2012 NFL Playoffs logo2012 NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoff Picture: Breaking Down All Postseason Matchup Scenarios

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2012

NFL Playoff Picture: Breaking Down All Postseason Matchup Scenarios

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    The NFL playoffs are in full swing, and the field has been dwindled down from 12 teams to only eight teams. We now need to get ready for the Divisional Round, where anything can happen.

    Today we'll look at every postseason matchup scenario. We'll first take a quick look at the Divisional Round, and then look at what games might happen in the Conference Championships for the AFC and NFC, and what games could possibly take place in the Super Bowl.

AFC Divisional Round: Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    If T.J. Yates and Arian Foster play the Baltimore Ravens as well as the played against the Cincinnati Bengals, this could be an incredibly close game.

    Look for the outcome of this game to be decided upon which running back has the better game. If Foster goes off for another 100+ yards, the Texans will likely win.

    However, if Ray Rice has a huge game on the ground and through the air, the game will probably go to the Ravens.

AFC Divisional Round: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

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    Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos have been waiting for this.

    The rematch between Tom Brady and Tebow will be one of the most anticipated playoff games of all time.

    The big question will be if Tebow can continue his one-game dominance through the air against the New England Patriots. You have to think that with the issues that the Patriots have in their secondary, we could see numerous big plays from the Broncos again.

    Whatever happens, it's bound to be incredible because if you haven't learned it yet, Tebow makes incredible things happen.

NFC Divisional Round: New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    This matchup will pit a great offense against a great defense. The winner of this game could very well decide whether defense still wins championships, or if offense is the new king in the NFL.

    If there was one team that the New Orleans Saints would have to be afraid of, you would have to think it is the San Francisco 49ers.

    Not only can San Francisco make quarterbacks nervous with their pressure, but they are also able to play decent coverage in the secondary. You know that New Orleans won't be able to run against them, so it will be interesting to see what their gameplan will be.

    It's hard to go against Drew Brees with the way he is playing right now, but we'll see if Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and the rest of the 49ers' defense can slow him down.

NFC Divisional Round: New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

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    The regular season matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants was one of the best games of the regular season, and I'm guessing that this Divisional round matchup will be no different.

    Against the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants showed just how dominant they can be both offensively and defensively. The big question is whether or not their defense will actually be able to slow down Aaron Rodgers.

    They weren't able to do it in the regular season at home, so my gut tells me that it isn't likely that they'll be able to do it in Lambeau Field.

Possible AFC Championship Game: Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Not Very Likely

    If the Houston Texans beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road, and the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots on the road, everything that everyone knows about football should be flushed down the toilet.

    If this matchup did take place, Tim Tebow would win.

    I mean, come on, you had to see that one coming right?

Possible AFC Champsionship Game: Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

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    Likelihood of Matchup: So-So Likely

    I just have a hard time envisioning a rookie quarterback like T.J. Yates going into New England and coming away with a victory.

    Don't get me wrong, Yates looked extremely impressive against the Cincinnati Bengals, but they'll likely have to play in cold weather, and I just can't see them beating Tom Brady on his home field.

Possible AFC Championship Game: Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Tebow Likely

    Seriously, if Tim Tebow goes on the road and beats the New England Patriots after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, how could I ever go against him?

    If there is any player on the planet that could actually stop Tebow, you would have to think that it would be Ray Lewis. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if when Lewis and Tebow collided for the first time, the second great Ice Age would take place.

    This would be a close game of course, but Tebow would work his magic again and put the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Possible AFC Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patrits

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Extremely Likely

    These two teams have arguably been the best two teams in the AFC over the course of the regular season, and it's extremely likely that they will meet in the AFC Championship Game.

    This matchup would have some of the better individual matchups in the playoffs that we would see. Tom Brady vs. Ed Reed and Vince Wilfork vs. Ray Rice are just two of the major ones.

    As much as I like the New England Patriots' offense, I like the Baltimore Ravens' defense better, and if this matchup takes place, I see them walking away with the victory.

Possible NFC Championship Game: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Least Likely of NFC Matchups, but Still Pretty Likely

    Both these teams are likely to be underdogs in their Divisional round matchup, but they both have a great shot at making the NFC Championship Game.

    The New York Giants are playing very similarly to how they were during their 2007 Super Bowl run while the San Francisco 49ers' defense reminds many of the great defenses that were crucial to Super Bowl victories earlier in the 21st century.

    The nod in this game would have to go to home-field advantage, which means the 49ers would be going to the Super Bowl.

Possible NFC Championship Game: New York Giants vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Likelier Than the Previous Matchup

    The NFC is such a tough conference that it is extremely likely that any of the final four teams could represent them in the Super Bowl.

