While the Wild Card Weekend provided some of the most exciting football of the 2013 season, the slate coming up in the divisional round pits eight of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against one another.
Drew Brees versus Russell Wilson. Andrew Luck against Tom Brady. Colin Kaepernick battles Cam Newton. To top it all off, Philip Rivers will once again take on Peyton Manning in the final game of the weekend.
Whether it's two young quarterbacks battling to prove who is the better dual-threat signal-caller, a showdown of sophomores versus veterans or two of the most experienced minds in the game facing off, this weekend packs a lot of offensive punch.
With the second round officially starting on Saturday, here is the viewing information and preview for every game in the divisional round.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Jan. 11, at 4:35 p.m. ET
Russell Wilson has only lost one home game in his career with the Seattle Seahawks. Drew Brees has only won one playoff game on the road during his time as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
In a game where it seems experience should be the obvious reason for the Saints to survive and advance, history tells a completely different story for these two teams. But following a 34-7 beat down in Week 13 in Seattle, Brees knew he would have to play this game in January, according to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com:
We know they are a team we are going to have to deal with in the future. We are going to have to find a way to play better against these guys when that time comes. ... Nothing we did offensively was right, we really couldn't get anything going.
Brees' career in the postseason on the road isn't great, but his numbers aren't that bad. This graphic should clarify some of the misunderstandings about Brees away from home in the playoffs:
|2006 @ CHI||27-49||354||2||1|
|2010 @ SEA||39-60||404||2||0|
|2011 @ SF||40-63||462||4||2|
|2013 @ PHI||20-30||250||1||2|
|Totals (AVG)||126-202 (62%)||1470 (367.5)||9||5|
Ironically enough, Brees' worst numbers came in the lone win for the Saints in the opening round this season. But what this proves is that even when Brees plays well on the road, the Saints don't necessarily thrive.
With Russell Wilson on the other sideline, the Seahawks appear to be in good hands. But with only a season of postseason experience, it's easy to understand why Brees could pull off the road upset. But with both defenses looking to continue proving themselves in the postseason, this could be one that comes down to which quarterback can crack the other team's defense.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots, Saturday, Jan. 11, at 8:15 p.m. ET
The Indianapolis Colts are looking to start another dynasty under a new head coach and quarterback. The New England Patriots have already been there and done that.
When these two teams face each other on Saturday night, it will likely come down to the two signal-callers, who will both be facing easily penetrable defenses.
Luck's comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs earned him his first playoff win. Meanwhile, Brady has 17 playoff wins to his credit. But as the Twitter account The Whistle points out, the two looked nearly identical through their first 34 starts in the NFL:
Facing off against Brady could be a humbling experience for Luck, but the matchup looks favorable for the second-year quarterback. Luck will face a defense that ranks 18th against the pass and 30th against the rush. With Luck having the ability to do both, this could be another game where Luck finishes with ridiculous numbers.
As for Brady, one of the best postseason quarterbacks will face the No. 13 passing defense thanks to the pass rush of Robert Mathis. Though his looks like a slightly tougher task, doubting Brady to perform is not something I'm ready to do.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Jan. 12, at 1:05 p.m. ET
Two of the best defenses in the NFL will have to face two of the most dynamic quarterbacks.
Kaepernick has likely been having nightmares about the Carolina Panthers defense since they last met in Week 10. But after beating the Green Bay Packers on the road, Kaepernick appears ready to play in Charlotte, according to ESPN:
"We owe them for the last time they came to our house." Colin Kaepernick on the Panthers— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 6, 2014
After throwing for fewer than 100 yards and posting one of the worst starts of his career, Kaepernick has a new toy to show off when the San Francisco 49ers arrive. Thanks to Michael Crabtree, the young quarterback has been much improved and can spread the ball around to multiple receivers.
Newton has been up and down over the course of his three-year career, but he appears to be having one of his best seasons heading into the playoffs. The former Heisman Trophy winner will play in his first playoff game and will be looking to debunk a stat brought up by ESPN:
Of the last 12 Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, only ONE has won a playoff game. Tim Tebow Cam Newton can join him on Sunday.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 8, 2014
Facing off against a stingy defense, Newton could struggle in his first postseason start. But if he can put together a few good drives that conclude with points, the Panthers' No. 2 defense will be able to carry the load, and Carolina will earn its eighth home win this season.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 12, at 4:40 p.m. ET
The NFL gods saved the best quarterback matchup for last.
Peyton Manning has put together the best statistical season ever for a quarterback and has his team as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Philip Rivers had a bounceback season that concluded with one of the best December runs to get his team in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
And luckily for football fans, they will be facing the two worst passing defenses remaining in the playoffs. Hollywood couldn't write a script this good.
For Manning, the questions about winning in the postseason still linger even after winning a Super Bowl. After a crushing loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season, Manning now has to face the team that he's struggled against in the past, as Numbers Never Lie points out:
The @chargers will now face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning's career playoff record against San Diego? 0-2.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) January 5, 2014
Who is the best home team?
Apart from his win-loss record against San Diego, his numbers don't look much better. In 2007, Manning threw for 402 yards with three touchdowns but was picked off twice and got bounced in his first playoff game. In 2008, he threw for 310 yards but had just one touchdown and once again lost in the first game of the postseason.
Rivers has been on fire for the Chargers during their current five-game winning streak. During that stretch, Rivers has compiled a stat line of 86-of-126 (68.3 completion percentage) with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
The former N.C. State quarterback somehow managed to get his team in the playoffs and has it looking like a tough team to beat. But with a defense that still has more questions than answers, Rivers' performance might not be enough to pull off another upset against the Broncos.