Monday, December 30, 2013

Road to XLVIII is Set, NFL Playoffs About to Begin

The 2013 regular season is now over, and the playoffs are about the begin. Heavyweight's Denver and Seattle remain the overwhelming favorites to square off at MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII, but the field is quite competitive with rising teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, and Cincinnati Bengals in the mix as well.

The playoffs kick-off Saturday afternoon when the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) visit the Indianapolis Colts (11-5). This is a rematch of a Week 16 match-up that saw the Colts storm into KC only to whip the Chiefs 23-7. The Chiefs have not played well since their 9-0 start, having dropped five of their final seven. However, you have to give the Chiefs credit for playing their hearts out in San Diego, in a game that meant nothing to their playoff chances.

This will be the second playoff berth for Andrew Luck and the Colts in as many seasons. The Colts come in with the perception as the weak sister in the AFC, having struggled at times down the stretch. Yet this is the same team that beat the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks this year.

The nightcap on Saturday will feature a match-up of the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints will hear for the entire week that they can't play outdoors, having lost five games on the road this season, which cost them a division title and a bye week. We'll see if the Saints can finally put it together on the road this time around.

The Eagles are on fire having won seven of their last eight to capture the NFC East division title. The Eagles are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Nick Foles, who has thrown 27 touchdowns this season, and if it weren't for Peyton Manning in Denver, Foles would be an MVP candidate. The Eagles are an easy pick to get to at least the NFC title game because of how well they've been playing football. The playoffs, however, are a different animal.

Lastly Sunday's wild card action features the upstart Chargers heading to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals at 1:00, and the 49ers heading to Green Bay to take on the Packers at 4:30.

The Chargers have been playing good football; the turning point of their season coming on a Thursday night in Denver a few weeks back, but nobody has played better at home this year than the Bengals.

For the 49ers, they should be a slight favorite to beat the Packers on Sunday afternoon. They have had success against the Packers of late, winning their last three against them, and are typically a sound road team. However, the Packers may not be a total push over, especially after Aaron Rodgers shook off some early rust in Chicago to lead Green Bay back for a thrilling 33-28 victory. The Packers have eight wins, but don't sleep on them.

The Broncos, Seahawks, Panthers, and Patriots all sit and wait for the winners before hitting the field for the divisional round.

Schedule:
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014
Kansas City @ Indianapolis - 4:30 NBC; commentators (TBA)
New Orleans @ Philadelphia - 8:00 NBC; commentators: Al Michaels, Chris Collinsowrth

Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014
San Diego @ Cincinnati - 1:00 CBS; commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
San Francisco @ Green Bay - 4:30 FOX; commentators: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014
WC winner @ Seattle - 4:30 FOX
WC winner @ New England - 8:00 CBS

Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014
WC winner @ Carolina - 1:00 FOX
WC winner @ Denver - 4:25 CBS

Sunday Jan. 19, 2014
AFC Title Game - 3:00 CBS; commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
NFC Title Game - 6:30 FOX; commentators: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

Super Bowl XLVIII
Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 - 6:25 FOX

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