    However, I just can't see the New York Giants beating the Green Bay Packers on the road, which is why this isn't a very likely possible NFC Championship Game.

    But, if it did take place, this game would be extremely high scoring with the New Orleans Saints winning at home to advance to the Super Bowl.

Possible NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Very Likely

    These two teams have seemed to be on a crash course since about the fifth week of the regular season.

    This matchup would be one of the best offenses against one of the best defenses, and it's anyone's guess who would budge first.

    The one thing that favors the Green Bay Packers is that they don't really have a run game that the San Francisco 49ers would be able to completely shut down. The fact that they do 98 percent of their damage through the air would give them the advantage in this matchup, and would send them to the Super Bowl.

Possible NFC Championship Game: New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Very, Very Likely

    Now this would be an exciting NFC Championship game.

    As good as their Week 1 matchup was, you can bet that this matchup, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, would be an instant classic.

    Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have been battling for honors of top quarterback in the NFL all season long, and this game might finally decide a winner.

    Home-field advantage for the Green Bay Packers could be the difference in this game as January in Green Bay is quite different than a dome in New Orleans. Green Bay would punch their ticket to Indianapolis and the Super Bowl if this game takes place.

Possible Super Bowl: New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Extremely Unlikely

    Look, the Denver Broncos have to beat the New England Patriots and the New York Giants have to beat the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round for this to even have the chance of happening.

    The odds of both teams winning on the road this weekend are extremely low. 

    However, if this does happen to be the Super Bowl, of course Tim Tebow wins.

Possible Super Bowl: New York Giants vs. Houston Texans

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Nope

    This matchup isn't going to happen either. Teams just don't make the Super Bowl with a rookie, third-string quarterback. That's especially true if that rookie quarterback is traveling to take on the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.

    The New York Giants have a much better chance at getting to the Super Bowl than the Houston Texans, but even their chance is rather slim.

    If this game happens to happen, look for Eli Manning to have a huge game.

Possible Super Bowl: Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: This Isn't Happening

    Both these teams have had surprising seasons, and it would be a major surprise to see them square-off in the Super Bowl.

    While the San Francisco 49ers have the better chance of the two to make it to the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos' chances are so low that they bring the duo down to this level of likelihood.

    This would have to be the defense that would finally be able to slow down Tim Tebow and bring glory back to San Francisco.

Possible Super Bowl: Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Rather Unlikely

    Look, I'm not trying to hate on the Denver Broncos, but the likelihood of them making the Super Bowl is extremely unlikely.

    Not only will they play this weekend's game on the road, but they would also play the AFC Championship game on the road. It's an extremely tough road for Denver to get to the big game, but if they do, there is no way that they would stop the high-powered offense of the New Orleans Saints.

Possible Super Bowl: Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Just a Bit Less Unlikely Than the Previous Matchup

    The only reason that this matchup is more likely is because the Green Bay Packers are involved in the picture. I just can't see the New Orleans Saints heading into Lambeau Field in January and coming away with a win.

    With that said, this Super Bowl matchup is still very unlikely because of the inclusion of the Denver Broncos. This matchup would feature two of the most popular quarterbacks in the NFL right now.

    The big question would be which quarterback would have more commercials during the big game. Whoever had more would definitely win the game.

Possible Super Bowl: Houston Texans vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Not Very Likely

    If T.J. Yates can get past the Baltimore Ravens' defense in the Divisional round, and some other defense in the Conference Championship, than you would have to believe they would also be able to beat the San Francisco 49ers and their stout defense.

    You also have to wonder that if Yates leads the Houston Texans to the Super Bowl, he becomes quite the trade bait for Houston in the offseason.

    Unfortunately, the chances of Yates doing that is very low.

Possible Super Bowl: Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Not Very Probable

    Both the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints face extremely tough defenses in their respective Divisional round matchups, but if they both emerge from that game victorious, they could very well meet up in the Super Bowl.

    Of course, the probability of Houston getting past the Baltimore Ravens is extremely low and unlikely.

Possible Super Bowl: Houston Texans vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Rather Unlikely

    It's really hard for me to see the Houston Texans making the Super Bowl which is why their likelihood of making the Super Bowl is so low.

    As great of a matchup of Arian Foster vs. the Green Bay Packers' awful rush defense sounds, it's just rather unlikely that it is going to happen.

    However, if it did happen, I wouldn't be surprised if Foster ran for 200 yards.

