32 things we learned from NFL playoffs' wild-card round: More coaching drama to come?

The 32 things we learned from Super Wild Card Weekend of the 2023 NFL season:

1. If the NFL “script” is going to serve up five pretty terrible games – and thank you to the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams for averting the sweep – it’s going to be compulsory to retire “Super Wild Card Weekend," despite the league's affinity for it.

1a. The average margin of victory in this six-pack? Try 17.3 points. Blech.

1b. All the home teams won ... except the Dallas Cowboys, who hadn't lost in their building all season.

2. Monday night's death throes from the Philadelphia Eagles in their 32-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have been the exclamation point we really didn't want.

3. And what a terrible way for Eagles C Jason Kelce to end his career if the six-time All-Pro opts for retirement after suffering six defeats in his final seven appearances.

4. But onward. After a weather delay and a massive upset, the divisional round matchups were finally set Monday. And while the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will open in the neighborhood of double-digit favorites over the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans, respectively, Sunday’s games – Bucs at Lions and Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills – project as more enticing pairings.

5. There are only five active quarterbacks in the league who have started and won a Super Bowl. The Cleveland Browns’ Joe Flacco is one, but he was on the wrong side of a 45-14 blowout at Houston. The Rams’ Matthew Stafford is another, but he was booed and battered on the way to a nip-and-tuck 24-23 loss in Motown on Sunday night.

6. Flacco did go down throwing three touchdown passes – one for his team and two to the Texans.

6a. It was the Browns’ worst playoff loss since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

7. With Flacco and Stafford out – and Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson in bystander roles long ago – the only remaining passer with Super Bowl bona fides is two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs.

7a. However Sunday’s visit to Orchard Park, N.Y., to see the Bills will be Mahomes’ first playoff roadie as K.C. aims to eliminate Buffalo for the third time in four years.

8. Of the seven other remaining slingers – Philly's Jalen Hurts also ousted Monday night – only the Lions’ Jared Goff has Super Sunday experience. The Bills’ Josh Allen and 49ers’ Brock Purdy have both reached the conference title round, though very briefly in the latter’s case.

9. Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield now has as many postseason wins as the Cowboys' Dak Prescott … meaning two.

10. Nice little piece of history for Goff, the first quarterback to win a playoff game against a team for whom he previously appeared in the postseason. He turned the trick three years after famously being traded for Stafford.

11. Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill got no such revenge against the Chiefs. Though he did snag a 53-yard touchdown in his first game at Arrowhead Stadium since his 2022 trade, Hill is now 0-2 against his former team – both defeats coming in the last two months.

12. Performance of the weekend? Perhaps Chiefs K Harrison Butker, who converted all four of his field-goal tries and both extra points amid sub-zero temperatures in Kansas City’s 26-7 win over Miami. “That was like kicking a block of ice,” said coach Andy Reid.

13. As embarrassing as Dallas’ 48-32 defeat to Green Bay was, it also marked the first win for a seventh-seeded playoff team since the field expanded to 14 entries in 2020. In breaking that 0-for-6 streak, the Packers – the league’s youngest team in 2023 – looked far more like a No. 2 seed than the cratered Cowboys.

13a. Green Bay has beaten the Cowboys three straight in postseason.

13b. Including their Super Bowl 45 win over Pittsburgh, the Pack are now 6-0 at AT&T Stadium – where Dallas had won 16 in a row before Sunday.

14. The 48 points the Cowboys surrendered were 10 more than their previous playoff worst.

15. Absent from the NFC championship game since the 1995 playoffs, Dallas becomes the first team to win at least 12 games in three consecutive regular seasons to not advance that far at least once during such a stretch of relative success.

15a. Now 1-3 in postseason with the Cowboys, rampant speculation as to whether Mike McCarthy will coach a fifth playoff game for “America’s Team” given all the quality replacement options available to owner Jerry Jones.

16. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni could be subject to similar scrutiny despite reaching the playoffs in all three of his seasons and not a year removed from coming up just short in Super Bowl 57. But no question Philadelphia grossly underachieved given its talent and 10-1 start.

