In the final three weeks of the season the Colts -- yes, the Colts -- allowed the fewest points in the NFL at 6.7 per game. One of those games came against the Chiefs in Kansas City, which is interesting because the Chiefs were the third-highest scoring offense in the last six weeks of the season. In Week 16, the Chiefs scored seven points, but averaged more than 38 points per game in the other five. That final six-game stretch completed Kansas City’s flip-flop in which it finished with a better scoring offense than scoring defense and ranked higher in total offense than total defense. Despite the lousy AFC South, the Colts have confidence because they’ve beaten the Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers. A big reason why? Behind QB Andrew Luck (pictured), the Colts set a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a season (14), also best in the NFL this year. Conversely, Kansas City led the NFL in points off turnovers and scored non-offensive TDs in nine games. Winning the turnover battle is always important, but moreso between these teams. The Colts are 9-2 against the Chiefs in their last 11 regular-season meetings and 3-0 in the postseason. It’s not all bad for Kansas City; teams that lost to playoff opponents in Week 16 or later of the regular season have actually won the rematch in the postseason more often than not. Still, I like the team speed of the Colts in this game.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY SportsThomas J. Russo
Saints at Eagles (Saturday, 8:10 p.m. ET on NBC)
The Eagles’ offense has been the most explosive in the NFL this season with 80 passing plays and 19 running plays of more than 20 yards. Those 99 explosive plays are 22 more than the next best: the Broncos. Behind Drew Brees (pictured), the Saints obviously have an offense that can keep them in any game. It must be a focus of New Orleans defensoive coordinator Rob Ryan to stop the big play and make the Eagles sustain drives of 10 or more plays. If they can do that, the Eagles will be more prone to mistakes and force plays when they aren’t really there. The Eagles’ defense has surrendered nearly 395 yards per game, more than any team that has ever reached the Super Bowl. Opposing offenses have run more plays against the Eagles than any other team in the NFL and the Saints will look to take advantage of that. If they can control the ball and eat some clock, they will limit the Eagles’ explosive offense to becoming spectators on what is sure to be a cold sideline. The Saints are 0-5 all time in road playoff games and their regular-season numbers away from the Superdome don’t suggest they will do any better this season. New Orleans was 8-0 at home but 3-5 on the road this season, and scored half the points — 34 compared to 17.8 — while giving up nearly a full touchdown more. On the other hand, Chip Kelly and Philly starting QB Nick Foles have never experienced an NFL playoff game. Someone is going to get a first on Saturday and I’m betting it will be Kelly and Foles.
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY SporCrystal LoGiudice
Chargers at Bengals (Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS)
In my opinion, this will be the biggest blowout of the weekend. Philip Rivers (pictured) and the Chargers snuck into the playoffs. The Bengals haven’t won a postseason game since beating the Houston Oilers in 1990. That is likely to change on Sunday. The Bengals and Chargers met earlier this season in Week 13 and Cincinnati won in San Diego, 17-10. The Bengals outperformed the Chargers in every statistical category except for passing yards. The Chargers enter the postseason with the second-best active winning streak at four games, but will have to overcome traveling to the Eastern Time Zone for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Historically, this has not favored West Coast teams as they have gone 10-28 in the same situation in the playoffs. The Bengals have lost in the wild-card round in back-to-back years, both coming on the road in Houston, but are 5-3 in the playoffs historically when playing at home. This season, the Bengals are a perfect 8-0 at home while averaging nearly 35 points and giving up 16.8, with three of those wins against other playoff teams. It’s always a gamble with Cincy QB Andy Dalton, but this team is too good to lose three consecutive wild-card games. I’m going big on the Bengals.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAChristopher Hanewinckel
49ers at Packers (Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET on FOX)
The 49ers bring the confidence of a six-game winning streak into the playoffs and will be facing an opponent they have completely dominated in the last two meetings. This game is a rematch of last year’s divisional round playoff game that saw Colin Kaepernick break the single-game playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback.These teams met again in the 2013 regular-season opener and all Kaepernick did was throw for 412 yards in a 34-28 win. It is a safe assumption that Jim Harbagh and Kaepernick (pictured) have this Packers’ defense figured out. Aaron Rodgers was throwing blocks and escaping pressure last week in Chicago that would suggest he is fully healthy, so I wouldn’t anticipate that to be an issue. With Rodgers in the lineup, the Packers average nearly 100 more yards per game and convert on nearly half of their third downs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any rust to shake off. Despite throwing for 300-plus yards last week, he did have two interceptions in the game’s first 16 minutes. The 49ers led the NFL with eight Pro Bowl selections; Green Bay had none. While that means little in the grand scheme, it provides us a glimpse at the talent makeup of each team. Despite playing at home, the Packers are overmatched at nearly every position. Having the best player at the most important position gives them a chance . . . albeit a slim chance . . . to steal a win.