Your weekend starts here: NFL divisional playoffs feature three rematches


The NFL playoffs move on to the divisional round this weekend, with three of the four contests serving as rematches of regular season games.

Last weekend's wild-card round saw all four road teams win for the first time in NFL history but, with the top two seeds in each conference entering the fray, the away sides figure to have a tougher task on their hands in the divisonal round. 

The Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are the top two seeds in the NFC with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots seeded one and two in the AFC.

Of the eight quarterbacks remaining, four of them - New England's Tom Brady, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson - have all won Super Bowls.

Among the other four quarterbacks, only Arizona's Carson Palmer is without a playoff victory in two appearances with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Chiefs (12-5) at Patriots (12-4), Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

The only matchup of the weekend that is not a rematch of a 2015 regular-season game has the Kansas Chiefs looking for their 12th straight victory, but it will not come easy at Gillette Stadium.

The Chiefs are coming off a 30-0 demolition of the Houston Texans, but had wide receiver Jeremy Maclin go down with an ankle injury.

He may be out against the Patriots, who expect wide receiver Julian Edelman to return from a broken foot.

New England's bye week also allowed other hobbled Patriots - tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Danny Amendola, and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer - more time to heal. 

The Chiefs have lost five of the last seven versus New England, a stretch that began on December 4, 2000. Kansas City did win the most recent matchup, however, thumping the Patriots 41-14 on September 29, 2014 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Packers (11-6) at Cardinals (13-3), Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

The Cardinals beat the Packers in convincing fashion just three weeks ago and, to avoid another blowout loss, Green Bay's offensive line must do a better job protecting Rodgers.

Arizona racked up nine sacks, eight on Rodgers, in the 38-8 victory on December 27.

The Packers will look to extend their NFL-record of 11 postseason road victories, but must play better against Arizona's aggressive defensive front. 

After allowing a first-quarter sack for a safety in last week's 35-18 win over the Redskins, the Packers did not give up another sack for the rest of the game.

Former center J.C. Tretter, who gave up the safety sack, settled in as a replacement for injured starting left tackle David Bakhtiari. Green Bay hope to get Bakhtiari back from an ankle injury that has caused him to miss the last three games.

The Packers also expect cornerback Sam Shields to return from a concussion sustained on December 13. Without Green Bay's top corner on the field, Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd had six catches for 111 yards in last month's game. 

Seahawks (11-6) at Panthers (15-1), Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET

The Seahawks are the number six seed in the playoffs but are also one of the more dangerous teams remaining.

Seattle have been the NFC's representative in each of the last two Super Bowls, winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February 2014.

Carolina have the NFL's likely MVP in quarterback Cam Newton, who has accounted for 45 touchdowns this season. The Panthers also snapped a five-game losing streak to the Seahawks with a win in Seattle earlier this season.

Newton is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns (35) and 10 rushing touchdowns in a season. He passed for 3,837 yards and rushed for 636 yards, becoming the first player in league history to have at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in five seasons.

Sunday's meeting marks the seventh time since 2010 that the Seahawks and Panthers have met, and it will be the second straight year the teams have collided in the postseason.

Four of the last five meetings in the series have been decided by five points or fewer, including Carolina's 27-23 victory on October 18 at CenturyLink Field. 

Steelers (11-6) at Broncos (12-4), Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET

Both the Steelers and Broncos are fortunate to even be in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh advanced into the postseason after the New York Jets slipped up in their regular-season finale. Meanwhile, the Broncos won their final two games of the campaign in dramatic fashion to claim the number one seed despite facing the possibility of missing the postseason just three weeks ago.

An epic late-game collapse by the Bengals ensured the Steelers' progress from the wild-card round with an 18-16 win in Cincinnati.

With a victory against Denver, the Steelers would go through to their 16th AFC championship game, which would eclipse the San Francisco 49ers for the most appearances in a conference championship Game since 1970.

The Steelers could also move past the Dallas Cowboys for the most post-season wins in NFL history with both teams tied at 34 playoff victories. 

Denver lost at Pittsburgh on December 20 with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 380 yards and three scores.

But Roethlisberger suffered a sprain of the AC joint and torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder last week and will be without top receiver Antonio Brown, who sustained a concussion following a late hit by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. 

Brock Osweiler started at quarterback for the Broncos last month, but Denver will turn to five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning on Sunday.

Manning had been out with a torn plantar fascia, but relieved Osweiler in their 27-20 win over the Chargers on January 3.

Should Manning throw a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis, the former 49ers tight end would pass ex-Oakland Raiders tight end Dave Casper for most postseason touchdown receptions by a tight end in NFL history.