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If NFL Season Ended Today, What Would We Think of the Playoff Picture?

Old AccountSenior Writer INovember 6, 2012

If NFL Season Ended Today, What Would We Think of the Playoff Picture?

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    The NFL postseason is coming into form through nine weeks, with the most notable matchup featuring Andrew Luck versus Peyton Manning in the first round of the playoffs.

    As the season enters the middle of November, teams are realizing what their identity is heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

    Here is an outlook on the current playoff picture if the season ended today.

First Round Byes: Atlanta Falcons,Houston Texans,Chicago Bears,Baltimore Ravens

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    Although a first round bye hasn't necessarily led to an easier path to the title in recent years, the possibility of guaranteeing themselves one or more home games in the playoffs is a possibility for all of these teams.

    The Falcons remain the only undefeated team in the NFL and would currently have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

    In recent years, Atlanta has proven to be more successful playing in the Georgia Dome. This year, Matt Ryan has excelled in their up-tempo offense, while the defense has made strides under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

    However, there are still doubts about their ability to produce at a high level in the postseason. With home-field advantage in sight, the road to New Orleans becomes much easier for Atlanta.

    Houston is in a similar position, although they've been successful on both the road and at home this year.

    Matt Schaub has played efficient football, and Arian Foster left off from last year with another All-Pro caliber season. The difference for them has been the defense—a unit that has dominated opposing offensive lines and becomes much more of a threat with the home crowd behind them.

    The Bears are more intimidating at Soldier Field, as their defense continues to produce turnovers at an all-time high. Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall has opened up the passing game and created a potentially potent offense for Chicago heading into the playoffs.

    Baltimore currently holds the second-best record in the weak AFC, but how long will it last?

    The defense continues its decline without Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, while the offense continues to provide consistency on a weekly basis.

    The Ravens are in a position where securing at least one home game is a goal that needs to be achieved in order to have a realistic chance of returning to the championship game.

AFC Wild Card Round: Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

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    The Wild Card Round of this year's playoffs could feature a matchup between two of the AFC's most successful franchises.

    Tom Brady would have at least one home game at his disposal, and he would manage to face a Steelers defense that he has found success against in recent years.

    However, the Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak and appear to have found their identity on offense. Todd Haley has orchestrated a balanced offensive game plan that would pose a major threat to a struggling Patriots secondary.

    With two elite quarterbacks facing off in this game, it would be fair to expect nothing less than a close battle between two teams that have been familiar with each other the last few years.

AFC Wild Card Round: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos

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    As fans of the National Football League, we could witness the most anticipated first-round playoff game in the league's history.

    Andrew Luck has been the most valuable rookie through nine weeks, guiding the Colts to an unexpected 6-3 start and a potential playoff berth in the AFC.

    It would be fitting that Luck began his postseason career on the road against Peyton Manning—the man that he replaced as the leader of the Colts.

    Manning has returned to his normal form as an elite signal-caller in this league, guiding the Broncos to a 5-3 record thus far, and has formed great chemistry with his young and emerging receivers. 

    While Luck would gain plenty of attention for his performance in his first playoff game, Manning could have a lot in store for the team that released him and went with the rookie quarterback.

NFC Wild Card Round: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

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    A pair of division rivals from the NFC West could be set to face off in the first round.

    The 49ers hope to finish on a higher note than last season, and would need to take care of business against a team that lacks consistency on offense.

    Russell Wilson struggled against San Francisco's elite defense, but the question remains if he can bounce back with the current group of talent around him. Marshawn Lynch has been a top performer in the playoffs before, but can he become a factor against the league's most intimidating defense?

    Alex Smith struggled against the Seahawks a few weeks ago, but has since been much more effective with the football in his hands. It might be a benefit for the 49ers to play on Wild Card Weekend and ultimately be in better rhythm if the 49ers can emerge past their NFC West foe in the first round. 

NFC Wild Card Round: Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

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    Are the Giants and Packers slated to face off in another critical postseason matchup?

    Currently, the Packers would have to travel to the Meadowlands to take on the defending Super Bowl champions.

    However, Green Bay won their last championship coming out of the Wild Card Round and have shown the capability of winning on the road.

    The Giants have not found most of their recent playoff success by playing on the road, but they would certainly provide another stiff test for the Packers. New York's defensive line would have the edge against the Packers pass protection, while Eli Manning would benefit from a depleted Green Bay secondary.

    Ultimately, all bets are off.

    These teams are comfortable playing in these types of games, and the winner of this potential game could ultimately lead to the new champion this season.

     

    Matt Miselis is a veteran NFL FC for BleacherReport.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMiselisNFL

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