The first round of the 2016is complete, with the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers, and Green Bay Packers all moving on. Here is the schedule for next week's divisional round games:
Saturday, Jan. 16
(5) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) New England , 4:35 p.m. ET, CBS
(5) Green Bay Packers vs. (2) Arizona Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
Sunday, Jan. 17
(6) Seattle Seahawks vs. (1) Carolina Panthers, 1:05 p.m. ET, FOX
(6) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. (1) Denver Broncos, 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS
Quick Look at the Playoff Games
|Divisional Playoffs||Preview of What to Expect|
The Chiefs' winning streak is now at 11 games after they shut out the Texans 30-0 in the opening round of the playoffs. Their defense could be the best remaining in the AFC with the return of the talented pass-rushing duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and then the complement of having cornerbacks Sean Smith and Marcus Peters.
The Patriots had the No. 1 seed nearly all season, but lost their final two games in large part due to their top wide receivers and running backs being out, as well as their offensive line having significant issues. Tom Brady has survived with a cast of misfits before, but he is starting to take some shots that he can't overcome. He'll be getting Julian Edelman back, though, which could be the key for Brady getting back into his comfort zone and everything else re-aligning on offense. Will Brady lead the Patriots to another championship run, or will the Chiefs dominate with their front seven and extend their winning streak to twelve games?
The Packers and Redskins battled it out in the final game of wildcard weekend, and after a fast start by Washington, Green Bay's intensity picked on both sides of the ball as they played one of their first complete football games in awhile.
They will now travel to Arizona to take on what might be the most complete team in football in the Cardinals. Carson Palmer has had the offense clicking at a ridiculously high level all season, particularly in prime time. They complement that with a fierce defense that will pose some problems to a Packers offense that has been erratic at times, but found a groove against Washington? Will Green Bay be able to pull off a road upset, or will Arizona continue to cruise to the NFC Championship? It'll be a tough task for Green Bay, who lost to Arizona 38-8 in Week 16 and gave up 9 sacks.
The Seahawks needed a prayer to advance to the second round, and team that has won the NFC Championship two straight years got it when Blair Walsh missed a chip shot game-winning field goal. Seattle held on 10-9, but now have to travel to Carolina to face a team that only lost one game all season, flirted with perfection, and can match them in defensive intensity. The Seahawks were one of the Panthers' victims earlier this season, as Carolina won 27-23 in Seattle.
The Panthers and Seahawks have developed a rivalry over the past few years in terms of competitiveness. Last year, the Panthers and Seahawks met in the divisional round -- in Seattle -- with Seattle winning 31-17. During the regular season in 2012 and 2013, the Panthers lost games by scores of 12-7 and 13-9, respectively. With Cam Newton having an MVP season, can he keep up the pace of Carolina's confidence, or will Seattle use their fortunate victory in the wildcard round to propel their playoff-tested team right back to their third straight NFC Championship?
The Steelers controlled most of their grueling wildcard match-up against the Bengals, but Cincinnati rallied late and then Ben Roethlisberger succumbed to a shoulder injury. That's when the insanity of the Steelers-Bengals game commenced, as we recapped here. It's remarkable that Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a comeback field goal, but will he be healthy enough to play, or contribute effectively enough, against a very good Broncos defense?
Last month, under the guidance of Brock Osweiller, the Broncos held a 27-10 first-half lead over the Steelers. Pittsburgh finished the game on a 24-0 tear to win 34-27, a necessary win for Pittsburgh to have made the playoffs in the first place. Now, Peyton Manning is back under center with a shot at redemption for how things turned out in last year's playoffs when he laid a first-round egg and was eliminated. Will Roethlisberger play? Will Manning be back to his old form?