Head coach Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Raymond James Stadium on January 15, 2024 in Tampa, Florida.
Head coach Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Raymond James Stadium on January 15, 2024 in Tampa, Florida.

16a. With the Eagles and Cowboys both vanquished, the NFC East will be the only division without a representative during the upcoming divisional round.

17. Who had Rams kicker Brett Maher, whose scattershot leg cost him his job with Dallas last year, lasting longer in the postseason than the Cowboys … if only for a few more hours?

18. As if Rams WR Puka Nacua hadn’t already had the greatest rookie season ever by a pass catcher – his 105 catches for 1,486 yards both freshman records – he added to them with a rookie record 181 yards in defeat at Detroit.

19. Texans QB C.J. Stroud became the fourth first-round rookie in the common-draft era to win a playoff game, joining Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Mark Sanchez.

19a. Stroud, the No. 2 overall selection in last April’s draft, also become the earliest quarterback picked to win in postseason as a rookie.

19b. Just to put a bow on the trail he’s blazing, at 22 years and 102 days old at the time of Houston’s win Saturday, Stroud was 90 days younger than Michael Vick was when he notched his first postseason triumph 21 year ago – the longstanding record for greenest QB1 with a playoff victory. Vick, the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft, achieved it in his second NFL campaign.

20. Now, can Stroud do something even more remarkable? Houston, one of four NFL franchises to never reach the Super Bowl, is the only one that’s never appeared in a conference championship game … though the old Oilers did.

21. Next weekend’s game in Baltimore will be the 12th playoff appearance in Texans history – and ninth on a Saturday.

22. Stroud’s stats in his victorious postseason debut: 272 yards, 3 TDs, 157.2 passer rating.

22a. Packers QB Jordan Love’s stats in his victorious postseason debut: 274 yards, 3 TDs, 157.2 passer rating.

23. The Lions have also never played on Super Sunday, they and the Browns the only clubs since the Super Bowl’s inception following the 1966 season to never reach it throughout that entire duration. But on Sunday night, the Lions ended the league’s longest playoff drought at 32 years by squeezing past the Rams. Now HC Dan Campbell and Co. are just one win from qualifying for what would only be Detroit’s second appearance in the NFC title round.

24. The Lions also ended a nine-game postseason losing streak, the longest in NFL history.

24a. Don’t look now, but the Steelers have now dropped five playoff games in a row.

24b. Detroit now has two postseason wins over the past 66 years. Truly amazing.

25. The Lions’ win means the Dolphins now own the longest drought since their most recent playoff win, which occurred more than 23 years ago.

26. Run the ball? The Eagles' 42 rushing yards in Monday's defeat at Tampa represented the team's lowest total of the 2023 season.

27. Monday was the fourth time the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers met in the playoffs. The winner in each of three previous matchups eventually advanced to the Super Bowl, even though they have yet to oppose each other in the AFC championship game. So congratulations, Bills?

28. The Steelers are now 1-11 without OLB T.J. Watt since he entered the league in 2017. He missed Monday’s loss with a knee injury.

29. Monday was Mike Tomlin’s first game as the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach. But, amid an NBC report that he'll weigh his options, he wanted nothing to do with questions regarding his future – the man who’s coached the Steelers since 2007 is under contract for one more year – following Pittsburgh’s loss.

29a. Speaking of tenure, Bill Belichick and the Atlanta Falcons made a little news Monday night.

30. If Tomlin is not in the Steel City next season, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh would become the dean of NFL head coaches …

31. … while his brother Jim might well be among the newbies once again.

32. There is still one Kelce left in this postseason (Chiefs TE Travis), so the biggest questions moving forward: Will anyone in Bills Mafia surrender their suite to Taylor Swift next weekend, and what might she be wearing? You won’t even have to subscribe to Peacock to find out.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL takeaways: Nick Sirianni, Mike Tomlin add to coach intrigue