NFL Playoffs 2014: Scouting The Field

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at each of the playoff teams in the 2014 NFL playoff race, and the characteristics they display.

Each of the 2014 NFL playoff teams have shown very distinct "personality traits" this season, so let's take a look at how these teams represent themselves this postseason.

AFC

#1 Denver Broncos - The Showoff

Alright, we get it, you guys can score points, and a lot of 'em. You've got the *Greatest Quarterback of All-Time* and a juggernaut offense, but that defense leaves a lot to be desired. Losing Von Miller to injury, and Elvis Dumervil to a fax machine, will take down a once stout defense, I guess. Well, that and having Peyton Manning at quarterback. They've got the offense to beat anyone, but do they have enough defense and mental toughness to beat you-know-who?

#2 New England Patriots - The Familiar Face

Tom Brady? Check. Bill Belichick? Check. I guess it's playoff time then. They never seem to go down and they'll always be there in the end. This may very well be one of the "weaker" teams the Pats have fielded in recent playoffs, but don't be foolish enough to write them off in the AFC title chase. Don't forget, they've got the mental edge over Peyton Manning.

#3 Cincinnati Bengals - The Winless Talent

No one in the AFC has defense like the Bengals, no one, but can you really trust Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton in the Playoffs? Frankly, they've done nothing in the postseason over the past few years, and they've got some serious pedigree to contend with. The talent is there, on both sides of the ball, but much like a certain team, they struggle away from home.

#4 Indianapolis Colts - The Enigma

Who the hell are the Colts this season?!?! They've had the most impressive victories of any team in the NFL this season, and they also have had awful losses after losing Reggie Wayne at mid-season. So who are the Colts? Are they the team that smacked San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver this season, or are they the team that got crushed by St. Louis, Arizona, and Cincinnati? This all remains to be seen come Saturday.

#5 Kansas City Chiefs - The Long-Sufferer

Even in a season where they went undefeated for the first nine weeks, they were still overshadowed in their own division. Now Kansas City enters the playoffs having lost five of their last six games, including a deflating 23-7 thumping at home two weeks ago against their opponent this Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts. After all of the mis-steps in the playoffs over the last two decades for KC, to start so well just to fall flat in the playoffs would just be unfair to their loyal fans.

#6 San Diego Chargers - The Freeloader

If the NFL playoffs were a classy affair, the Chargers would be that dude who shows up wearing sweatpants and sandals. They're pounding the free cocktails and enjoying the spread while saying "oooh, shrimp cocktail!". It's not that the Chargers don't deserve to be there or that they don't have a chance, but their road is extremely difficult. They won't play as if they're just happy to be there, but they should be happy.

NFC

#1 Seattle Seahawks - The Favorite

What's not to like about the Seahawks? They've got the NFL's best defense, a franchise quarterback, a freakishly talented and physical secondary, and, most importantly, homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. Few have gone into Seattle and come out unscathed over the past few seasons. This may very well be Seattle's time, but they've got to battle overconfidence and lofty expectations now that the playoffs have started. Remember, since 2007 only the 2009 Saints and 2012 Falcons have even won a playoff game as the #1 seed in the NFC, and only the '09 Saints made it out of the NFC as champs. Uneasy lies the regular season crown.

#2 Carolina Panthers - The Bully

The Carolina Panthers field arguably the most intimidating defensive line in football, and they use it to devastating effectiveness on their opponents. The linebackers, led by Luke Kuechly, are equally effective. The secondary, though, not so much. Carolina can and will get after the quarterback, and only teams that can effectively protect their passer will emerge victorious. Even with that said, their offense is offensive, and if teams can get a lead on them, the Panthers have a hard time making up points (unless they're playing the Saints with under a minute left). If opponents can protect the passer and take advantage of the soft underbelly of the secondary, the #2 seed will fall. Teams that can beat the Panthers at their own game will have success. It's well known that the best way to stop a bully is to step up and punch 'em right in the mouth.

#3 Philadelphia Eagles - The New Kid

These aren't Andy Reid's Eagles, you won't see the west coast offense trickling out points here. You also won't see the type of aggressive defense that was once run under the late Jim Johnson during the Eagles' playoff heyday. No, this is Chip Kelly's uptempo, new-look Eagles led by young QB Nick Foles and NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy. As good as Philly has looked in victory this year, they've been inconsistent for stretches, and lack playoff experience. For all of the offensive success, the defense leaves much to be desired. They may be ahead of schedule and the Eagles have a tough draw. Homefield in the Wild Card round will be their biggest ally.

#4 Green Bay Packers - The One Man Show

If not for Aaron Rodgers' return, we wouldn't even be discussing the Packers at playoff time this season. The Packers are Aaron Rodgers right now, and all of their hopes hinge on his success. Considering the playoff field and their first opponent, the Packers would need a superhuman effort from Rodgers to find victory. The loss of Clay Matthews takes their pedestrian defense and makes it a flat-out liability. The Pack may be the most suspect team in the NFC field.

#5 San Francisco 49ers - The Boogeymen

Despite many team's best efforts this season, you just can't keep these Niners down. The most dangerous opponent in the field finds themselves with the #5 seed only because of the excellence in Seattle this season. Possibly only the bitter cold and snow at Lambeau may slow the Niners chances to reach the NFC title game for the third consecutive season. Watch out Panthers, the Niners are coming for you, and they want revenge. That will be a matchup to really dislike, considering the contempt for both teams around these parts.

#6 New Orleans Saints - The Head Case

The Saints, an unstoppable juggernaut under the roof of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, on the road though, ugh. Well, as the #6 dictates, the road is the only path for the Saints this postseason. 3-5 on the road this season, 0-5 on the road all-time in franchise playoff history, we've all heard it ad nauseam. Now is the time for the Saints to change the narrative once-and-for-all, or once again fall victim to this perplexing trend. The Saints have the talent, coaching, and experience necessary to make a run, but they've got to get past the mental hurdles and play to their capabilities on Saturday night. A return trip to Seattle, for all of its difficulties, would be quite nice.

***

This playoff field truly has a vast array of personality traits, and that may make this postseason more unpredictable than many predict. Favorites may fall and underdogs may rise, and that's the fun of the NFL playoffs. Here we go, let the playoffs begin!

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