By Danny Cox
The Divisional Round of the 2016 NFL Playoffs has four great match-ups, but the AFC side of things is one that is extremely hard to call. With the Denver Broncos taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots facing off with the Kansas City Chiefs, anyone can advance and not even the experts are overly sure who will be moving on.
CBS Sports analyst and San Diego Chargers legend Dan Fouts will be calling the game between the Patriots and Chiefs on CBS this weekend. New England has struggled in the second half of the season while Kansas City has been red-hot, winning 11 in a row including last week’s 30-0 thrashing of the Houston Texans.
Even with some late-season losses and lots of injuries, Fouts believes that Tom Brady is still doing extremely well and thinks “this may be his best season ever,” which he said during CBS Sports’ Divisional Playoffs conference call. He makes the point that from week-to-week, Brady never knew who he was handing the ball off to or who would be on his line, but he adjusted as needed.
THE NFL TODAY studio analyst Bill Cowher said that health is a true factor in any game and it’s going to be hard for the Patriots when the game starts on Saturday. They’ve had the first-round bye to heal up, but many of these players haven’t been in game-speed situations or on the field with one another in a while so they will need time to find a rhythm. Saturday’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots is going to be one of who can adjust to their opponent first.
“Both offenses…I call them scheming offenses. They both do a lot,” said Phil Simms. “The Patriots are hardened, tested, and know how to hang in there even when they are out-manned.”
Some are hoping that the Patriots will defeat the Chiefs and the Broncos will defeat the Steelers so that maybe there can be one more Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady match-up. For that to possibly happen, though, Denver needs to hope that Manning is fully healed from his multiple injuries.
Fouts says that the Broncos have to feel better knowing that if any problems arise from Manning getting back on the field, they have a very capable back-up in Brock Osweiler. Thing is, Manning isn’t going to want to leave the field now that he has been back on it again.
“It was great to see Peyton Manning smile once again,” said Fouts after he returned to lead the Broncos to a 27-20 victory over the Chargers in the regular season finale.
For the Broncos to advance, they will have to beat a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has been on a good streak in the last few weeks, but is dealing with a lot of injuries. Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) is looking like a game-time decision and wide receiver Antonio Brown is likely out with a concussion. Can the Steelers overcome those injuries and win?
“Sure you can,” said Cowher. “The Steelers have a pedigree of understanding what it takes to win games. It will still be a huge obstacle though.”
If Ben Roethlisberger can’t play, Landry Jones is expected to start under center.
The 2016 NFL Playoffs are in full swing and the two AFC games in the Divisional Round are extremely hard to predict after a number of blowouts in the Wild Card games. Right now, even some of the best minds in football aren’t sure who will win, but they know it’s going to be an exciting weekend of football.
Tune in to CBS on Saturday, January 16 for Kansas City at New England and Sunday, January 17 for Pittsburgh at Denver.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.