Red-Hot Chiefs Look to Upset Defending Champs, Aaron Rodgers Seeks Revenge in the Desert

Tom Brady
The Associated Press

Saturday offers a pair of divisional-round playoff games featuring two teams accustomed to postseason play matching up against two teams achieving less success as of late in the playoffs.

Let’s look at the games…

Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) at New England Patriots (12-4), 4:35 PM ET, CBS

If the Chiefs aren’t careful, this could get ugly. Not only is New England usually lethal with two weeks to prepare, but they are great at home. And the Chiefs come in very banged up.

Kansas City will be without two starting offensive linemen against a very talented New England front. Also, their best receiver, Jeremy Maclin, suffered a high ankle sprain against Houston last week. That is usually a 4-6 week injury, so he will be far from 100 percent, and will have a very hard time cutting. He might not even play. And making matters worse, Kansas City’s other starting receiver, Albert Wilson, is questionable with a pulled hamstring. On top of all that, the Chiefs’ top two pass rushers, outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, are questionable. Houston plays on a bad knee, and Hali nurses several injuries. And the Patriots get back a bunch of key players, such as wide receiver Julian Edelman and left tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

While the Chiefs have won 11 games in a row, allowing just 11.6 points per game during the streak, they haven’t faced an offense like the New England’s. If the beat-up Chiefs aren’t careful, this could get out of hand.

Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-3) 8:15 PM ET, NBC

Did Packers get their groove back while beating the Washington Redskins last week? Or did they just get the better of a pedestrian team?

Facing the Cardinals serves as a good litmus test. Arizona destroyed the Packers in a late-season contest.

One big reason for the Packers’ late season slump, and that loss in Arizona, was offensive line issues. Getting back left tackle David Bakhtiari, from an ankle injury, should give them a boost. He didn’t play in the first meeting.

“We got f—ing spanked. Simple as that,” Bakhtiari said about the first match-up which he said was tough to watch from the sidelines.

Not only did Bakhtiari miss that game, but right tackle Brian Buluga got knocked out early, also with an ankle injury. The Cardinals sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times.

So entering this game with their line in much better shape should make the Packers offense much more formidable. Green Bay should benefit from their starting offensive line taking the field together for the first time in eight games. The Packers could also get back perhaps their best cornerbacks, Sam Shields, out since December 13 with a concussion.

On paper, this Cardinals are the better team. However, with Rodgers, a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, the Packers always have a puncher’s chance.