These are the NFL Wildcard Weekend previews for the teams in the AFC and NFC South divisions.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
The 11-5 Indianapolis Colts got a pretty easy time getting to the playoffs this year with no real threat within the division. No other team was even .500, so it’s hard to really judge how good they are. They have shown how good they can be, with wins over Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco this year, but they have also show how vulnerable they can be with blowout losses to the Bengals, Cardinals, and Rams. They will be facing a Kansas City team that looked to be a little gassed at the end of the year. They beat 1 team this year with a winning record, which was Philadelphia all the way back in week 3. They started 9-0, but finished losing 5 of their last 7.
The key to the Colts this year is getting some type of running game to help star QB Andrew Luck, but not too much. The Colts have been made over after having so many passing attempts last year. They run the ball at lot, but sometimes to the point of forgetting that Luck has a dynamic arm and is their best player. Even without Reggie Wayne, they still have TY Hilton, Coby Fleener, Da’Rick Rogers, and Darrius Heyward-Bey to go with their running back combination of Trent Richardson and Donald Brown. The Chiefs had a top 3 defense for most of the year, but it was against below average competition, I expect the Colts to be able to move the ball pretty well and should be able to wear the Chiefs defense down. On defense they will key on KC star RB Jamaal Charles and make Alex Smith beat them, solid gameplan.
The opponent of the winner of this game will be dependent on the Chargers at Bengals game. If San Diego wins, then the winner of this game will face the New England Patriots, if Cincinnati wins, then the winner faces the Denver Broncos.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
The NFC is stacked this year. An argument could be made that anyone of the 6 teams could find their way to MetLife Stadium on February 2nd. For the Saints to make it there, they have to do something that a lot of people don’t think they can do, win 3 consecutive road games. Most dome teams have trouble on the road in the NFL, but it gets put under a magnifying glass in the playoffs. As great as the elite Saints QB Drew Brees is, the key to them winning this game is running the ball and actually slowing it down a bit. Temperatures will feel in the teens in Philadelphia this weekend.
Probably the biggest factor against the Saints, other than the weather, was the fact that they lost their rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro to a broken ankle against the Carolina Panthers in week 16. He changed the way they played defense this year, with his hard hitting, yet athletic style. Without him, it will be pretty hard to stop Eagles star RB, and the NFL’s leading rushing, LeSean McCoy while covering DeSean Jackson on his normal deep routes. The Saints will probably revert back to their old ways and try to outscore Philly, however, that is not an easy thing to do against Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense. If they try to go the video game route and don’t run the ball, it could be an early exit for the Saints.
A win by New Orleans will send them to Seattle, where they were blown out on Monday Night football in week 13. A win by Philadelphia will send them to Carolina.
Carolina Panthers (Bye)
The Carolina Panthers had a great year and will be enjoying their well-deserved bye this week after going 12-4 this year. They will be hosting The Eagles if they get by the Saints, however, if the Saints win, they will be hosting the winner of the San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers game. The game will be the early game on Sunday, January 12th.
BY: Peter Clarke
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