The NFL playoffs begin on Saturday afternoon and there are plenty of stories to go around. There are a couple heavy favorites throughout the season that must start on the road. In the NFC, San Francisco and New Orleans were fighting for a bye week. Instead, both teams are hitting the road for the postseason. San Francisco will be dealing with hostile conditions in Green Bay. The temperature is not likely to rise above zero degrees.
The Denver Broncos earned the first seed in the AFC, but they lost in this same position last year. New England was the second seed and lost in the AFC Championship game. Will they finally meet in the conference title? One more Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady duel would be must see TV. Both teams will have tough opponents in the divisional round.
The Seahawks lead the NFC, and it will be a major upset if they don’t make the Super Bowl. Still, there are some tough teams that made the playoffs in the NFC.
Four quarterbacks are in search of their first playoff victory. Cam Newton finally got Carolina to the playoffs in his third season, and he is poised to get his team to the NFC title game. Carolina has to wait a week for Cam to win his first postseason game, however. The Panthers have a bye.
Andy Dalton is making his third appearance in the playoffs. The first two years, he was on the road in hostile environments. This time Cincinnati is at home. It’s now or never for the Bengals franchise.
Andrew Luck is making his second trip to the postseason. His first start didn’t go so well in Baltimore. The Colts are also at home and need to use that to their advantage.
Nick Foles is also making his first postseason start for the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s see how the offense rolls during the playoff pressure.
Here are the updated NFL playoff rankings.
1. Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning started the year strong and finished the season fast. The Broncos are the team to beat in the AFC and they must capitalize off of the home field advantage. Wes Welker will be fully healthy for the Broncos in the Divisional round. Bye Week.
2. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks earned the first seed in the NFC. Seattle finally lost a home game with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but they are two home wins away from a Super Bowl appearance. It’s time for the offense to hit full stride. Bye Week.
3. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have been on a roll for most of the season. However, they have to go on the road to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances. San Francisco has four more wins than Green Bay, beat them in the opening week and still have to travel to the “Frozen Tundra” of Lambeau Field. Will the temperature hurt the 49ers chances? Next game vs Green Bay.
4. New England Patriots: The Patriots received the second bye in the AFC. New England has a lot to prove in the playoffs this year. This team resembles the Super Bowl winning teams a decade ago. Bye Week
5. Carolina Panthers: Carolina has won 11 out of their last 12 games. The Panthers rely on their defense to win close contests. The regular season should have them playoff tested in case of close games. Bye Week.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals host San Diego in a wild card game. Cincinnati beat the Chargers on the road, in December. They have been dominant at home, and the weather should play a factor for the Bengals. Next game vs San Diego.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia lost once since Halloween. They even have a four game home winning streak. They’ll need all of that momentum to take out the New Orleans Saints on the road. The Eagles’ offense must continue to roll. Nick Foles will be playing in his first playoff game. Next game vs New Orleans.
8. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts halted their midseason swoon with a three game winning streak. One of those wins was against their first round opponent. Andrew Luck has a tough task to get his first playoff victory. Next game vs Kansas City.
9. Kansas City Chiefs: If the Chiefs show the same grit and toughness as they did in week 17, Kansas City will be vying for the AFC Championship. It’s been an amazing turnaround for Kansas City. Let’s see what tricks Andy Reid has up his sleeve. The defense should be close to full strength on Saturday. Next game at Indianapolis.
10. New Orleans Saints: The narrative is that the Saints can’t play on the road. New Orleans gets their chance to prove the whole league wrong this postseason. They were a win away from earning a bye. Instead, they’ll need three road victories to earn a Super Bowl trip. Next game at Philadelphia.
11. Green Bay Packers: The Packers have the worst record out of all the playoff teams. Green Bay has eight wins and won three out of their last four games. They could be a hidden gem this postseason. The offense is as healthy as it’s going to get, but it might be up to the defense to leave with a victory. Next game vs San Francisco
12. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers snuck into the playoffs with the help of some iffy calls on Sunday afternoon. They faced elimination on more than one occasion and survived. This was after Kansas City rested most of their starters. San Diego goes on the road to play Cincinnati. The Bengals haven’t lost a home game all season, so the Chargers have nothing to lose. Next game at Cincinnati