines in each game.

Chiefs (12-5) at Patriots (12-4)
Saturday: 4:35 p.m.

This is the only game that is not a rematch from the regular season, but it was just last season in the fourth game that the Chiefs humiliated the Patriots 41-14 and Bill Belichick benched Brady with 10:34 left and New England trailing 41-7 right after he threw a pick-six. Belichick was asked after the game if would be evaluating the quarterback position. He responded with a look of disdain, almost as if he was asked if he wanted to coach the Jets. New England then ripped off seven victories in a row on its way to its first Super Bowl title in 10 years.

Its previous championship was over the Eagles and Andy Reid, now the coach of the Chiefs, who are red-hot.

Kansas City won its season opener, lost five in a row, then won its last 10 games before Saturday’s 30-0 victory over the Texans that was over even before Hoyer threw the first of his four interceptions. Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards and anybody who flipped off the TV right there didn’t miss a thing.

New England lost its last two games to the Jets and Dolphins, costing it the No. 1 seed. But with Julian Edelman expected back from his broken foot, Brady now has three reliable weapons in Gronk, Edelman and Danny Amendola, but the Pats could use some tough yards from Stephen Jackson to make up for the loss of LeGarrette Blount.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Chiefs 10

Packers (11-6) at Cardinals (13-3)
Saturday: 8:15 p.m.

Green Bay returns to the desert where it lost 38-8 on Dec. 27. Rodgers threw for only 151 yards and was sacked eight times for 50 yards. The Cards outgained the Pack, 381-178.

Broncos’ Peyton Manning gets the start against Steelers.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Broncos’ Peyton Manning gets the start against Steelers.

Palmer has had a magical season coming from ACL surgery throwing for career highs with 4,671 yards and 35 TDs. This is his 13th season, but he’s never won a playoff game. He injured his knee early in a 2005 loss to the Steelers and then lost to the Jets in 2009.

The Packers are a mystery team. Rodgers really missed Jordy Nelson all season and had only three 300-yard passing games, none in the last seven of the regular season or in Sunday’s playoff victory in Washington. He did play much better against Washington, throwing for 210 yards and two TDs to help wipe out early 11-0 an deficit.

Prediction: Cardinals 38, Packers 24

Seahawks (11-6) at Panthers (15-1)
Sunday: 1:05 p.m.

Carolina is the most unlikely near-undefeated team in NFL history. Newton had a tremendous season, (35 TDs, 10 INTs and 636 yards rushing), but he has limited offensive weapons other than tight end Greg Olson.

Although the Legion of Doom is not quite as feared as it was two years ago, don’t expect Ted Ginn or Jerricho Cotchery to do much damage. This game is completely on Newton and the Panthers defense.

Wilson will never make up for his Super Bowl end zone interception last year and if Walsh didn’t miss the field goal, his inability to generate any offense in the arctic conditions of Minnesota would have also gone on his resume. But he turned his very athletic scoop of a botched shotgun snap into a 35-yard completion to Tyler Lockette to set up the Seahawks only TD.

Seattle could join the Steelers (2005) and Packers (2010) as the only No. 6 seeds to win the Super Bowl. Will Marshawn Lynch play? He’s been out since Nov. 15, had abdominal surgery on Nov. 25 and until he told the team Friday he couldn’t play against the Vikings, they expected him on the team plane.

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Panthers 20

Steelers (11-6) at Broncos (12-4)
Sunday: 4:40 p.m.

Manning is back and will start his first game since Nov. 15. That’s when he was 5-for-20 for 35 yards and four interceptions before he was benched for the first time in his career and later diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia. Brock Osweiler started the last seven games, but Gary Kubiak switched back to Manning in the third quarter of the final game against the Chargers. Manning helped Denver clinch the AFC West and the No. 1 seed, but it’s been a dreadful year with the injuries and the HGH link. His 67.9 QB rating tied him with Ryan Mallett for worst in the league.

Now he has a chance to write a happy ending to his career. When asked if this could be it, he told the Denver Post last week, “I’d be lying if I said I’m not thinking about that,” he said.

Manning is just 11-13 in the playoffs and his team has been eliminated in its first playoff game nine times, the most of any quarterback in history. The postseason is the biggest blemish on the career of the greatest regular season player in NFL history.

Roethlisberger displayed a lot of courage coming back to lead the Steeler to the winning field goal in Cincinnati, aided by the two Bengals knuckleheads. He’s still in pain, but his arm would have to be falling off for Landry Jones or Michael Vick to start. Another huge concern: Antonio Brown is going through concussion protocol. Big Ben and Brown were both injured on hits by Burfict.

Prediction: Broncos 27, Steelers 17

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