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Around the NFL: What we learned in Week 17

The playoffs are upon us, and only 12 teams matter now. To ring in the post-season, Around the NFL will take a look at the wild-card matchups on the schedule this weekend.

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Kansas City playing at Houston isn’t as tragic as it may seem.

The Texans have two fewer wins than the Chiefs, yet will host Kansas City because Houston won its division while the Chiefs are a wild-card entrant. On the surface, there seems a lack of justice that has been present in the NFL since the playoffs were expanded to twelve teams. But these two teams have similar stories, and you can make an easy argument that Houston had to deal with far more adversity than Kansas City, making 14(!) starting quarterback changes this season. Both teams stumbled out of the gate, then found their footing and got really hot later in the season. Since the Chiefs typically have a greater advantage on their home field than most other teams besides, perhaps, Seattle and New England, playing the game in Houston should create a more level playing field and a more competitive game.

Seattle at Minnesota is probably the most lopsided game on the wild-card schedule.

And it’s not tilted in favor of the home team, either.  While the Vikings certainly have improved dramatically, the fact is that they won their division because the Packers have been inexplicably bad since their 6-0 start came to a screeching halt. Teddy Bridgewater has been uneven, and the team has been buoyed by yet another stellar season by Adrian Peterson, as well as a pretty decent defense. Seattle, though, is one of the league’s hottest teams, and just beat their own division’s champion by 30 points. They are the hottest team in the league right now, and could easily find themselves in a third consecutive Super Bowl.

In September, Green Bay at Washington would have seemed like a laugher.

Aaron Rodgers against Kirk Cousins? If you had that January matchup in mind way back in September, you’re a great prognosticator. If you had it tipped in favor of Cousins, you can see the future and have no reason reading a blog about football. The truth is, I’d give this one to the Redskins at this point, though I don’t expect a huge margin. These are two teams that are still reliant on solid defense to help mask other shortcomings -- but Cousins-to-DeSean Jackson has become pretty productive. The diminutive wide-out is nursing an injury, though, so the combo may be lacking a bit this weekend.

And finally...the Steelers are favored to win their first playoff game in five years.

The last time the Steelers won a playoff game, it was the AFC Championship in January of 2011. They have lost three straight since then -- Super Bowl XLV to the Packers, in the wildcard round the following season against the Broncos (the infamous "Tim Tebow Game") and last season to the Ravens. This year, they are road favorites against a Cincinnati team that will likely have backup A.J. McCarron starting at quarterback. The teams split the the season series, with the road team winning each time. In Pittsburgh, it was Ben Roethlisberger’s first game back after a significant knee injury, and was probably a game too soon. In CIncinnati, the Bengals lost Andy Dalton a few seconds after he threw a red-zone interception to defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He hasn’t played since, but may be the team’s backup on Saturday. But the biggest thing playin in favor of the Steelers: Roethlisberger has been downright phenomenal in the state of Ohio, utterly dominating both the Bengals and the Browns on the road. The biggest thing against them is that they may not have a veteran running back available unless DeAngelo WIlliams’ ankle heals quickly.