Making the NFL playoffs is an accomplishment for any team. However, the 12 teams still alive have no intention of ending their seasons just yet.
The Wild Card Round features eight squads that are all capable of making a deep run in the postseason if they can get a win this weekend. Considering none of the last three Super Bowl champions had a first-round bye, this opening set of games is obviously important.
In order to make sure you are up to date and ready for every game of the weekend, take a look at this guide.
Note: All spread info courtesy of Vegas Insider.
No. 4 Indianapolis Colts vs. No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs
When: Saturday, Jan. 4, at 4:35 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Spread: KC -2
The opening line for this game had the Colts favored by 2.5 points. All of a sudden, the Chiefs are now favored by a couple of points on the road.
One of the big reasons for this is the return of linebacker Justin Houston, who makes quite a big difference on defense for the Chiefs. Bleacher Report's BJ Kissel breaks down the impact this season:
On the other hand, Indianapolis handily defeated Kansas City just two weeks ago, coming away with a 23-7 victory. Although the plus-four turnover margin certainly made a difference for the Colts in that win, lack of turnovers have been part of their success all year.
In fact, no team has fewer giveaways in the NFL this season than the Colts.
Additionally, Kansas City could do very little offensively in the earlier loss, especially through the air. If Indianapolis' secondary can continue to play well, it could be enough to secure a home win.
No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles vs. No. 6 New Orleans Saints
When: Saturday, Jan. 4, at 8:10 p.m. ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Spread: PHI -3
If this game was being played at the Superdome, New Orleans would have a significant advantage. The Saints were 8-0 at home this year and have a lot of success on both sides of the ball.
However, this matchup will take place in Philadelphia, which once again brings up the team's problems on the road. Still, quarterback Drew Brees believes in his squad, via Gary Estwick of the Philadelphia Daily News:
As the sixth seed, you understand that the road you travel is going to be on the road, so you have no other choice. We know what we are capable of, so now it's a matter of putting it all together.
Of course, it is not just mental issues that will cause the Saints to struggle. They will also have to deal with the NFL's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy and the league's most efficient passer in Nick Foles.
Although the Saints defense is much improved from a year ago, it will not be able to stop the Eagles offense playing at home.
No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals vs. No. 6 San Diego Chargers
When: Sunday, Jan. 5, at 1:05 p.m. ET
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Spread: CIN -6.5
Like the Saints, the Bengals play extremely well at home. They finished the regular season 8-0 while averaging 41.6 points in the last five games at Paul Brown Stadium.
Andy Dalton has made his share of mistakes, but he leads a dynamic offense full of elite skill players who can score from anywhere on the field. Along with a defense that ranks in the top five against both the run and pass, the Bengals have as complete a roster as any in the league.
This could create problems for San Diego, which has relied on the play of Philip Rivers for most of the season. The defense simply has not kept up its end of the bargain, and it will put too much pressure on the offense in this game.
At this point, the Chargers' best hope for victory is the destiny to keep this streak alive:
Other than that, it will take a lot of turnovers and nearly flawless play from Rivers to pull off the upset.
No. 4 Green Bay Packers vs. No. 5 San Francisco 49ers
When: Sunday, Jan. 5, at 4:40 p.m. ET
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Spread: SF -2.5
A year ago, the 49ers routed the Packers in the playoffs thanks to 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The next time these teams played was Week 1, and Kaepernick passed for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
While these were arguably the two best games of the young quarterback's career, the Packers still need to find a way to stop this dynamic player.
Unfortunately, this could end up being a challenge even in the cold weather. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated broke down Green Bay's problems in the secondary:
Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, the Packers’ primary cornerbacks, have each been vulnerable in coverage this season. Williams has allowed an 88.1 opposing passer rating and has allowed four touchdowns to just three interceptions. Shields has been better, but not by enough — he’s allowed a 72.7 rating, and allowed four touchdowns to four picks.
Although Aaron Rodgers will give the Green Bay offense a big boost, it will not be enough to outscore its own inconsistent defense.
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