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Looking Ahead: Wild Card Weekend

It's been since 2005 the Seahawks last held home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and made it all the way to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers (whose fans, I should note, are still probably seething over the Chargers' win that kept their team out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.) As much as I admire the Bolts for giving it all they had against a Kansas City Chiefs' second unit (and winning by a mere three points in overtime), this isn't entirely about the AFC. No, this is all about the upcoming Wild Card weekend, and whom the Hawks will potentially face in two weeks' time.

Speaking of the Kansas City Chiefs, they have the dubious honor of kicking off the playoffs with a road game against the Indianapolis Colts (Saturday, January 4; 4:35 PM Eastern (NBC)). As of this post, the Chiefs currently are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for the league's sixth-best scoring offense (averaging 26.9 points per game), and likewise tied for the league's fifth-best scoring defense (allowing 19.1 points per game). On the other side of the ball, the Indianapolis Colts have given up an average of 21 points per game, good for 9th; while their offense is currently ranked 14th, scoring an average of 24.4 points per game. If the Chiefs have learned anything from their last meeting with the Colts, and execute well in all three phases, Kansas City should advance.

The nightcap game features the New Orleans Saints against the Philadelphia Eagles (January 4; 8:10 PM Eastern (NBC)). While Nick Foles has managed to be a consistent, reliable quarterback to fill in for Michael Vick (Foles has started in 10 games, has gone 8-2 in that stretch) to boost the Eagles to the fourth-best scoring offense (well ahead of the Saints, currently ranked at 10th); you have to tip your hat to Rob Ryan as he's managed to turn the Saints' defense into a top-five unit. This one should tilt in the Saints' favor if they manage to keep Foles out of rhythm, and we could see New Orleans paying a visit to CLink in a divisional showdown.

Sunday, January 5 is when the San Diego Chargers square off against the Cincinnati Bengals (1:05 PM Eastern (CBS)). In spite of Andy Dalton's four interceptions, the Bengals still managed to dispatch their divisional rivals and send them packing. San Diego managed to squeak in by virtue of an overtime win, but the Bolts can be hit-or-miss at times (they were 5-7 as of Week 13, and had it not been for rattling off four wins in a row, they would be watching the playoffs instead of playing in them.) Incidentally, the Bengals handed the Bolts their seventh loss in Week 13, and although first-year HC Mike McCoy has done well, unless Cincy suffers from a breakdown on offense (and the Bolts cash in) this will most likely go the Bengals' way.

The late afternoon matchup (4:40 PM Eastern (FOX)) sees the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers in yet another playoff grudge match. We all know what happened last January, when the Niners won 45-31 over the Pack to send the red-and-gold to the NFC Conference Championship. I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers would be looking for a little payback for that one, and even though the Niners have the better defense (currently 3rd in the league), don't count out Aaron Rodgers to lead his offensive unit down the field for the game-winner. If that happens and should the Saints falter against the Eagles, we could see the Pack coming to Seattle. Otherwise, it'll be the Niners making the trip north if New Orleans loses to Philly (as the 5th seed, and therefore the lowest-surviving seed advancing out of the first round).

So, here's my question for my fellow Field Gulls readers. Which team would you want our Seahawks to face in the divisional round?

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