A hectic Week 17 is in the books, and the 2014 NFL playoff schedule is finally complete as a result.
It took the NFL season all the way to the final week to finalize who was in and who was out of the playoff picture. The lack of disparity in the league this season speaks to how competitive a majority of the teams were in 2013, and that should be an indication of the type of playoffs we are in for.
The month of January is always exciting for the NFL. Kicked off by Wild Card Weekend, the playoffs are where we'll see some of the most competitive games of the season. This year's slate of Wild Card Round matchups appear especially exciting on the surface. Several games feature teams that are very well matched.
Keeping up with the action of Wild Card Weekend can be easy if you're well prepared. Here's to helping you stay informed.
|Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts||Saturday, Jan. 4||4:35 p.m. ET||NBC|
|New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles||Saturday, Jan. 4||8:10 p.m. ET||NBC|
|San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals||Sunday, Jan. 5||1:05 p.m. ET||CBS|
|San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers||Sunday, Jan. 5||4:40 p.m. ET||FOX|
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
These two AFC squads met on Dec. 22, and the results were somewhat surprising. While both teams are quality, the 23-7 one-sided victory by the Indianapolis Colts caught some people off guard.
Simply put, the Kansas City Chiefs have struggled since starting the season 9-0. They are just 2-5 since their Week 10 bye, with two losses against both the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos highlighting the group.
Kansas City will need to get back to the type of football they were playing during their 9-0 run. At that time, the Chiefs were playing adequate offense with unbelievable defense to stifle their opponents. That defense has been inconsistent since Week 10, allowing over 27 points five times after not doing so once earlier in the year.
The playoffs are all about momentum. With that being the case, it's hard to see the Chiefs making it out of the first round.
Prediction: Colts, 27-17
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are scorching hot right now, as a Dec. 15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings remains the only blemish on their schedule in the months of November and December.
The New Orleans Saints, on the other hand, are just 5-4 in their last nine games after starting their season 6-1.
An especially intriguing battle will take place in this one between Drew Brees—one of the best quarterbacks of the past decade—and Nick Foles—one of the best quarterbacks of 2013. Foles finished the season with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions after taking over for Michael Vick, and the Eagles offense was dynamic with him under center.
Nick Foles in 2013: 27 TD, 2 INT. Best TD-INT ratio in NFL history.— ESPN (@espn) December 30, 2013
This game could very well be the most exciting of the Wild Card Round. Both the Eagles and Saints are looking to prove themselves to the rest of the NFC after just barely making the playoffs, but both teams are also talented enough to make surprise runs through the conference.
Expect a shootout right from the opening quarter.
Prediction: Eagles, 31-28
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals
The San Diego Chargers cannot be slept on. They beat the Chiefs twice in the final weeks of the regular season, and despite K.C.'s struggles, that's still an impressive feat.
Philip Rivers put together arguably his best season as a pro in 2013. Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen were huge helps in the passing game, with Allen making a name for himself as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals are a well-built team on both offense and defense, though. That will make life exceptionally difficult for Rivers and Co.
The Bengals closed the season on a 5-1 run, including a 17-10 victory over San Diego on Dec. 1. They'll enact a similar game plan in this one and likely take care of business. Cincinnati is a dark-horse candidate for the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC, and they won't be losing in the first round.
Prediction: Bengals, 24-20
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
After winning a do-or-die game in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers get a home game in the Wild Card Round against the San Francisco 49ers. Playing at Lambeau certainly isn't easy for the opposition, and the San Francisco 49ers are hoping to escape with a cold weather win.
Colin Kaepernick and Rodgers are both capable of making plays in the passing game. That's why I think this game will come down to the running backs—Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
The tandem that keeps the chains moving and creates manageable third-down situations will lead their team to the second round of the NFC playoffs.
Prediction: Packers, 31-24