Rating the Field: 2013 Wild Card Playoffs

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 02, 2014



The final few stages of the journey to MetLife Stadium will begin this Saturday with a lot of familiar faces as well as some new blood.

All told, seven of last season’s 12 playoff participants from 2012 are back for another go-around. But it’s also worth noting that there were only three division champions (New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers) repeated from a season ago. The Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks are all back in the postseason, only this time owners of a division title. And while the 49ers are in the playoffs for a third straight year, this time they’ll take the wild card route.

So welcome the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints to the 2013 postseason party.

Looking for a favorite?

Good luck. Five of these franchises have never won a Super Bowl. And it’s always worth noting that the last time the team with the best win-loss record in the league to capture the whole ball of wax was the 2003 Patriots, who parlayed a 14-2 season into a win in Super Bowl XXXVIII. In other words, nine straight seasons have come and gone since. Take note, Broncos and Seahawks.

So it’s good luck to the not-so dirty dozen teams out to grab the Lombardi in February. Your guess is as good as their as to who will be holding high in just over four weeks…

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Thanks to new head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs made a nine-win turnaround following last season’s 2-14 disaster. But this club has also lost five of its last seven games following a 9-0 start. During their undefeated start, Kansas City limited each of its opponents to 17 points or less. But in six of their last seven outings, Reid’s club surrendered 23 or more points. Quarterback Alex Smith threw a career-high 23 touchdown passes and running back Jamaal Charles finished second in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,980) and led the league with 19 touchdowns. But which version of this team will we see in the postseason?

Indianapolis Colts (11-5): For the first time since late September/early October, the Colts have won three games in a row. And while this club won 11 games for the second straight season, Chuck Pagano’s team was plus-55 in scoring differential this season compared to minus-30 in 2012. Quarterback Andrew Luck went from 23 turnovers as a rookie to 11 turnovers in his second season. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Robert Mathis led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, nearly half of his team’s total (42). And they just defeated the Chiefs in Week 16 (23-7) at Arrowhead Stadium…

New Orleans Saints (11-5): A year ago, the Sean Payton-less Saints got off to a 0-4 start and then rallied to win seven of their final 12 games. With their head coach back at the helm, New Orleans opened 4-0 and again won seven of its last 12 games to capture a playoff berth. But the fact that they owned a three-game lead over the eventual NFC South champion Carolina Panthers at one time has to be somewhat disappointing. Now the Saints will attempt to do something the franchise has never done; win a road playoff game (0-5). But quarterback Drew Brees threw 39 touchdown passes this season, 16 of those to tight end Jimmy Graham…

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): There’s usually at least one team per season that pulls off the last-to-first and for the second straight season, it’s a club from the NFC East. A year ago, the Redskins opened 3-6 and finished 10-6 en route to a division title. In 2013, it’s the Eagles that won seven of their last eight games to go 10-6 and win the NFC East for the first time since 2010. And just like Washington a year ago, these Birds heads into the playoffs with the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL, led by league rushing champion LeSean McCoy with 1,607 yards. Second-year quarterback Nick Foles threw 27 touchdown passes compared to only two interceptions. And the Eagles went from 13 takeaways in 2012 to forcing 31 turnovers this season…

San Diego Chargers (9-7): A season ago, the Bolts finished 7-9, featured the league’s 31st-ranked offense, quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times and committed 22 turnovers. This season, the former Pro Bowler was dropped just 30 times, threw more than twice as many touchdown passes (32) as interceptions (11) and completed 69.5 percent of his passes. So kudos to first-time head coach Mike McCoy as well as offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The San Diego defense certainly has some holes but it didn’t stop the team from winning its last four games and grabbing a playoff berth for the first time since 2009…

Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Marvin Lewis’ team is a division champion for the first time since 2009 and the franchise is in the playoffs for the third straight year, a first for this team born in the AFL in 1968. Despite the loss of standouts such as defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall, only two teams in the league gave up fewer total yards than the Bengals, who were fifth in the NFL in both rushing and passing defense. Now, if quarterback Andy Dalton can avoid his turnover issues and throw a touchdown pass for the first time in three playoff tries, this team may be ready to postseason stripes. Of course, the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since beating the Houston Oilers in 1990, so…

