As usual, the teams quarterbacked by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady find themselves with a first-round bye in the AFC. In the NFC, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals find themselves in unfamiliar positions at the top, but will need to get comfortable quickly.
With three of the four Wild Card teams peaking at the right time (Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers), there has never been a more imminent threat to home-field advantage. Heading into the Wild Card round, these three teams are actually favored against division title winners, despite the fact that they are playing on the road.
The lone underdog is the Green Bay Packers, who find themselves as only one-point underdogs against the heavily inexperienced Washington Redskins. In the other NFC Wild Card match-up, the Seahawks are taking on a Minnesota Vikings squad they already beat 38-7 earlier this season.
In the AFC, Pittsburgh is taking on a familiar foe in the Cincinnati Bengals who will likely be without quarterback Andy Dalton, and the Chiefs will be facing a Houston Texans squad that most experts view to be the weakest team in the postseason.
All of this is setting up for the first clean sweep by Wild Card teams in NFL history.
Of course, the two teams at the top of both conferences should still feel confident knowing they will be playing in front of their home crowds. But taking on quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith can quickly eliminate any sense of an upper hand.
The Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos looked far from their best in their Week 17 games, and with the Carolina Panthers likely facing Seattle in the Divisional round, none of these teams should feel safe – even with home-field “advantage.”
Source: Just The West