The 2014 NFL playoffs are off to an amazing start. Fans were treated to three games coming down to the wire in the opening weekend of the playoffs.
In fact, were it not for the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton, all four games would have likely come down to the wire.
Check out the scores from this weekend's action:
|2014 NFL Wild-Card Round Scores|
|Indianapolis Colts 45||Kansas City Chiefs 44|
|New Orleans Saints 26||Philadelphia Eagles 24|
|San Diego Chargers 27||Cincinnati Bengals 10|
|San Francisco 49ers 23||Green Bay Packers 20|
With the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers all enjoying a bye in the first round and awaiting the winners of this weekend's games, here is how the schedule shapes up:
|2014 NFL Divisional Round Schedule|
|Saturday, Jan. 11|
|Away Team||Home Team||Time (ET)|
|New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||4:35 p.m.|
|Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots||8:15 p.m.|
|Sunday, Jan. 12|
|Away Team||Home Team||Time (ET)|
|San Francisco 49ers||Carolina Panthers||1:05 p.m.|
|San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||4:40 p.m.|
Now let's take a look at the four games.
New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Even Saints fans will be hard-pressed to look over this matchup and find a scenario that has the Saints winning.
It was just in Week 13 that New Orleans traveled to Seattle and was waxed, 34-7. In that game, Drew Brees threw for just 147 yards that were gained at a measly average of 3.9 yards per pass.
On top of this, the Saints have struggled on the road this season. The Saints went just 3-5 on the road in the regular season, as the offense struggled to produce points on the road anywhere near the pace they typically produce them at home.
Although the Saints gritted out a 26-24 road win over the Eagles on Saturday, Brees was not all that sharp. He threw for 250 yards and a touchdown but also had two interceptions. Perhaps that is why he was quick to credit the entire team after the victory:
Meanwhile, the Seahawks lost just one game all year at home and haven't allowed an opponent to score more than 20 in any of their last four home games.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
After Andrew Luck led an epic comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, the Colts advanced with a 45-44 victory. In that game, Luck threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns.
Luck and the Colts must now go to New England to play a Patriots team that plays better defense against the pass than the run.
The Patriots finished the regular season ranked 24th in yards allowed per rush and 13th in yards allowed per pass. We will see if this leads to the Colts leaning heavily on Donald Brown and the running game.
My guess is that they will.
Indianapolis actually ranked better in yards per rush (12th) than yards per pass (14th), and although the Colts carried the ball just 19 times for 100 yards against the Chiefs, they didn't have much of a chance to establish the rush given their large, early deficit.
Meanwhile, with a young group of receivers, the Patriots do not rely as much on Tom Brady as they have in recent seasons. The Patriots bring great balance into this game with the 10th-ranked rushing attack and ninth-ranked passing attack. That offense will be going against a Colts defense that ranked 21st in rushing and 15th in passing.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers
This game figures to be brutal. These are two defensively stout teams that like to run the ball on offense.
The 49ers pulled out a 23-20 win in Green Bay on a last-second field goal.
Now they will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers. In Week 10, the Panthers beat the 49ers in San Francisco, 10-9.
As the score suggests, neither offense found much success in that game. The Panthers out-rushed the 49ers 109 yards to 105. The 49ers, however, had a better mark in yards per carry at 4.4 as opposed to 3.5.
The big difference in that game, though, came in the passing game. The 49ers picked up just 46 net passing yards to Carolina's 141. Neither quarterback found much success on the ground, either. Cam Newton rushed for 15 yards and Colin Kaepernick turned in 16.
Quarterback play is likely to be the key again, as both offenses will need their young quarterbacks to make a few big plays with either their arms or legs.
This should be a close and well-played affair.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
The final game of the divisional round is an AFC West showdown.
The Chargers and Broncos split their two meetings this year with both teams picking up their win as the away squad. The Broncos pulled out an eight-point win in Week 10, and the Chargers triumphed by seven in Week 15.
Although the Broncos will enter this game as the AFC's No. 1 seed, it is the Chargers that have momentum. San Diego won its final four games of the regular season to eke into the playoffs. They then went into Cincinnati and handed the Bengals their only home defeat of the season with a 27-10 win.
Still, this game figures to be a shootout. Neither of these two passing defenses had much success this season. The Chargers rank 29th in passing defense and the Broncos 27th. On top of that, we have two of the best quarterbacks in the business facing off.
Peyton Manning is a legend coming off of a record-breaking season, and the resurgent Philip Rivers tied his career-best mark in quarterback rating for a season where he played more than two games.
If you're a fan of offense, you won't want to miss this game.