Wild Card Weekend is in the books which means it’s time to take a look at the upcoming matchups for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
Jan. 16 4:35 PM: #5 Kansas City Chiefs @ #2 New England Patriots (-5)
The intriguing thing about this matchup lies in the significance of the game these two teams played last year in Kansas City. A blowout by the Chiefs caused everyone to write off the Patriots, and sparked a run that saw the Patriots go 25-6 with a Super Bowl championship since that game. KC is riding high after a 30-0 blowout over Houston pushed their winning streak to 11 games, while the Patriots are hoping they are finally healthy enough to make another playoff run after an injury-riddled second half of the season. With a healthy Gronkowski, Edelman, and Amendola, Tom Brady and Patriots offense should be primed to get back on track even against a tough Chiefs defense. The status of Chiefs #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin could play a big factor as well. I like the Patriots defense to set the tone early in this game and the offense to establish the tempo. Patriots win 27-16.
Jan. 17 4:40 PM: #6 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #1 Denver Broncos (-6.5)
This matchup will look a little different than the one four weeks ago in which Pittsburgh defeated Denver 34-27 at home. Peyton Manning will be starting this time, which some could argue hurts Denver’s chances, and Ben Roethlisberger may be without Deangelo Williams and Antonio Brown while battling an injury himself. The defense has been the story of the season so far in Denver, carrying them to the top overall seed. Therefore, this matchup may very well depend on the health of Pittburgh’s offense weapons. The running game will be key as well – the Steelers will have to find a way to slow down C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in order to put the pressure on Peyton Manning. Despite Manning’s history of choking in the playoffs when his team is favored, I think Denver’s defense will get the job done and advance 17-14.
Jan 17 1:05 PM: #6 Seattle Seahawks @ #1 Carolina Panthers (-3)
Seattle will be looking to avenge their earlier loss to Carolina this season in which they blew a 9 point fourth quarter lead at home to keep the Panthers’ quest for a perfect season alive. On the other hand, Carolina will be looking to avenge their postseason loss to the Seahawks last year. After an impressive regular season which nearly saw the Panthers run the table, MVP candidate Cam Newton will begin his quest for a Super Bowl title at home. These teams are very similar in style. Both have quarterbacks that can make plays with their arm or their legs, both have a solid running game, and both have great defenses. The difference may be playoff experience. Carolina has failed to advance past the divisional round each of the last two years while Seattle has reached the Super Bowl each of the last two years. I think the Seahawks win this one 23-20.
Jan. 16 8:15 PM: #5 Green Bay Packers @ #2 Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals dismantled the Green Bay Packers in Phoenix to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. Behind MVP candidate Carson Palmer, the Arizona Cardinals are firing on all cylinders as they enter the playoffs with the second best record in the entire NFL behind Carolina. Weapons on the offensive end include veteran Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, and rookie David Johnson. The NFL’s leading offense is also backed up by a strong defense led by cornerback Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. On the other hand, Green Bay has no shortage of weapons itself. Unfortunately, those weapons have had a disappointing year. Eddy Lacy, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams have all been disappointments for Aaron Rodgers, who lost his #1 receiver Jordy Nelson during the preseason. Green Bay certainly has the capability to win a big game on the road in the playoffs with Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, but I think Arizona may be the most complete team in the playoffs this year. Cardinals win the rematch 34-24.
Let me know who you think will advance to the conference championships in the comments down below.