The NFL just played through a wild Week 17 and has a very interesting slate of games on the NFL playoff schedule, starting with the Wild Card Round.
The New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles all played their way into the playoffs with big wins in the final week of the regular season, and each enters the postseason on a hot streak.
But more established teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals have plenty to offer as well.
Below you’ll find the complete schedule for the Wild Card Round and two of the best matchups to watch.
|Date and Time (ET)||Away Team||Home Team||TV|
|Jan. 4, 4:35 p.m.||Kansas City Chiefs||Indianapolis Colts||NBC|
|Jan. 4, 8:10 p.m.||New Orleans Saints||Philadelphia Eagles||NBC|
|Jan. 5, 1:05 p.m.||San Diego Chargers||Cincinnati Bengals||CBS|
|Jan. 5, 4:40 p.m.||San Francisco 49ers||Green Bay Packers||Fox|
Matchups to Watch
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Neither of these teams was entirely certain it would even make the playoffs, but now this matchup could very well shape the outcome of the whole NFC.
Both of these teams come into the postseason with big reasons for optimism.
Which team has a better shot at winning the Super Bowl?
The 49ers have won six straight games and finally look like they’ve rounded into form after a midseason swoon. They have receiver Michael Crabtree back, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick has completed 61.8 percent of his passes over the course of the winning streak to get the offense back on track.
But the Packers have an entirely different reason to be optimistic: the return of Aaron Rodgers.
Although he looked a little rusty early in his return against the Chicago Bears, he ended up playing a stellar game, finishing with 318 yards and two touchdowns.
He did throw two interceptions in the red zone in the early going, but he more than made up for it with this clutch touchdown pass to receiver Randall Cobb, another player the Packers were glad to get back.
The one thing neither team has in this one is much in the way of pass defense.
This game could easily turn into a shootout thanks to the ineptitude of each team’s secondary, as David Fucillo of Niners Nation explains:
While it won't be a walk in the park for the 49ers, the Packers defense struggles enough that the 49ers offense should be able to get clicking.
Or at least, they better get clicking if they want to win this game. The 49ers defense has made some big plays lately, but they've also given up some big passing totals to opposing quarterbacks. They've won games in spite of the big yards, but you can't play with fire like that forever.
This will be a fun matchup to watch, and whichever team manages to pull out a win could be the team that surprises people in these playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
Both of these teams performed well early in the season but tailed off toward the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean that this game won’t be exciting.
Quite the contrary, in fact; both the Colts and the Chiefs have had the opportunity to get healthy recently and should be primed for the playoff push.
The last time these two met was in Week 16 when the Colts dominated the Chiefs, 23-7.
While that might indicate that the Colts will have the upper hand in this second matchup, the Chiefs are still eager to prove that result wasn’t indicative of their talent.
“The things that didn’t work, we’ll correct,” linebacker Derrick Johnson told the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Everybody knows that…We’re excited to play Indy.”
One element that the Chiefs will undoubtedly have to adjust is slowing Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton had five catches for 52 yards in the first matchup against Kansas City, and he looked even better in Week 17, as his highlights suggest.
I know it's tough to beat any team twice, but this is a good matchup for the Colts. If they can keep Jamaal Charles under control, as they did in the first game, a 23-7 victory, they will make the Chiefs play left-handed. The Colts also did a marvelous job of taking away KC's very average receivers, which bothered Alex Smith in the short-passing West Coast offense. There's no reason to think they can't do that again, especially with a healthy Greg Toler back in the starting lineup at cornerback.
Will they turn it over again four times?
Unlikely, but even in a clean game, I see the Colts winning at home.
Either of these teams could go on to challenge the heavyweights in the AFC.
Who will win?
After all, the New England Patriots are ravaged by injuries and the Cincinnati Bengals haven’t looked particularly impressive these last few weeks, especially with an up-and-down Andy Dalton.
Wild Card Weekend will be a fascinating watch, and it should play a huge role in shaping the rest of the NFL playoffs.