These two teams met just two weeks ago in the penultimate game of the NFL season. The Colts dominated both sides of the ball, winning the game 23-7 in Arrowhead. This playoff game will be played in Indianapolis giving the Colts a further edge. Both teams finished the year with 11-5 record, but the Chiefs struggled down the stretch losing five of their last seven games after starting 9-0. The Chiefs have been a bit of a paper tiger all season, feasting on the weak teams and falling to the playoff teams. The only team that finished the year with a winning record that the Chiefs beat was the Eagles. That Eagle team they beat was still starting Michael Vick and is a far different from the one that ended the season by winning the NFC East. The Colts, meanwhile seemed to play better against strong teams, as they beat the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. The Colts also finished the season strong, with double digit wins in their last three games including in Kansas City. The Chiefs have some injury problems and tried to rest up some of their key players in their final game and nearly beat the Chargers. However, the healthier team is clearly the Colts who just need to worry about getting to cautious with their offensive game plan. Otherwise the Colts should be able to win this game and get Quarterback Andrew Luck his first postseason win.
In the playoffs sometimes location is key, as home field is all too valuable. Most times the home team is the better team and they win because of that and the crowd helps. Sometimes the home field edge is the deciding factor between to even teams. For example if this game was in New Orleans the Saints would win by at least 20 points, because there is no doubt that they are the better team. However, the Saints have struggled all season on the road and heading into Philadelphia a stadium with an open air stadium with a natural surface is the worst possible situation for them. Not only that, but the forecast is for bitterly cold weather in the single digits as it will be a night game a day following a major Northeast east snow storm. The Eagles have had their struggles at home, but at the end of the season seemed t o have corrected them as they won their last four at Lincoln Financial Field after a nine game home losing streak. The Saints defense has improved against the pass game, but they can be vulnerable to teams that run the ball and the Eagles have LeSean McCoy, the league’s leading rusher. The Eagles have also played a snow game, and Shady McCoy had a big day with over 200 yards in blizzard conditions at the Linc.
The last time the Bengals won a playoff game; America was on edge as it prepared for the first Gulf War, with Boomer Esiason and Sam Wyche leading the way. The Bengals have made the playoffs the last two seasons, but lost road games in Houston. The Chargers themselves have a checkered playoff history, with Philip Rivers often struggling in postseason. The Bengals have been strong at home, winning all eight games at Paul Brown Stadium, and their offense has been especially strong as of late, scoring 34 points or more in three of their last four games. The Bengals are especially strong in the red zone at scoring touchdowns, which is also helpful in the playoffs. The Bengals beat the Chargers early in December in San Diego, using a big defensive effort. The Bengals are stronger on both sides of the ball, and with Gonvani Bernard in the backfield can control the clock. The only worry is Andy Dalton’s propensity to throw interceptions, last week he got picked four times against the Ravens and the Bengals were able to overcome it, Dalton must avoid another game like that. The Bengals when they play their best can make a serious run at the Super Bowl and to get some extra traction they will look to put this game away early as they win easily.
Familiarity can breathe content and these two teams have seen each other quite a bit over the last two seasons. Unfortunately for the Packers the news has not been too good, as the 49ers have won the last three meetings, including a season opening win in 2012 in Lambeau Field. Even a healthy Packers defense has had trouble with 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, as he beat him with his legs in the Divisional Playoff Round last year and tore them apart with his passing in the season opener this season. The game is also a bit of a homecoming for Kaepernick who was born in Milwaukee. Despite the win last week, Aaron Rodgers showed some rust as he had two early interceptions and a fumble that led to a crazy touchdown. The 49ers defense is much better than the Bears, they have a strong secondary and they also have a big pass rush. Rodgers could be in for a long day, especially if Aldon Smith and NaVarro Bowman are able to get to him early. If the Packers are to win, they will need a big day from Eddie Lacy, as he can not only run the ball he will be needed to control the clock, as time of possession must be one by the Packers if they have a chance to win this game. The problem is the 49ers run defense is also strong and the Niners have been one of the hottest teams in the second half.