Whether it is the roar of the crowd or the comfort of the locker room, there is no debate that a team would like to play their playoff opener at home. yet, despite these obvious advantages, the home teams in this weekend's NFL wildcard match-ups may not necessarily be seen as the favourites.
After 17 weeks of practice and play, only twelve teams remain in the quest to complete a half century of Super Bowl winners. New England and Denver captured the AFC byes, while the Panthers and Cardinals did the same in the NFC, resulting in four very tricky games to choose a favourite in. Saturday's match-ups see the Chiefs visit the Texans and two division rivals square off when the Steelers arrive in Cincinnati. The Chiefs have won 10 straight football games and are visiting a team that has arguably won the worst division in football, while the Steelers carry one of the most potent offences into a tilt with the Andy Dalton-less Bengals.
Sunday is the day for the NFC teams to go head-to-head, as the Seahawks head to chilly Minnesota to tangle with the Vikings and the Packers visit FedEx Field to face the Redskins. These match-ups carry two surprising division winners and two power house visitors. The Packers and Seahawks faced in last years conference championship game and both begin their journey back to that game on the road Sunday. Despite the loss of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks always tend to be "that team" come playoff time and should leave the Vikings worried. In the late game, the Redskins will have their hands full against a scary Packers side. Yes, the Packers have not been their usual self this season but it's inevitable that this is not a team that you want to play when your season is on the line.
Regardless of what has happened in the past or what is supposed to happen, one thing is for sure, in these games you really just don't know. That's part of the beauty that sports brings along to us week in, week out, the element of surprise and unpredictability. The numbers from Vegas and from past results become irrelevant once the pigskin is kicked off that bright orange tee this weekend, but if one thing is known for sure, it's not always home sweet home.