The 2012 NFL season is winding down, but all that means is that the real excitement is about to get started as we near the beginning of the postseason tournament that will culminate in New Orleans with Super Bowl XLVII.
Once the playoffs begin, every game is a interesting matchup between good teams, but that doesn't mean that some games don't have more appeal than others, whether it's due to storylines on the field or off of them.
With that in mind, here's a look at five playoff matchups that would leave fans on the edge of their seats for any number of reasons.
This one will need a bit of help to come to fruition. If the season ended today, the Washington Redskins would be on the outside looking in in the NFC, and there would need to be some big upsets for these two teams to meet in the playoffs even if both made it.
However, the Redskins are trending upward while the Chicago Bears have lost four of five, and we're talking in hypotheticals anyway, so what the heck.
Youth would be served in a game between the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks. Rookies such as quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks and running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin of the Redskins would give us a glimpse into the future of the NFL.
That, and two mobile first-year signal-callers having terrific seasons, would make for one exciting game.
We've already had a preview of this tilt, as the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay and downed the Packers in decisive fashion back in Week 1.
However, since then the Packers have righted the ship, and the 49ers have made a change under center. A rematch would provide plenty of new storylines, including a change of scenery, since this edition would most likely be played in the Bay Area.
A classic battle of offense versus defense featuring one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and the league's top pass-rusher in San Francisco's Aldon Smith.
What's not to like?
Much like a potential playoff matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos, we've already seen this game this year, as the Denver Broncos visited New England in Week 5 and were beaten handily.
With that said, the Broncos have reeled off eight straight victories since that setback, but a playoff game between these two teams would be all about the quarterbacks.
For the better part of the past decade, the rivalry between Peyton Manning of the Broncos and Tom Brady of the Patriots has been one of the biggest in the NFL, and this would mark the fourth time that the future Hall of Famers met in the postseason.
The Golden Boy versus the Forehead. Oh yeah.
It's hard to find any really riveting storylines in a possible Super Bowl showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, since this is a pair of franchises that don't exactly have a long and storied postseason history between them.
With that said, were these to be the two teams that advanced to Super Bowl XLVII, it would mean one thing of some significance.
If the season ended today, the Texans and Falcons would be the top seeds in their respective conferences, and both No. 1 seeds haven't advanced to the Super Bowl since 1993.
In other words, we're probably not going to see this one.
If this one happens, we may have to go back to reading newspapers, because I'm pretty sure the hype from a Super Bowl featuring the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants would break the Internet.
Not only would the possibility of back-to-back Super Bowl wins for the first time since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 open the conversation of the Giants as a "dynasty," but there's that other small matter.
A true "Manning Bowl."
The amount of publicity surrounding two brothers doing battle in football's biggest game, with one seeking a second championship while his younger sibling searched for his third and inclusion with his elder brother among the all-time greats, would be awe-inspiring.
Peyton vs. Eli, with the Lombardi Trophy at stake.
Skip Bayless would spontaneously combust.
In other words, root for it.