NFL Playoff Scenarios: Breaking Down Wild Card Matchups If Season Ended Today
Luckily for teams like the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys, the 2012 season does not end before the start of Week 15.
But if it did, the NFL would have to be pleased with the four current wild-card matchups.
A Week 1 rematch, the feel-good story of the year, the league's most historic rivalry and a fascinating quarterback matchup highlight what would be the NFL's wild-card matchups if the season ended today.
In the following slides, we'll break down the four wild-card matchups as they stand today.
No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at No. 3 Denver Broncos (10-3)
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The AFC West-leading Broncos would host the Steelers in a rematch of both a Week 1 matchup and last season's AFC wild-card round. Denver won both games.
In the first meeting this season, Peyton Manning—playing in his first NFL game in 18 months—threw for 253 yards and two scores in a 31-19 victory in Denver. Tracy Porter's pick-six in the fourth quarter sealed the win.
With the Steelers limping towards the end of the season and the Broncos still set on securing a first-round bye, this matchup might not have a great probability of being played. But if it did, it's clear Denver would be a favorite to move on to the divisional round.
No. 5 Indianapolis Colts (9-4) vs. No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (9-4)
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If you would have said before the season that the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens would be playing in an AFC wild-card matchup in 2012, most would have called you crazy. Now it's looking more and more like a certainty.
With nine wins, the Colts likely need only one more over the final three to lock up the No. 5 seed. The Ravens, on the other hand, have lost two straight games and appear headed for the No. 4 seed.
The potential matchup would have storylines galore. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who could return by the end of the season from a battle with leukemia, is a former Ravens defensive coordinator. Jim Caldwell, recently promoted to offensive coordinator in Baltimore, was the Colts head coach from 2009 to 2012.
The playoff-tested Ravens would be expected to win at home, but these Colts have made the impossible possible all season long.
No. 6 Chicago Bears (8-5) at No. 3 Green Bay Packers (9-4)
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This current wild-card matchup will actually be played out this Sunday.
If the Packers win in Chicago, Green Bay can clinch the NFC North and set its sights for a first-round bye. If Chicago wins, however, the division title will come down to the last two games. (Green Bay can still clinch with wins over the last two.)
Believe it or not, but only four times in the history of the two franchises have both teams made the playoffs in the same year. In two of those years, Green Bay and Chicago also met in the postseason. The most recent came in 2010, when the Packers beat the Bears in Chicago to go to Super Bowl XLV.
Green Bay is currently favored by 3.5 points for the Week 15 matchup. The Packers have also won five straight in this series (including playoffs), and seven of the last eight.
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) at No. 4 New York Giants (8-5)
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A season ago, the Seahawks dealt the Giants one of the early surprises of 2011. With Charlie Whitehurst at the helm, Seattle upset the heavily-favored Giants in New York, 36-25.
The landscape at quarterback has changed considerably for the Seahawks, who now have a smothering defense and rookie quarterback outplaying all expectations.
The Giants, however, continue to show that any NFL team is at the mercy of their sword. Tone-setting wins over the San Francisco 49ers (26-3), Green Bay Packers (38-10) and New Orleans Saints (52-27) show just how dangerous New York can be.
Russell Wilson has been great (94.9 passer rating, 20 passing touchdowns), but could he really go into MetLife Stadium and slay the defending Super Bowl champions?