The 2014 NFL playoffs started with a bang during the Wild Card Round, but the schedule only intensifies as the AFC and NFC divisional rounds commence this weekend.
With eight of the most powerful teams in the league ready to do battle for a chance at a conference championship berth, the battles on Saturday and Sunday will have even the most casual football fan enthralled by the action.
Here is a full schedule for the divisional round and the top contender from each conference.
|NFL Divisional Round Playoff Schedule|
|Date||Time (ET)||Home Team||Away Team||TV|
|Saturday, Jan. 11||4:35 p.m.||Seattle Seahawks||New Orleans Saints||Fox|
|Saturday, Jan. 11||8:15 p.m.||New England Patriots||Indianapolis Colts||CBS|
|Sunday, Jan. 12||1:05 p.m.||Carolina Panthers||San Francisco 49ers||Fox|
|Sunday, Jan. 12||4:40 p.m.||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||CBS|
Denver Broncos (13-3)
The Denver Broncos have been so successful this season due to the stellar play of the top-ranked pass attack in the NFL. Led by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, the team has managed to win 13 games, earn a first-round bye and play at home throughout the postseason.
While the San Diego Chargers will push Denver to its limit in the divisional round—the teams went 1-1 in the regular-season series—the Broncos are too talented to lose to their AFC West rivals.
Sunday is the entire offense’s chance to shine.
The Broncos have boasted the best offense in the league all season. Statistically, it’s one of the most dangerous units in history. After finishing first in points per game (37.9), yards per game (457.3) and total touchdowns (76) by wide margins, it’s clear Denver can put up big points against even the stingiest defense.
Manning and the offensive unit must play well to compensate for the lack of defensive prowess.
The season-ending injury to pass-rushing linebacker Von Miller was a devastating blow to a defense looking for an identity, and there is genuine concern surrounding a unit that allowed 356 yards and 24.9 points per game.
San Diego has played the Broncos tough each time these teams met (a 28-20 loss in Week 10 and a 27-20 victory in Week 15), but with a berth in the AFC Championship on the line, Denver will stiffen defensively to prove its elite status.
Predicted Final Score: Denver 38, San Diego 24
Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
While the New Orleans Saints deserve credit for a solid season and an admirable first-round win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the team will now travel to CenturyLink Field to play the toughest home team in the NFL—the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks have lost only once in their home building this season, and a favorable matchup against a pass-happy New Orleans offensive unit indicates the franchise will continue its winning ways in front of the 12th man.
Seattle’s success begins with its defensive unit. With 44 sacks, 28 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and 112 pass deflections, as well as the gaudy 14.4 points and 273.6 yards allowed per game, it’s clear the Seahawks will stifle Drew Brees’ impact.
As if the defensive pressure wasn’t enough, Seattle’s rushing attack—led by running back Marshawn Lynch and dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson—ranks fourth in the league with 136.8 yards per game.
Championships are still won with great defense and a consistent run game. The Seahawks are one of the best teams in the league in both categories, and the franchise will steal the victory over the red-hot Saints.
Predicted Final Score: Seattle 31, New Orleans 27
*Stats via NFL.com.