NFL ties, divisional playoffs: Smith has opportunity to prove himself among elite competition
Tony Gutierrez, AP
It's a seasoned group of quarterbacks that remain in this year's NFL playoffs heading into divisional weekend.
There are five quarterbacks who have won at least one Super Bowl. Six of them have been on teams that made the league's championship game, and there are nine Super Bowl titles among the eight remaining starting quarterbacks.
Former Utah quarterback Alex Smith, now leading the Kansas City attack, has the stage in front of him to show he can conquer all opposition as he prepares to start his fifth career NFL playoff game, at New England on Saturday.
Smith will be a part of history this weekend when he leads the Chiefs against the Patriots in the divisional playoffs. He is one of four quarterbacks who were picked No. 1 overall in the draft and will start for their respective teams during this weekend’s postseason action.
It’s the first time that many former No. 1 quarterback picks will start the same weekend in playoff history.
The other former top picks include Carolina’s Cam Newton, Denver's Peyton Manning and Arizona's Carson Palmer.
The other four quarterbacks in the playoffs bring the most hardware. New England's Tom Brady has won four Super Bowls, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has two and Seattle's Russell Wilson and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers each have a championship crown.
Smith's only experience with the Super Bowl was as the backup to Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers when San Francisco lost to Baltimore 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.
One major stamping block for Smith and the Chiefs could be the status of star wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The veteran — who caught 87 passes for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season — is questionable for this weekend's game with a high ankle sprain.
Smith will also face the quarterback with the most playoff success in Brady, and the Patriots are the defending champions.
However, in his lone matchup against Brady and the Patriots, in the 2014 regular season, Smith threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-14 Chiefs victory.
Plus, Smith has displayed his dual-threat abilities this season, particularly after Kansas City star running back Jamaal Charles went down early in the year with an ACL injury. Smith threw for 3,486 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the regular season, and he rushed for 498 yards — the fourth-highest rushing total among NFL quarterbacks — and two touchdowns while tallying a 5.9 yards-per-carry average.
He may need both his arm and his legs for the Chiefs to earn the victory against the playoff-tested Patriots.
Here’s a look at the divisional playoff schedule and some of the other local storylines in this weekend’s games:
Kansas City at New England, Saturday, 2:35 p.m. MST (CBS)
— Former Utah cornerback Sean Smith had his best playoff performance in the Chiefs’ 30-0 win over Houston last week in the wild-card round. Not only did Smith have a team-high six tackles, he grabbed his first postseason interception, one of four interceptions Kansas City had against Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Daniel Sorensen, a second-year safety out of BYU, has been named a special teams captain for the Chiefs during the playoffs. In Kansas City’s win over Houston, Sorensen played 17 snaps on special teams and three on defense.
For the Patriots, former Utah defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, who prepped at Copper Hills High, returns to the postseason one year after winning a Super Bowl ring. He has 28 tackles this season while playing in 13 games, starting four.
Green Bay at Arizona, Saturday, 6:15 p.m. (NBC)
— Former BYU linebacker Alani Fua, who has played mainly on special teams this year, will make his postseason debut with the Cardinals, while running back Kerwynn Williams, a Utah State alum, is expected to back up David Johnson and Andre Ellington. Williams had 23 rushing yards in Arizona’s wild-card loss at Carolina in last year’s playoffs.
Also, former BYU cornerback Robertson Daniel could make his NFL debut. He was promoted to Green Bay’s active roster on Friday after spending the season on the practice squad.
Seattle at Carolina, Sunday, 11:05 a.m. (FOX)
— Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a Utah State alum, tied for the Seahawks’ team lead with seven tackles in Seattle’s 10-9 victory over Minnesota in the wild-card round. Wagner is making his fourth consecutive appearance in the playoffs with Seattle and seeking his second Super Bowl title. Seattle fullback Will Tukuafu, the East High product, is unlikely to play against Carolina with a hamstring injury, according to the Seattle Times.
Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a Utah, Snow College and Bingham High product, returns to the postseason for the third year in a row with Carolina. This time, he hopes to reach the Super Bowl with the NFC’s top seed. After missing the first two games of the year, he started the final 14 and had 22 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. Rookie linebacker Brian Blechen of Utah has been on the Panthers’ practice squad all season.
Pittsburgh at Denver, Sunday, 2:40 p.m. (CBS)
— Former Utah center Sam Brenner, in his third NFL season, joined the Broncos midseason but has yet to play in a game for the AFC’s top-seeded team. There are no Steelers players with Utah ties.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
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