There are two NFL Wild-Card Weekend playoff games on tap today. Here is a look at both games.
Baltimore (12-4) at Kansas City (10-6)
(Sports Network) - What's uncharted territory for many members of the Kansas City Chiefs will be old hat for the Baltimore Ravens, who'll be entering this Sunday's AFC Wild Card showdown with the surprise postseason participants at Arrowhead Stadium seeking to win an opening-round playoff game on the road for a third consecutive year.
The Chiefs find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 after orchestrating one of the NFL's best turnarounds this year. After winning a mere four games during head coach Todd Haley's debut campaign of 2009 and 10 times total over the previous three seasons, Kansas City broke out with a 10-6 record that was good enough to earn the previously-fallen franchise its first AFC West title since it recorded 13 victories under Dick Vermeil in 2003.
A dynamic ground game that produced the most rushing yards in the league and the sound play under center from quarterback Matt Cassel have been two factors in the Chiefs' about-face, as has a renewed dominance on home turf. Kansas City went 7-1 at Arrowhead Stadium over the course of the regular season, with the lone blemish a 31-10 setback to Oakland in last week's finale, and have held the opposition to 14 points or less in all but one of those triumphs.
That impressive record still won't likely faze the battle-tested Ravens, a team that finds itself in a very familiar position heading into this year's Super Bowl tournament. Baltimore earned a Wild Card berth in the AFC for the third straight season after being edged out by rival Pittsburgh for the North Division crown, and will take to the road in a playoff setting for the sixth time in the accomplished three-year tenure of head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Ravens won twice in enemy venues as a sixth seed to advance to the 2008 AFC Championship Game in Harbaugh's first season, and overpowered favored New England in an authoritative 33-14 victory during a first-round clash last January. That result stands as the Patriots' only loss in their last 31 outings at Gillette Stadium in which Tom Brady has started at quarterback.
Baltimore is seeded fifth in this year's AFC group and enters Sunday's matchup riding a four-game winning streak. The Ravens forced five Cincinnati turnovers in a 13-7 home verdict over the fellow division member Bengals last Sunday, one week after coming up with four takeaways in a 20-10 decision at Cleveland.
While Baltimore has a proven track record at this all-important time of the season, the Chiefs will be out to end a painfully-long winless drought in the postseason. Kansas City has lost its last six playoff tests, including three at home, since Hall of Famer Joe Montana led the team to a defeat of the Houston Oilers in a 1993 AFC Divisional Round bout.
The Chiefs' most recent postseason appearance was a 23-8 opening-round loss at Indianapolis on Jan. 6, 2007, and they haven't played at Arrowhead in the playoffs since a 38-31 besting by the Colts on Jan. 11, 2004.
Green Bay (10-6) at Philadelphia (10-6)
(Sports Network) - A high-profile meeting at Lincoln Financial Field nearly four months ago helped shape the 2010 fortunes of both the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. One of those Super Bowl contenders will now see a promising season end where it started when the two teams renew acquaintances this Sunday in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs.
The Packers kicked off their 2010 campaign with a 27-20 victory in the City of Brotherly Love back on Sept. 12, a game that wound up completely changing the course of the Eagles' season. The signature moment of that contest took place midway through the second quarter, when Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb sustained a concussion after being leveled by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews on a scramble.
Kolb's injury opened the door for Michael Vick to take over the reins of one of the league's most exciting offenses, and the once-disgraced playmaker certainly took advantage of the opportunity. In one of the greatest comeback stories in recent memory, Vick raised his game to a previously unseen levels in directing the Eagles to a third consecutive postseason appearance and first NFC East title since 2006.
The former Atlanta Falcons franchise face established career bests for passing yards (3,018) and completion percentage (62.6) while accounting for 30 touchdowns (21 passing, 9 rushing) in an MVP-caliber year. The Eagles went 8-2 in games in which Vick started and finished this season.
Vick couldn't deliver a win in his latest outing, however, with the Minnesota Vikings successfully containing both the dual-threat quarterback and his team's usually potent offense in a 24-14 upset at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 28. The 30-year-old was hampered in that game by a quadriceps contusion and was one of several Philadelphia regulars to be rested in a meaningless 14-13 loss to Dallas last Sunday, but pronounced himself to be at 100 percent earlier in the week.
The Packers may have the means to keep Vick and the high-scoring Eagles grounded as well. Green Bay allowed the second-fewest points in the league (15.0 ypg) during the regular season and racked up a healthy 47 sacks, six of which came in the club's Week 1 besting of Philadelphia.
Green Bay's defense stood tall once again under high-stakes circumstances last weekend, holding NFC North champion Chicago to 227 total yards in an imperative 13-10 triumph that gave the Packers the NFC's final Wild Card berth. The unit sacked Jay Cutler six times and intercepted the Bears quarterback twice, including a game-sealing pick by safety Nick Collins in the final seconds.
The Packers will lean on that stout defense as well as standout quarterback Aaron Rodgers in hopes of recording their first road playoff win since the 1997 NFC Championship Game. Green Bay has come up short in four subsequent postseason tests away from home, most recently the memorable 51-45 overtime setback at Arizona in last year's opening round in which Rodgers threw for a team playoff record 423 yards and four touchdowns in his first-ever postseason start.
Green Bay also enters Sunday's showdown having lost its last three road tilts and was just 3-5 as the guest this year.
The Eagles finished 4-4 at home and dropped two straight games at Lincoln Financial Field to close out the regular season, but the team sports a stellar 7-1 mark in playoff openers under longtime head coach Andy Reid. The lone blemish took place last January, however, with a 34-14 first-round defeat at Dallas.