After a thrilling weekend of Wild Card Round games in the 2013-14 NFL Playoffs, it's time for the league's best to come into focus against the big winners in the upcoming Divisional Round.
The four Wild Card contests separated contenders from pretenders, with the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers not proving to be up to the task and seeing their seasons end. There are just eight teams standing now with a shot at winning the Super Bowl, and they'll all be tested with tough matchups in the Divisional Round.
Here is everything you need to know about those contests, and a quick breakdown of each.
|NFL Divisional Schedule|
|AFC Divisional Round||Date||Time (ET)||TV|
|Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots||Sat., Jan. 11||8:10 p.m.||CBS|
|San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos||Sun., Jan. 12||4:40 p.m.||CBS|
|NFC Divisional Round|
|New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks||Sat., Jan. 11||4:35 p.m.||Fox|
|San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers||Sun., Jan. 12||1:05 p.m.||Fox|
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Date: Saturday, Jan. 11
Start Time: 4:35 p.m. ET
The Saints proved with a huge victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, Jan. 4, that they are no longer unable to win on the road, and they will take that momentum into the league's toughest place to play.
Seattle was able to sit at home thanks to a 13-3 record, but welcome in Drew Brees and a New Orleans squad that has been formidable on both sides of the ball in 2013. Brees wasn't the talk of the league this season due to Peyton Manning's record-breaking campaign, but he still threw for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns.
This will be the second time in a little over a month that the Seahawks and Saints have played on CenturyLink Field. Seattle clinched its playoff spot on Dec. 2 with a dominating 34-7 victory over New Orleans in a game where Brees threw for just 147 yards.
The Saints' defense played well against Nick Foles and the Eagles and should bring some momentum into this game. But if Russell Wilson torches them like he did in Week 13, Brees will be battling from behind in a hostile, cold environment.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Date: Saturday, Jan. 11
Start Time: 8:10 p.m. ET
Peyton Manning leaving for the Broncos didn't squash the inevitability of the Colts and Patriots meeting in the playoffs seemingly every other year. It's only fitting that they meet in the Divisional Round.
Andrew Luck's crew survived an instant classic game against the Chiefs and overcame a 28-point second-half deficit and four turnovers to win, 45-44. San Diego's victory over Cincinnati means that the Colts will have to travel to Gillette Stadium.
It's on a to-be-determined basis throughout this season as to who Tom Brady's primary targets will be, but he's managed to keep a top-10 passing offense and has guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola healthy at the right time. LeGarrette Blount also figures to be a big part of the offense, as he's been the featured back as of late.
Luck has had his own problems with receiving help, but T.Y. Hilton is coming off a monster game and his real issue at the moment is avoiding turnovers.
The Patriots haven't lost at home this season—a perfect 8-0. The Colts are hardly above .500 on the road. If that trend continues, Bill Belichick will once again be one win away from the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Date: Sunday, Jan. 12
Start Time: 1:05 p.m. ET
The 49ers survived the modern-day version of the Ice Bowl by beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, and for their prize they'll get a trip to face the 12-4 Carolina Panthers for a spot in the NFC Championship.
Colin Kaepernick has now led San Francisco to seven straight wins, but he will face a scorching-hot foe as Carolina has won 11 of its last 12 games.
The 49ers' rush-heavy offense has led them to win after win, but that will be easier said than done in this one. The Panthers boast the NFL's second-best run defense as they give up less than 87 yards per game on the ground.
Kaepernick and Cam Newton may as well be the future of the NFC at the quarterback position. Newton has a chance to notch the biggest win of his career and get the Panthers one win away from the Super Bowl, while Kaepernick is simply trying to get his team back there for the second consecutive season.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Date: Sunday, Jan. 12
Start Time: 4:40 p.m. ET
When the Chargers became the first (and only) team to topple the Broncos in Denver this season in Week 16 on Thursday Night Football, it sure didn't seem like a precursor to a Divisional Round game. After all, San Diego emerged from that game at 7-7.
Three must-win victories later, Philip Rivers and company return to Mile High with a shot at knocking out the perceived Super Bowl favorite in the AFC.
San Diego has been a dose of Peyton Manning's postseason kryptonite, as the Chargers knocked his Colts out of the playoffs in consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2008. But after being one of just five defenses to hold Manning to fewer than three TD passes in a game this season, can the Chargers counter Manning's sure adjustments and keep him quiet again?
The Chargers proved that they were for real with a big win in Cincinnati, but could convincingly become one of the Super Bowl favorites if they knock off Denver and again end Peyton Manning's year.