Possible Super Bowl: New York Giants vs. New England Patriots

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    Likelihood of Matchup: As Likely as 2007

    No one expected the New York Giants to make the Super Bowl in 2007, but everyone expected the perfect New England Patriots to go the distance.

    That is similar to this year where the Giants have to travel to Green Bay, and if they win there, they would then have to take on another juggernaut in either New Orleans or San Francisco.

    However, if they do make it to the Super Bowl, and the Patriots do the same, the nod has to go to New York because they'll have faced the tougher schedule.

Possible Super Bowl: New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Likelihood of Matchup: It Could Happen...

    As much as I would like to see these two teams play, you just have this feeling like, "Yeah, it could happen...when pigs fly south for winter."

    All I know is that if the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens met in the Super Bowl, there would likely be a record for most combined sacks in a Super Bowl. Both these teams can get after a quarterback.

    The winner would be the team with more sacks, which would be the New York Giants.

Possible Super Bowl: San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Likely

    As good as the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots have been this year, there just seems like something is missing from both of these teams.

    What is interesting about these two teams is that each team's weakness is the other team's strength. For example, New England lacks a defensive playmakers, but the 49ers are loaded with them.

    On the other side of the ball, San Francisco lacks a legit and experienced quarterback, while the Patriots have quite possible the best playoff quarterback in NFL history.

    This game would be a great contrast in playing styles with two great coaches. You couldn't ask for a better matchup for a Super Bowl.

    My pick would be with the experienced quarterback Tom Brady because he's been here before and he knows how to win, even against a great defense.

Possible Super Bowl: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Pretty Likely

    Now we are really getting into Super Bowl matchups that are likely to happen. How fun would it be to watch Ray Lewis go up against Patrick Willis?

    With a matchup of the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers, you get two great defensive teams and two so-so offensive teams.

    Whichever team has the most success with their running back would ultimately win this game. While Frank Gore is certainly talented, Ray Rice of Baltimore is a much better and complete running back.

    He may not have a good game on the ground, but his ability to turn a short, dump-off pass into a big gain would be the difference in this game.

Possible Super Bowl: New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Very Likely

    Many consider the New Orleans Saints the best team in the NFC, even better than the top-seeded Green Bay Packers.

    In the AFC, the New England Patriots are widely considered the top team, and definitely the best offensive team left in the field.

    If these two teams were to meet in the Super Bowl, it would be a guaranteed offensive slugfest. Touchdown after touchdown would take place as two of the best quarterbacks of the current generation would face off.

    It wouldn't get much better than Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady, and after the season that both had, we would probably see 80 points combined between these two.

    The winner of the game would be the first defense to get a stop, and just like they did against the Detroit Lions, the Saints would stop New England once for the win.

Possible Super Bowl: New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Super Likely

    This is probably one of the more common Super Bowl matchups as it contains the top seeds from both conferences. It seems like these two teams have been on a collision course since the season started, and now that it is winding down, it is very likely that they'll meet in the Super Bowl.

    If the Green Bay Packers were to win this game, which I think they would, it would be seen as a passing-of-the-torch from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would have to be considered the game's best quarterback after back-to-back Super Bowls.

    However, if the New England Patriots were to win, which I don't think they would, than Brady could show the world that he is still atop the quarterback throne.

Possible Super Bowl: New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Likelihood of Matchup: Extremely Likely

    This matchup would be the second-most likely matchup and possible scenario I could see happening.

    If the New Orleans Saints were to battle the Baltimore Ravens for the Super Bowl, it would be a game of who is going to budge first. What that means is that either New Orleans' offense or Baltimore's defense is going to need to be stopped or beaten for a team to win.

    The likely X-Factor in this game would be Joe Flacco, and his ability to successfully move the ball down the field. You know that Baltimore is going to be able to get some defensive stops, but will Flacco be able to capitalize on those stops is the big question.

    My guess is that he would finally show that he is a true franchise quarterback by coming up with some big plays, with the help of Ray Rice of course, and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore.

Possible Super Bowl: Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Likelihood of Matchup: The Most Likely

    This would be the matchup of all matchups and is my most likely scenario for the Super Bowl.

    The Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens have been two of the best teams for the majority of the regular season, and that won't likely change during the playoffs.

    The individual matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would be one incredible matchup to watch. No quarterback is as good at avoiding pressure like Rodgers, and you could almost guarantee that Baltimore would bring as much pressure as possible to slow him down.

    Should this likely Super Bowl matchup take place, it would be one of the most enjoyable and hard-fought Super Bowl games in NFL history. 

    It would come down to the final moments where Rodgers would drive his team down the field with only seconds remaining, and Mason Crosby would kick the game-winning field goal.

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