The second day of the divisional round playoffs features four teams with at least one Super Bowl trophy, including four that have one four or more: The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The day will begin with what could be the highest rated game so far this season. The Cowboys are a ratings juggernaut no matter what happens, but especially when they’re firing on all cylinders, as their Thanksgiving game with the Washington Redskins proved. Add that to the this being a playoffs game and their rivals, another team with a huge national following, and you have all the ingredients for a classic. And there’s also the quality of both teams.
Everything about the Packers revival over the last two months, winning seven games in a row, begins and ends with Aaron Rodgers. He has thrown 19 touchdown passes without a single interception, and against a relatively weak Cowboys secondary he’ll have to do without Jordy Nelson, who was seriously hurt in the win over the New York Giants, which served as further proof that the NFL needs to find a better way of dealing with players who intentionally break the rules to try and injure players.
For Dallas, the focus should be on defense. Their gameplan will be the usual: Dak Prescott keeping it short and simple, while he and Ezekiel Elliott make the most of their fantastic offensive line. The Packers o-line is terrific as well, so the Cowboys might try and simply go with the bend-don’t-break approach, which means put minimal pressure on Rodgers (opening up options for surprise blitzes), and giving their secondary all the help it can get from the linebacker crew.
In Kansas City, we’ll see two teams that approach the football game very differently. The Steelers always go for the big play, which makes sense considering they have Antonio Brown to throw to. But the best offensive player in the NFL recently has been Le’Veon Bell, and he gives the Steelers not just a running threat that makes them more dangerous than before in the red zone, but also an option for Roethlisberger to dump the ball in the short routes.
The Chiefs roll a different way. Keep it simple, don’t go for the home runs. Alex Smith doesn’t have the arm of the vision for that, nor can he take the hits the way Roethlisberger can. But if the Chiefs take the lead first, they’re an incredibly difficult foe to handle. And that may be the entire difference in this game: The Chiefs can’t play from behind because they don’t pack the offensive punch to turn things around. If their defense limits the Steelers big plays and doesn’t let anyone but Bell go off on them, we might finally see them make an AFC championship game, which has been a very long time coming.