Nobody was really paying attention ...
Mark Brunell and the boys delivered an upset of gargantuan proportions at the home of the AFC's top seed in the 1996 playoffs. Not just Brunell, but Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli, Kevin Hardy and even Clyde Simmons (who rose to prominence with the Buddy Ryan 46 defense) took down perhaps Mike Shanahan's best Broncos team (if not for the group that romped through the '98 playoffs). That Denver nucleus, including Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway and the premier running back in football, Terrell Davis, fell to the upstart Jaguars, who wound up playing the Patriots the next week in the AFC Championship Game. New England, of course, was led by head coach Bill Parcells and "failed" head coach-turned-defensive assistant Bill Belichick.
Jaguars-Broncos did not attract a ton of notice because that Divisional Round postseason classic was played on a Saturday. The football world's eyes were on the NFL's other newly minted franchise, the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were taking on the Cowboys the next day, trying to prevent Dallas from winning an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl in five years. Dom Capers' guys would prevail. But Carolina could not sustain that momentum going forward, not even sniffing the postseason for years to come. Tom Coughlin's Jacksonville team, meanwhile, lost to the Patriots but made the playoffs in 1997, '98 and '99, when the Jags went back to the AFC title game.
Like those late-'90s teams, the late-'80s Vikings are an overlooked bunch. Perhaps they're way less remembered, too, given the time elapsed and the way our memories have been shortened by the salary-cap era. Under Jerry Burns, Minnesota went to the NFC title game in 1987, coming a dropped pass away from the organization's fifth Super Bowl berth. They would put together stellar '88 and '89 seasons, only to fall to the champion 49ers in both years.
Now, let's get to it!
Elliot Harrison went 2-2 on his predictions for the Divisional Round, giving him a record of 170-94 thus far this season. How will he fare on Championship Sunday? His picks are below: