This is probably a good time to remind everyone that those were NFL playoff games you were switching off in the third quarter all weekend.

The National Football League has long sought a level of parity that would allow fans in every NFL city to believe that the playoffs are just a fortuitous bounce or two away. It appears that dream has been realized, but when you throw in a series of major quarterback injuries at the end of the regular season, this is what you get.

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The Oakland Raiders made history when third-stringer Connor Cook became the first quarterback during the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the postseason. Unfortunately for a Raiders team that had some real promise a few weeks ago, Cook looked greener than a Packers home jersey in a 27-14 loss Saturday to a mediocre Houston Texans team that wasn't going with its first choice at quarterback either.

In fact, three of the four teams on the AFC wild card slate were playing quarterbacks who would not have been their coach's first choice under better circumstances, which only served to remind everyone that there's a reason why the truly elite guys make $20 million per year.

Ben Roethlisberger drove that point home Sunday when he filleted the Miami Dolphins secondary in a game so one-sided that Steeler fans had to be wondering what superstar receiver Antonio Brown was doing returning punts in the fourth quarter or, for that matter, why Big Ben was still in the game to absorb a scary sack with less than five minutes left to play and Le'Veon Bell stayed out there to take several more more hits after breaking the team record for rushing yards in a postseason game.

Every one gets it. The Steelers are tough as nails, but their chances of reaching the Super Bowl depend pretty heavily on keeping their top three offensive stars upright.

The Dolphins, like the Raiders, had an excuse. They were forced to play veteran reserve Matt Moore at quarterback, which would have been OK if Moore had not forgotten during the five seasons he went between NFL starts that you have to protect the football when you escape the pocket. He actually threw the ball very well — completing 81 percent of his passes — but had the ball knocked out of his hands twice during promising drives when Miami still had a chance to make a game of it.

Let's face it, there was only one real Super Bowl contender in the AFC wild-card round, and the Steelers looked formidable as Bell rolled up 167 yards and scored two touchdowns to go with a pair of long touchdown passes from Roethlisberger to Brown. Whether they can sustain that level of performance against the much-more-formidable Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next week remains to be seen.

That apparently will be the AFC game to watch, since the Texans already have been posted as a 16-point underdog at New England, and that seems conservative.

Ravens fans could only watch and wonder what might have been, since the Ravens crushed the Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium in early December and lost by a matter of inches to the Steelers with the playoffs still on the line two weeks ago. But Sunday's victory confirmed that the Steelers clearly are better constructed for a deep playoff run.

The NFC wild-card round featured four high-quality quarterbacks, but the rigid Seahawks defense turned Saturday's game against Matthew Stafford and the Lions into a 26-6 snoozer, and Aaron Rodgers reminded everyone — especially the New York Giants — that he's still Aaron Rodgers.

He's on a mission to "run the table" after a 4-6 start, and he took another step in that direction with a surgical performance in the only first-round game that came close to living up to the billing. In the end, it really didn't, but it was that kind of weekend.

Eli Manning tried to keep up, but was hamstrung by a series of key drops by his top receivers that ended several drives, so the Packers will travel to Dallas to face the top-seeded Cowboys on Sunday and the Falcons will host the Seahawks in the first game of the divisional round Saturday.

No doubt, next week's games will provide some better examples of playoff football.

Really, how could they not?

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Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and follow him @Schmuckstop on Twitter.

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