01/16/16 by Matthew S. Vandriak
The elite eight that is the NFL playoffs are set and the matches are nothing short of intriguing and spectacular as far as how the teams have been paired. Lots of rematches and offense and defense chatter comes to the table.
#2 New England vs #5 Kansas City Saturday at 4:35pm
Who's in and who's out? That's the question hanging over this matchup between the 12 and 5 Chiefs and the 12 and 4 Patriots. For New England, Julian Edelman, who's been out since November 15th with a broken foot, is expected to play. But Rob Gronkowski, who's been dealing with a knee injury that's kept him out of practice this week, may not be able to go. For Kansas City, leading receiver Jeremy Maclin, who left last week's playoff win over Houston with a high ankle sprain, remains questionable. Linebacker Justin Houston, who just returned to the Chiefs lineup last week, is also a game time decision. Kansas City is looking for it's 11th straight victory, after starting the season 1 and 5. New England is hoping to avoid it's first 3 game losing streak since 2002. After starting the season winning their first 10 games, the Patriots lost 4 of their final 6. This is the first ever post season meeting between these teams. The Patriots have won the past 5 games played in New England, but the Chiefs won last year's meeting 41 to 14
#6 Pittsburgh at #1 Denver Sunday at 4:40pm
Round two between Pittsburgh and Denver will have one team considerably healthier than the first round, while the other team will be without two key play makers, and will have a third playing hurt. Leading rusher DeAngelo Wiliams will miss his second straight playoff game for the Steelers after sustaining a foot injury in the regular season finale. It was announced Friday that Antonio Brown will also miss the game due to a concussion sustained in last week's Wild Card win over Cincinnati. And Ben Roethisberger remains questionable due to a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the Bengals game, although Roethisberger did return to practice on for the Steelers. Brown caught 16 passes against the Broncos in the Steelers regular season win, but he did so against a Denver secondary without T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart, and Omar Bolden. All three will play in this game. Peyton Manning will also be under center for Denver for this one, Brock Osweiler quarterbacked the Broncos in the 34 to 27 loss to Pittsburgh on December 20th. Manning returned in the Broncos season finale to help the team defeat San Diego to clinch the top seed in the AFC. The Broncos have won 8 of the past 11 games against Pittsburgh in Denver, including the last playoff game in 2012
#2 Arizona vs #5 Green Bay Saturday at 8:15pm
Three weeks ago, these teams met in Week 16 of the regular season. While Arizona would like the result to repeat itself, Green Bay is hoping to forget the outcome, which was a 38 to 8 Cardinals win. Arizona recorded 9 sacks and held the Packers to 178 yards in total offense in the blowout. The Packers looked a lot better in last week's 35 to 18 Wild Card round win over #3 seed Washington, with Green Bay outscoring the Redskins 35 to 7 after spotting them an 11 to 0 first quarter lead. In Arizona's regular season win over the Packers, the Cardinals were led by running back David Johnson's 127 yards rushing, while Michael Floyd had 6 catches for 111 yards. Carson Palmer passed for 265 yards and 2 TD's as well. Both teams will be without some key players as well. On defense, Arizona will be without staring LB Alex Okafor and DT Cory Redding. Green Bay will be without WR Davante Adams. The Cardinals are 4 and 0 in playoff games played in Arizona, including a 51 to 45 win over Green Bay in their most recent playoff meeting in 2009.
#6 Seattle at #1 Carolina Sunday at 1pm
For the second time in two years, these teams will face off in the playoffs. Last year, Seattle defeated Carolina 31 to 17. But in the most recent meeting between these teams in Week 6, it was the Panthers who knocked off the Seahawks 27 to 23. It looked like Seattle wouldn't be here at all after trailing Minnesota 9 to 0 going into the 4th quarter of last week's Wild Card round matchup. Then after battling back to take a 10 to 9 lead, it looked less likely when the Vikings were lining up for a game winning 27 yard field goal, only to watch Blair Walsh miss it. More good news for Seattle is that Marshawn Lynch is listed as probable for this week's game. Lynch hasn't played since Week 10. The news on the injury front is good for Carolina as well, as leading rusher Jonathan Stweart and leading receiver Ted Ginn Jr. are both expected to return to the lineup. Starting safety Kurt Coleman will also be back for the Panthers. Carolina has won 11 straight home games, while Seattle is looking for it's consecutive road win.
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