And thus begins another year’s NFL Playoffs.
Considering the defending champions (Baltimore Ravens) and defending NFC No. 1 seed (Atlanta Falcons) both missed the playoffs, this postseason presents big change opportunities. Saturday’s match-ups feature prime examples of such opportunities.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday Jan. 4 (4:35 PM ET)
Both teams feature a starting QB that was the No. 1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith from the 2005 draft and Andrew Luck from the 2012 draft.
Both the Colts and Chiefs went from last place in the NFL to securing a wildcard spot the following year, the Colts from 2012 to 2013 and the Chiefs from 2013 to this current season.
Thanks, in part, to a disastrous AFC South Division, the Colts seemingly coasted to the division title. Such was the not the case for the Chiefs’ AFC West, which features the No. 1 seed Broncos and both the Wildcard teams (Chiefs and Chargers respectively).
Terrible division aside, the Colts certainly boasted perhaps the most impressive out-of-division record, having beaten the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and the Chiefs themselves. In fact, the Colts held the Chiefs to a season-low seven points.
Arguments may be made that the Chiefs had already locked up a playoff spot by that point and lacked luster. However, I believe the Colts, and more specifically Andrew Luck, have proven themselves true contenders.
Ultimately this game will come down to defense and which team can win the turnover battle.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles – Saturday Jan. 4th (8:10 PM ET)
The second Saturday game brings a sense of resurrection.
In the Saints’ case, this comes with the reinstatement of previously suspended Head Coach Sean Payton. Payton’s absence was almost unanimously understood to be the cause of the Saints’ poor season in 2012-13.
The postseason resurrection of the Philadelphia Eagles is two-fold. One, the hiring of the former Oregon Ducks’ Head Coach Chip Kelly and two, the Dallas Cowboys’ narrow throat.
The most interesting aspect of this match-up, in my opinion, is that each team’s offensive strength is the other’s defensive weakness. The Eagles own the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL while the Saints’ rush defense ranks 19th. The Saints are the No. 2 passing team in the NFL while the Eagles rank dead last in pass defense.
I tend to give the edge to the team with the better run game in a cold atmosphere, which Philly will definitely provide. However, Drew Brees and Co. are hungry and I cannot see an NFC “Least” team with a first year starter taking down the Saints.