NFL Playoffs 2012: Comparing Every Projected Matchup to a Boxing Title Card
After 16 games of slugging it out, we're now down to 12 contenders. The NFL Playoffs present a dramatic scenario in which a slip-up could mean the ultimate knockout.
Four will be eliminated this weekend, leaving even less to duke it out for the Lombardi Trophy.
Here is how the postseason is projected to look after the Wild Card Round and the tale of the tape on each potential showdown.
Let's get it on.
AFC Divisional: Steelers at Patriots
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When these two perennial powers touched gloves in late October, the Steelers simply pushed the Patriots around and had total control of the fight.
Since then, Pittsburgh has made its trainers earn their paychecks.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn't have the spring in his step, while Rashard Mendenhall is on the mend for good.
One healthy player that is certain to come out swinging is James Harrison. The linebacker is known for his hits below the belt and above the neck, something that's not looked upon fondly by the ultimate judge.
Due to their offense, the Patriots can push their weaker opponent against the ropes and come out on top in their home ring.
AFC Divisional: Texans at Ravens
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The Houston Texans had a standing eight-count against them after losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub, then subsequently saw backup Matt Leinart go out. They could have certainly laid down on the canvas and thrown in the towel considering that they had seen injuries to Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, as well.
Instead, Gary Kubiak's club got up and fought back...all the way to the crown in the AFC South.
But the tail end of the regular season saw a depletion in success, as they took three successive marks in the 'L' column. Houston's defense remained stout, but the offense was damaged with continuous body blows.
Baltimore is set to put Houston on the ropes from the start with their equally stout defense and can obtain an early-round knockout with the likes of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice performing to their potential.
NFC Divisional: Giants at Packers
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The team's early December meeting wasn't decided until the final bell rung.
The rematch, on Green Bay's legendary home turf, will turn out to have similar characteristics.
Eli Manning and company have gone through the ringer with their bear of a schedule. So this difficult task is nothing new.
New York is going to hang around with the Packers and not make it easy for the defending champs to prevail again. But just like the initial tussle, Green Bay will be have its hands raised in victory.
NFC Divisional: Saints at 49ers
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This year's underdog is the San Francisco 49ers. Believed to be a lightweight at the start of the season, first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has built his club into one with plenty of muscle.
At the weigh-in for this one, New Orleans still has the upper hand in terms of size and strength. San Francisco can defend, but it's yet to face the likes of the Saints combination of offensive strikes.
The projection here is New Orleans will get points first. Can the 49ers counterpunch? Sure, but they can't keep pace with New Orleans' red-hot flurry of body shots to the opposing defense.
The Saints advance to Green Bay.
AFC Championship: Ravens at Patriots
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On paper, this AFC title bout is evenly matched.
Each corner features veteran players that are used this stage.
For Baltimore, it's Ray Lewis, a linebacker that is a master of the sweet science that is defense.
For New England, it's the coolness of Tom Brady, a quarterback that can take a jab and retaliate with smarts rather than power.
In this split-decision, the Ravens win by TKO due to their ability to attack and defend soundly. The Patriots, on the other hand, are one-dimensional.
NFC Championship: Saints at Packers
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There's potential for a rope-a-dope in this one. Both clubs will come at each other with haymakers for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.
Both defenses should be prepared for consistent jabs and occasional sledgehammer shots in this rematch of the 2011 premier tussle.
With two evenly-matched sides, the difference comes in the venue. The Saints don't perform as well when they're away from their home turf.
Lambeau Field is certainly no neutral corner. And when the final scorecard is written up, the Packers are going to be the victors in the NFC yet again.
Super Bowl XLVI: Ravens vs. Packers
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Welcome to the main event.
The previous contests were simply undercards to the ultimate game at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.
Battered but not beaten, the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers stand tall as the champions of their respective conferences.
Both can proudly claim their rightful place to be the top heavyweight in pro football. Rest assured that each side will speak openly regarding this matter, but yet also rain praise on the opponent in the other corner.
After a fight that goes the full four rounds, the Packers will emerge as the undisputed Super Bowl champs for the second straight season...and Rodgers can proudly perform his signature touchdown move.