Two compelling finishes and two decisive victories marked the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
After winning their last 10 regular-season games, the Kansas City Chiefs had no trouble disposing of the Houston Texans and making it 11 wins in a row. Knile Davis returned the opening kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown and the Chiefs never looked back in registering a 30-0 triumph.
While the margin was unexpected, it was not a surprise to see the Chiefs win. That victory was the first of a sweep by the road teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers took advantage of a meltdown by the Cincinnati Bengals and came away with an 18-16 triumph, while the Seattle Seahawks edged the Minnesota Vikings 10-9 when Blair Walsh's 27-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds flew wide left.
Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer tried to encourage his team after the defeat and would not play the blame game, per the team's official Twitter account:
Green Bay had struggled with six losses in its last 10 regular-season games, and the Packers' once-formidable offense appeared to have lost its touch. That didn't appear to change against Washington as the Redskins took an 11-0 lead. But with spectacular suddenness, Aaron Rodgers and Packers offense returned to top form. The Packers outscored the Redskins 35-7 the rest of the way and scored a decisive 35-18 victory.
With the No. 5 and 6 seeds winning all four matchups for the first time since the NFL went to its current format, it would appear to be good news for the top seeds that enjoyed byes this week.
However, the Green Bay won the Super Bowl as the sixth seed in 2010, and the New York Giants won it the following year as a fourth seed. The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl as a No. 4 seed in 2012 as well.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots won the last two Super Bowls as top seeds, but it's clear that teams that win in the wild-card round have a chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy in triumphant fashion.
|Super Bowl Odds|
|New England Patriots||+450|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+1,600|
|Green Bay Packers||+2,200|
Compelling Super Bowl Scenarios
One of the most compelling matchups could be a repeat of last year's Super Bowl when the Patriots defeated the Seahawks 28-24. The Seahawks had the Patriots on the ropes and appeared to be going in for a late fourth-quarter touchdown, but Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass on the goal line to help New England secure its fourth Super Bowl victory. The Seahawks would love to get a rematch.
Another compelling, if unlikely matchup involves another Super Bowl rematch. The Packers and Chiefs met in Super Bowl I. Vince Lombardi's Packers pulled away in the second half to register a 35-10 triumph over Hank Stram's Chiefs. That matchup would be one that the game's historians would truly enjoy.
The Packers defeated the Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season. That game featured a duel between Rodgers and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and that rematch would clearly capture the interest of NFL fans.
The Denver Broncos hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and if form were to hold and they earn a Super Bowl opportunity, it would be a great story with a clearly limited Peyton Manning under center. If the Broncos were to meet the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton, the top seed in the NFC, one of the compelling angles would be the young and powerful quarterback in Newton meeting the cagey veteran in Manning.
Perhaps the most interesting matchups would involve the Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions. If they were to meet either Carolina or the Arizona Cardinals, the prospect of Tom Brady facing off against Newton or Carson Palmer would have the look of another title game that could come down to the last possession.