NFL Playoffs Kicks Off With Four Exciting Matchups That Could Each Come Down To The Wire

The NFL playoffs kick off with a bang this weekend with a slate of four games that are expected to be fiercely competitive.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect in each of those games:

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) vs. Houston Texans (9-7) (Saturday 4:35pm ET, ABC)

After both enduring exceptionally odd seasons, it’s only fitting that these two teams would now meet in the playoffs. This game is a rematch of a Week one matchup where Kansas City took the game 27-20. That would be the last time that the Chiefs would win for over a month.

The Chiefs proceeded to lose their following five games and saw franchise running back Jamaal Charles go out in the midst of a 1-5 start.

That Week One matchup also propelled the Texans into a world of chaos, largely centered around the quarterback position. In their loss against the Chiefs, quarterback Brian Hoyer was pulled and replaced with Ryan Mallet. In total the Texans tried four different players under center this season before finally surrendering the position back to Brian Hoyer, who is expected to start on Saturday.

Both teams, however, were able to engineer turnarounds.

The Texans finished 8-3 over their last eleven games and secured the dreary AFC South with a 9-7 record.

The Chiefs closed their season in impressive fashion, winning ten straight and outscoring opponents 278 to 128 in the process.

Still without Charles, the Chiefs have found structure in the efficiency of quarterback Alex Smith and the consistency of their run game, which is sixth best in the league. On the contrary, Houston’s success this season has been predominantly anchored by JJ Watt and their defense. Though, while the Texan’s boast the third best defense, they are far better at defending against the pass.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game. Although they carry a formidable rushing attack, the Chiefs supplement it well with their passing game.

New addition Jeremy Maclin adds an additional threat and is coming off a 1088 yard regular season. Although Smith doesn’t make a lot of eye popping plays, he’s exceptionally efficient and has the ability to escape pressure with his legs. The key for Houston will lie in disrupting the Kansas City offense, though they will also need a noteworthy performance from star wide out Deandre Hopkins if they’re going to capture the win.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) (Saturday 8:15 pm ET, CBS)

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Photo Credit: SteelCityHobbies/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

In the playoffs, it’s hard to ask for anything better than a bitter and brutal rivalry game. The 12-4 Bengals, who were only one Denver loss away from a first round bye, now have to host their division counterparts and the third best offense in the league, the Steelers.

The two teams put forward an interesting regular season, splitting their series 1-1 with both teams winning on the other’s home field. The Steelers are victors of the most recent matchup, winning in Cincinnati 33-20 on December 13th.

The loss, however, handed the Bengals more than just a mark on their record as quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with a broken thumb.

Dalton has yet to return this season and will not start on Saturday.

Since that Week 14 game, quarterback A.J. McCarron has commanded the huddle and has thrown six touchdowns with two interceptions.

Preparing for the young quarterback is a Steelers defense that ranks third worst against the pass. Thus entails the opportunity for McCarron to hook up early and often with wide receiver A.J. Green. The wide out is capable of breaking big plays with 19 catches of 20+ yards this season and will terrorize Pittsburgh’s secondary all game.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama. The quarterback has certainly proven himself proficient on a big stage, but will have to lead a Bengal team that has never won a playoff game in Marvin Lewis’ twelve-year tenure.

Even more capable of explosive plays is the Steeler offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and their passing attack.

The Bengals defense is one of the most consistently tough in the league, with a secondary that nabbed 21 interceptions this season, which ranks third in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (11-5) (Sunday 1:05 pm ET CBS)

 

Seahawks at Ravens 12/13/15

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

It’s been an interesting season for the Seattle Seahawks, who initially looked hung-over off of a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl 49 last year. Now, though, every indicator hints that the team has regained perhaps a supreme level of confidence.

At the head of the Seahawks recovery has been nothing short of a phenomenal effort put forth by quarterback Russell Wilson. In the last seven games Wilson has an astonishing 24 touchdowns with only one interception.

Although they lost running back Marshawn Lynch with an abdominal injury early in the season, the Seahawks offense has rallied around their quarterback and now ranks fourth best in total offense.

Sunday’s game will take place in Minnesota with a temperature forecasted at 2°F. The circumstances are courtesy of the Vikings season finale, a win in Green Bay where they firmly clinched the NFC North for the first time since 2009.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

The two teams squared off fairly recently on December 6th, a brutally one sided 38-7 victory for the Seahawks. The Seattle defense held Adrian Peterson to only 18 rushing yards in the contest. The same defense now enters the playoffs ranked first in defending against the run and will look to have a repeat performance against the best running back in the league.

The bitter weather conditions may impact young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater- a Miami native, which will only help the infamous Legion of Boom.

Still, Vikings and Seahawks fans alike should be excited for a good game.

The Vikings seem to be following the blueprint that Seattle laid out two years ago in their Super Bowl pursuit; a heavy run game anchored by defense. Now, however, they must face a Seahawks team that looks equally as dominant and determined to recapture another Lombardi Trophy.

Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Washington Redskins (9-7) (Sunday 4:40 pm ET FOX)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

These two teams have perhaps been the two most surprising teams all year, but for very different reasons.

Entering the season the Redskins were almost entirely written off from the playoffs and Green Bay was a Super Bowl favorite, but you’ve got to love the beautiful unpredictability of the NFL.

As we sit now, Washington –although at a 9-7 record— has the higher seed and will host Green Bay in Sunday’s wildcard matchup. After years of the RGIII soap opera, this was the first season that quarterback Kirk Cousins was given full control of the starting job. Consequently, Cousins responded with a really solid season.

The quarterback has 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year, but by far his best play has come as of late.

Since Week 10, Cousins has thrown 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions, a good sign for Redskins fans heading into the post season. He’s completing nearly 70% of his passes to a particularly deep and skilled receiving core.

The Packers, on the other hand, have widely disappointed this season. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, an especially shocking statistic from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The simple fact is that Rodgers has been regularly beat up while dropping back this season.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

This game has a good chance to be just as surprising and unpredictable as the two teams playing in it. Despite Green Bay’s offensive struggles, they will face one of the worst defenses in the league, an opportunity that may just open the doors for someone as great as Rodgers.

No doubt the Redskins are the hotter team entering this matchup, but Sunday’s contest presents opportunities for both teams.

Cover Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

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About the Author
Nick is a 20 year old writer living in Colorado where he was born and raised. He currently attends The University of Colorado at Boulder where he's pursing a degree in business marketing and a minor in creative writing. You can follow him on twitter @nick_hickman.

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