Super Bowl chase is set

There are some powerhouses and some pretenders — and a team with a losing record

(AP) From the rested in Kansas City and Pittsburgh to the relieved in Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles, the field for the Super Bowl chase is set. There are some powerhouses and some pretenders — and a team with a losing record.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs (14-2) and Green Bay (13-3) earned each conference’s lone bye in the expanded playoffs. And no, adding a third wild-card entrant is not why a 7-9 club will be playing next weekend. Washington “earned” that spot by winning the abysmal NFC East that displayed in the finale of the regular season why NFC Least has been so appropriate a moniker.

So while New York Giants fans scream that Eagles coach Doug Pederson didn’t truly play to beat Washington on Sunday night, it should emphasized that the Giants went 6-10, a record more in line with relegation than reward.

Besides, coach Ron Rivera dealing with skin cancer and quarterback Alex Smith returning from an injury that nearly cost him his leg, those are redemptive and rewarding plots.

“This one’s special just because of how hard it was,” Rivera said. “How tough everything was, how it’s been on the guys, the organization. There’s a great group of young men in there and we’re trying to do things the right way. It’s really a cool thing to come out and get the division.”

As for the spoils, here’s who plays next weekend and how it might look.

Indianapolis (11-5) at Buffalo (13-3)

Frank Reich has been a hero in Western New York since engineering the great comeback in NFL history while replacing the injured Jim Kelly in a 1992 opening-round matchup with the Houston Oilers. Reich now coaches the Colts, and he’ll remain heroic in Buffalo if they go quietly against what has been the league’s most impressive team the last month.

This might be Colts QB Philip Rivers’ final game, but it’s the Indy defense that must stand tall here. That’s a tall order the way Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and the Bills are going.

Los Angeles Rams (10-6) at Seattle (12-4)

A third go-around for the NFC West rivals who split during the regular season. Both have strong defenses and have been spotty on offense, LA far more so than Seattle.

The Rams clinched their spot in the playoffs without the inconsistent Jared Goff (thumb surgery) at quarterback. The Seahawks have no issues at that position with Russell Wilson, though his first half of the season was far better than the last two months.