Super Bowl 2014: Chiefs-Colts & Saints-Eagles Open NFL Playoffs 2014 Saturday
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The National Football League (NFL) Playoffs kicks off on Saturday afternoon, with the AFC wild-card Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) on the road against the AFC South division champion Indianapolis Colts (11-5) - who ran away with the division for most of the year, while the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6), who had to defeat the Dallas Cowboys on the last week of the season to win the NFC East division, host the New Orleans Saints (11-5), rolling into the "City of Brotherly Love" as an NFC wild-card team after losing the NFC South division lead and a first round-bye in a Week 16 loss on the road to the Carolina Panthers.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (L - #9) & NFL rushing leader Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (R - #25)
(Credits: USA TODAY Sports: Crystal LoGiudice (L) & Matthew Emmons (R))
The Chiefs started hot at the start of the season, going 9-0 until Week 11, when they ran into the Denver Broncos, who ended up sweeping them to take the AFC West division. Kansas City lost their last two weeks, including a Week 16 defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts but did bench their starters Week 17 against the San Diego Chargers.
Part of the Chiefs' success came from their defense, which allowed only 12.3 points a game during their 9-0 stretch before injuries piled up, such as LB Justin Houston going down with a elbow dislocation injury. The Chiefs allowed 27.7 points per game the last seven games but expect to have Houston back in the lineup Saturday afternoon to help bolster their defense. The defense did manage to create turnovers despite their injury issues, leading the league in with a plus-18 turnover differential (36 takeaways and 18 giveaways).
Alex Smith will be under center for Kansas City, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for the season, throwing for 3,313 yards, 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions for the year, going 6-1 on the road - throwing 11 touchdowns and one interception in road games. RB Jamaal Charles will be Smith's most potent weapon, who led the team in rushing (1,287 yards, 12 touchdowns) and receptions (693 yards, 7 touchdowns) and will be key if they expect to win at Indianapolis.
The Colts feel good going into the playoffs ending the year with a three-game winning streak, including a win against Kansas City. QB Andrew Luck heads into his second playoff appearance in the two years he has been in the league and hopes to take his team to the next level, after having replaced longtime Colts QB, Peyton Manning, at quarterback. Luck finished his second year as pro completing 60.2 percent of his passes, tossing for 3,822 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But the Colts rushing attack has struggled, ranked 20th in the league in yards per game, averaging 108.9 ypg despite a rare mid-season trade with the Cleveland Browns that sent their starting RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis. Richardson has struggled with the Colts, rushing for 458 yards, averaging a meager 2.9 yards per carry and only three touchdowns.
The Colts defense is also ranked 20th in the league and struggled at points in the season but managed to force eight turnovers and only allowed only nine third-down conversions in 37 attempts by opponents during their three-game win streak.
Prediction: Despite home-field advantage and a dynamic young quarterback who has capably replaced a future Hall of Famer, guiding the Colts to an AFC South title and a second postseason appearance in a row, Kansas City's experience on the sidelines, with Andy Reid turning around last year's worst team in football, and their physical defense will carry the team, with Charles allowing Smith to move the chains on the road for the playoff victory.
TV: 4:35 p.m. on NBC
New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
AFC rushing leader Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (L - #25) & Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (R - #12)
(Credits: USA TODAY Sports/Kirby Lee (L) & Brian Spurlock (R))
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly makes his first playoff appearance in his rookie season with the help of QB Nick Foles, who is currently sporting the best quarterback rating in the league under Kelly's fast-paced offense. Foles, who replaced Michael Vick after he went down with an injury, completed 64% of his passes, throwing for 2891 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, winning seven of their eight last games of the season.
But the player that benefited the most from Kelly's offensive system was RB LeSean McCoy, who won the NFL rushing title with 1,607 yards for the year, scoring nine touchdowns along the way. McCoy also caught 52 passes for 539 yards, racking up a league-best 2,146 yards scrimmage yards.
The Eagles defense has been strong against the run, allowing 3.77 yards per carry - lowest among the playoff teams, but their pass defense was atrocious, dead last in the league in yards per game allowed (290 passing ypg).
With Sean Payton back in the sidelines for New Orleans after serving his suspension for his role in BountyGate, Saints QB Drew Brees had another stellar year and will look to pick the NFC East champions' defense apart, finishing with 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns, second only to Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning. But the Saints have been horrible on the road, going 3-5 on road games, scoring 17.8 per game on the road, losing their last three roads, getting outscored 78-36.
The Saints defense has been much improved under defensive coordinators Rob Ryan's direction and will look to neutralize McCoy with their defensive unit, ranked 19th in the NFL against the rush. The Saints defense also managed to keep big plays for longs yards to a minimum, allowing five touchdowns of 20 or more yards - second in the NFC in that category.
Prediction: The weather is expected to be 23 degrees in Philadelphia on Saturday night according to Weather.com, adding another hurdle in front of a team that plays their home games in a dome and is 0-5 all-time on the road in playoff games. The Saints have yet to prove they have solved the riddle of playing away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season. Despite the Saints' and Brees' Super Bowl pedigree, the Philly crowd and the cold will prove to be too much for New Orleans to overcome, giving Kelly and Foles their first playoff win in their career.
TV: 8:10 p.m. on NBC
Live Stream (online)
Live stream coverage can be seen on NFL RedZone.
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