San Francisco 49ers (12-4): After not reaching the playoffs for eighth straight seasons, the Niners have now won at least 11 games three consecutive years and are once again playoff bound. San Francisco ranks fifth in the league in total defense and has allowed the third-fewest points in the league. Third-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had his ups and downs but only the Eagles and Bills rushed for more yards in 2013. For the third straight year under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers committed fewer than 20 turnovers (18) and since 2011, own a 36-11-1 record and are an impressive plus-49 (93-44) in turnover differential…

Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): You have to be impressed with the resilience of this team, which has overcome its share of injuries this season and used four different quarterbacks to win its third straight division title. Consider that the Packers won 15 games in 2011, four less games in 2012 (11) and three fewer games than last season (8) and still managed to capture the NFC North. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the numbers that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put up since ’11, throwing 101 touchdown passes and just 20 interceptions in 40 regular-season games over that span. And rookie running back Eddie Lacy ran for 1,178 yards and 11 scores in 2013. But Green Bay’s defense is a major area of concern…

Off This Week: Denver Broncos (13-3): For the second straight year, the Broncos are not only the AFC’s No. 1 seed but tied for the league’s best record. And speaking of records, where do we start with this club? Denver scored 606 points and totaled 76 touchdowns, both new single-season NFL marks. Veteran quarterback Peyton Manning set new standards with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown tosses, which means he’s thrown for an astounding 92 score in two seasons with the Broncos. But will Jack Del Rio’s defense come up big? Denver gave up 399 points this season, 110 more than a season ago (289)...

Off This Week: New England Patriots (12-4): The dynasty lives on as in the Patriots, who notched their 13th consecutive winning season--tied for the sixth-longest streak in NFL history. Bill Belichick’s club has now also won 10 or more games 11 straight years to go along with five consecutive AFC East titles. For the first time since 2009, the Pats didn’t score at least 500 points during the season. And their injury-marred defense ranks 30th vs. the run. But quarterback Tom Brady and company have gotten the better of their 11 games decided by seven points or less (7-4). And this club has put 75 points on the board in its last two outings…

Off This Week: Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Yes, Superman actually lost a game at the Fortress of Solitude. But when it’s all said and done, the Seahawks are still 15-1 at home the last two seasons and that is where they will be as long as the postseason lasts. For the second year in a row, Pete Carroll’s club allowed the fewest points in the league (231) and this year’s Seahawks gave up the fewest total yards and passing yards in the NFL. Running back Marshawn Lynch tied for third in the league in total touchdowns (14) and is the lynchpin of the league’s fourth-ranked running game, while second-year quarterback Russell Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes for the second straight year…

Off This Week: Carolina Panthers (12-4): For the first time since 2008, a team lost its first two games of the season and managed to reach the playoffs. After starts of 2-8 the previous two years, it appeared to be business as usual for Ron Rivera’s club when it lost three of its first four outings. But the Panthers have won three straight and are 11-1 in their last 12 games, their lone loss a Sunday night setback to the Saints. Third-year quarterback Cam Newton had a knack for fourth-quarter heroics and the team hopes to have wide receiver Steve Smith back for the Divisional Playoffs. And how about the Carolina defense, which gave up the second-fewest yards and points in the league this season? Second-year middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors and Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy finished third in the NFL with 15.0 sacks…


From our partners




Join Insider Today!
Must See Videos
2014 NFL Combine Winners
2014 NFL Combine Most Impressive Performances
2014 NFL Combine Losers

Team Pages
AFC East NFC
South
North
West

Connect With Us
Sign up for our newsletter to recieve all the latest news and updates...
Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.




The Football Nation Network

© Copyright 2014 Football Nation LLC. Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
Some images property of Getty Images or Icon/SMI