As soon as the playoff pairings were decided Sunday night, people rushed to conclusions. But the dust has settled after a few days and it's time to reexamine the four wild-card playoff games.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The Chiefs' matchup against the Colts was considered Indy's worst-case scenario. Everyone knows the Colts can't stop the run. Tony Dungy has a defense built for speed, not bulk, and injuries at defensive tackle and safety allowed opposing backs to run for 159.3 yards a game.
Larry Johnson will get his 100 yards, but that doesn't guarantee the Chiefs will beat the Colts. Naturally, Larry Johnson should get 100 yards against them. He gets 100 yards against everyone. The Chiefs' big, physical back rushed for 1,789 yards on an NFL record 416 carries. Johnson is a problem for the Colts, but playing the Chiefs isn't Indianapolis' ultimate nightmare.
Still, it's a compelling matchup. Herman Edwards let Johnson carry the Chiefs into the playoffs, but to think this one aspect of the game will project ultimate gloom and doom for the Colts is silly. Despite being horrible at stopping the run, the Colts were 7-2 when they gave up 100 yards to a running back. They were 8-3 against teams with winning records.
To beat the Colts, the Chiefs will have to do more than just run the ball, and Edwards knows that. If Johnson runs for 120 yards and the Chiefs can't convert those ground-oriented drives into touchdowns, they won't win. It's that simple.
Plus the Chiefs aren't a very good road team. They were 3-5 away from Arrowhead and for some reason, not nearly as efficient on offense. On the road, the passing offense lost downfield ability, averaging 6.34 yards an attempt compared to 8.29 at home. On the road, the Chiefs averaged 3.9 yards a carry, compared to 4.4 at home.
Edwards knows the problems he faces against the Colts. Running the ball is important because it keeps Peyton Manning off the field, but to run and not score touchdowns translates into a defeat. Manning strategically likes to get nine to 10 possessions a game. Usually, he'll get three touchdown drives and two field goal drives. That puts the pressure on the Chiefs to come up with 27 points out of the same number of drives.
The Chiefs enter the game knowing quarterback Trent Green was hit hard in the season finale against the Jaguars. His ankle is sore and he was pretty groggy after one of the hits. Edwards hinted that if Green struggles early, he might go to Damon Huard.
Dungy should have safety Bob Sanders back on the field to inspire the run defense. But one player probably won't turn the Colts into a good run-stopping unit. The Colts have tackled so poorly this season, it's going to take an offseason of evaluation to fix that.
Johnson probably will get his 100 yards, but that might not automatically give the Chiefs a victory.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, 8 p.m., NBC
Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren each have 11 playoff victories. They are considered two of the best big-game coaches in the NFL. But the teams they are taking into the playoffs this season have the veteran coaches scratching their heads.