NFL Playoff Bracket: Predicting the Postseason's Biggest Upsets

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 18, 2012

December 16, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) heads for the end zone for his second touchdown of the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

There will be upsets in this season's NFL playoffs. 

Although it's difficult to envision a No. 1 or No. 2 seed losing after steady regular seasons, with parity at an all-time high and a wave of young, courageous and inherently talented quarterbacks leading their teams, some lower seeds will advance further than initially expected. 

Book it. 

Let's take a look at three potential postseason surprises.

Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins

This is the current No. 5 vs. No. 4 matchup in the NFC playoffs, a rather compelling wild-card battle between similarly productive rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. 

With both youngsters masters of the increasingly popular read-option, the Redskins and Seahawks have eerily similar offensive attacks. 

Entering Week 14, Washington ranked ninth in yards per drive, and Seattle ranked 12th in yards per drive, according to Football Outsiders

After the Seahawks' 466-yard outburst against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15, those numbers could be even closer. 

However, the reason I can envision Pete Carroll "upsetting" Mike Shanahan's squadron is due to Seattle's defensive prowess. 

While Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris would likely drive defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant insane, the Seahawks linebacking corps is exceptionally active, and the secondary is the most physical in the league. 

Then again, if Richard Sherman's suspension is upheld, the Redskins receivers would have an easier time getting open.  

Minnesota Vikings over Atlanta Falcons

This matchup is an extreme long-shot, as the Vikings have a tough road to even make the postseason and would likely play the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers in the opening round—a win against either one of those NFC stalwarts would be rather impressive in its own right. 

But this potential postseason contest has the makings of a monumental upset. 

The Falcons have allowed 4.9 yards per carry in 2012, and we all know how amazing Adrian Peterson has been coming off major knee surgery. 

With an opportunistic secondary and a relatively inconsistent Christian Ponder, the Vikings would likely employ a heavy dosage of Peterson. 

Sure, Atlanta would prepare for it, but that hasn't mattered for many defenses that have faced AP this year. 

New England Patriots over Denver Broncos

The Patriots already beat Broncos this year, so we know it's possible. 

Denver is riding a nine-game winning streak, and with home games against the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs to end the year, a ridiculous 11-game winning streak is probable. 

If they finish with the one of top two spots in the AFC, could the bye week ultimately hurt them, playing a New England team that would be fresh off a home win during Wild Card Weekend? 

The bye certainly didn't help the Green Bay Packers last year or the Atlanta Falcons and Patriots in January of 2011.

Here's a look at the complete NFL playoff picture heading into Week 16's action. 


 No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South
 No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West
 No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East
 No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC South; Clinched Playoff Berth

The Texans clinch home-field advantage with a win in Week 16 or Week 17 OR Denver and New England losses in Week 16 or Week 17.

The Broncos clinch first-round bye if they finish with a better record than New England. The Patriots get a first-round bye if two teams have the same record. 

The Ravens clinch the AFC North with a win in Week 16 or Week 17 OR a Bengals loss in Week 16 or Week 17.

 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

The Colts will clinch a playoff berth with a win in Week 16 or Week 17 OR if the Jets, Steelers and Bengals lose in Week 16 or Week 17.

The Bengals will clinch a playoff berth with in Week 16 or Week 17 OR if the Jets lose in Week 15 and the Steelers lose in Week 16.

 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
 Miami Dolphins (6-8)

The Steelers must defeat Cincinnati in Week 16 to stay alive. The Dolphins must win out and have Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Jets lose out. 


 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South
 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (9-4) Clinched NFC North
 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East

The Falcons clinch home-field advantage and a first-round bye with a win in Week 16 or 17 OR Green Bay and San Francisco losses in Week 16 or Week 17.

The 49ers clinch the NFC West with win in Week 16 or Week 17. They clinch home-field advantage with a win in Week 16 and 17 AND losses by Atlanta in Week 16 and Week 17. They clinch a first-round bye if they have the same number of wins as the Packers. 

The Redskins clinch the NFC East with wins in Week 16 and Week 17. 

 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)
 Chicago Bears (8-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
 New York Giants (8-6)
 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)
 New Orleans Saints (6-8)