The AFC Divisional round of the playoffs is already set as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers handled their business on the road respectively. Now, the challenge for both teams gets even tougher as the Chiefs are heading to New England to play the Patriots and the Steelers are headed to Denver to play the Broncos.
AFC Divisional round: 5th seed Kansas City Chiefs vs. 2nd seed New England Patriots
The Chiefs made a statement against the Houston Texans with a 30-0 shutout on the road and gaining their first playoff win in 22 years. Next up, the Chiefs face a team that they forced to re-evaluate their game plan in week 4 of the 2014 season in the Patriots.
Kansas City is on a remarkable roll. After starting the season 1-5 and losing their pro bowl running back Jamal Charles to injury, the team has won 11 straight games. They might be the most dangerous team remaining in the AFC. Their defense is suffocating with bookend pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to go along with a ball hawking secondary with the likes of Sean Smith, Eric Berry and Marcus Peters.
The Patriots on the other side, didn't end the season on a high note after starting off 10-0. The Patriots have lost four out of their last six games including a week 17 road loss to the Miami Dolphins where home field advantage was throughout the AFC playoffs was on the line.
The Patriots offensive line has dealt with injury after injury which eventually resulted in quarterback Tom Brady dealing with an ankle injury. Brady should be fine for the playoffs with a week off for rest but with the Chiefs defense he is scheduled to face, Brady and the Patriots are in serious danger of going one and done for the first time since being eliminated by the New York Jets in the 2010 season.
AFC Divisional playoffs: 6th seed Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 1st seed Denver Broncos
Sometimes people talk about playoff experience and what it means to win in that type of environment. Sometimes when you hear it, it may sound overrated. But when you look at the meltdown the Cincinnati Bengals had against the Steelers in the wild card round, you begin to understand the level of composure that a team needs in critical situations. The Steelers did that and they now advance to take on the Broncos.
The Steelers matchup with the Broncos in week 15 was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Broncos number one ranked defense held the Steelers offense to just 13 points as the Broncos led at halftime 27-13. In the second half, the Steelers offense began to gain more confidence and scored 21 unanswered points as Pittsburgh won 34-27.
That game featured Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler got benched in the second half of the week 17 game against the San Diego Chargers in favor of Peyton Manning as Manning returned to take back his spot and gave the Broncos offense enough life to clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
With Manning added to the equation, there isn't much that the Steelers defense can learn from the week 15 meeting as Manning is notorious for his audibles at the line of scrimmage. This should be a well contested game especially of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is able pass the concussion protocol this week.