This season's NFL playoff picture will be defined by rematches. In the AFC these will take the form of a rerun of three playoff games from a year ago.
In the NFC, division rivals in both the North and the West will renew hostilities. The wild-card round in the national conference will also feature one rookie dual-threat quarterback outperforming another.
Perhaps the biggest surprise will be the absence of last season's Super Bowl winners.
Here is a prediction of what the postseason picture will look like and how it will play out. Things begin in the AFC.
There could be a rematch on the cards in the AFC Championship.
The Texans are the top seed in the AFC and should remain that way. They will be joined by either the Denver Broncos or the New England Patriots.
The Broncos face the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs at home to close out the season. They should edge the 10-4 Patriots as the second seed.
The interesting question is what will happen in the North? For the first bold prediction on this list, this author will choose the Cincinnati Bengals as AFC North winners at 10-6.
That means they will have to beat both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ravens in their final two games. The Bengals are a young team on the rise, with the talent to meet this challenge.
Division winners: Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals
Facing the Bengals and Patriots in the wild-card round will be the slumping Ravens and the surprising Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens will actually fall to the sixth seed by the time the playoffs begin.
The Colts can beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16. They might also benefit from hosting a potentially resting Texans team on the season's final day.
Wild-card entrants: Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens
A trip to New England will be the price the Ravens pay for their late-season swoon. However, they will push Tom Brady and company all the way in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship.
The Ravens should be healthier by the start of the playoffs, even if they are a wild card. If Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis are back in the defense, they can present a tough challenge to the Patriots.
Of course if Brady has Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, his offense can more than meet that challenge. Injuries aside, this will be an intense, close-fought battle. However, the Patriots will have just too much on both sides of the ball.
Winner: New England Patriots
This will be one of the most exciting games of the playoffs. The duel between young passers Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton won't disappoint.
Both teams will pile up points, with the likes of Reggie Wayne, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham all thriving. However, it will ultimately be Dalton and the Bengals who emerge as winners.
Cincinnati's pass rush will eventually clamp down on Luck and the Colts' emotionally-fraught season will come to an end.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals won't gain revenge for last season's wild card defeat to the Texans. Dalton and his young teammates will struggle against a Houston team that is arguably the most complete in the AFC.
The defense is dangerous thanks to J.J. Watt, the most dominant defensive lineman in football. He and Connor Barwin will get to Dalton, while athletic cover ace Jonathan Joseph shuts down Green.
On offense, Arian Foster will relish only his second foray into the postseason. Expect him to again overwhelm the Bengals and rush for a pair of scores.
Winner: Houston Texans
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will again get the chance to play out their great rivalry on a big stage. Their duel will get the attention, but it will be the running game that determines things.
The Patriots used a ground attack to trample all over the Broncos in Week 5. They gained 251 yards in a dominant rushing effort.
That kept Manning off the field, but the Patriots will find it harder to use the same tactic for a second time. Denver's defensive front has improved against the run, ranking second overall in rush defense.
At the same time, the Broncos' own running game has come to life. Knowshon Moreno has finally started to deliver.
He has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last two games. That gives the Broncos' potent offense true balance.
Even at this stage of their careers, Manning is a little more dangerous than Brady with balance. If they can't keep Manning sidelined, New England's defense could be in trouble. Even with a limited number of snaps, Manning still threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
There's also the fact that Denver possess the defensive playmakers to harass Brady without having to blitz heavily. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will cause problems this time and the Broncos will thrive with home advantage.
The offense will succeed in keeping New England's rugged defensive front honest.That will allow Manning to get the better of his nemesis.
Winner: Denver Broncos
The Texans won't handle the Broncos the way they did in Week 3. Instead, the six-time AFC winners will have too much for the AFC South champions.
The Texans play the same way regardless of the opposition, on both sides of the ball. Sadly, that's ideal for a quarterback as cerebral as Manning and a Denver defense loaded with hybrid talent.
Broncos head coach John Fox will have learned a lot from Week 3. Along with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Fox will have devised schemes to slow down the Texans' zone running attack.
If the Broncos render the vaunted Houston ground game ineffective, they will take away the play-action pass. That killed the Broncos in Week 3, but this time Miller and company won't be so easily fooled.
That will put even more pressure on the Wade Phillips-coached defense to stop Manning. The Texans had some success with the blitz the last time they faced the Broncos.
However, going for an all-out attack against Manning is a risky move. He will rebound from an early beating to fire three scoring passes to put the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Winners and AFC Super Bowl representatives: Denver Broncos
The Packers are surging, but will probably still hope to avoid the 49ers.
The Atlanta Falcons will hold onto home-field advantage in the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers will join them in the divisional round.
That leaves the Green Bay Packers to host a wild-card contest. The won't bother the dangerous-looking Packers. They won the Super Bowl as a wild-card entrant two years ago.
The burning question is, who represents the NFC East in the postseason? At the risk of being accused of bias, this author will opt for the Washington Redskins.
Mike Shanahan's team has two divisional games left and already hold a 3-1 mark in the East. They should also get Robert Griffin III back for the run-in.
They have too much scoring potential for their final two opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins can eliminate the Cowboys by beating them at home in Week 17.
Picking against the New York Giants in December, is a risky move, particularly after last season. However, the G-Men don't seem to have the same edge on offense as last season. Their shutout loss in Atlanta in Week 15 was alarming.
Division winners: Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins
The Seattle Seahawks should take a wild-card spot.They are strong at home and have two games left in Seattle. The other spot will be taken by either the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings.
It's difficult picking against the Vikings, given how well Adrian Peterson is performing. The Bears also face two road games.
However, Chicago's defense can carry them past the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. They should also find enough offense to beat a Detroit Lions team that has spiralled into despair.
The Vikings, meanwhile, will find their trip to Houston to take on the Texans in Week 16 too tough. Also don't count out the Packers trying to catch the 49ers for second seed, when they host Minnesota in Week 17.
Wild-card entrants: Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears
The Redskins will feel confident when they host a Seahawks team that struggles on the road. However, this could be the first mild upset in the NFC.
The normally road-shy Seahawks have improved on their travels recently. Their defensive front is big and aggressive enough to stifle the Redskins' zone-based running game.
If the likes of Red Bryant and Bobby Wagner can bottle up Alfred Morris, the Seahawks will have the edge. That's because the Redskins' own defense is still not strong enough to subdue Seattle duo Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.
Wilson has demonstrated a knack for the big play all season. Although Washington's defense has shown improvement lately, they will find it difficult to control Wilson's threat.
Of course, with Robert Griffin III under center, the Redskins are always capable of their own share of big plays. However, with the run taken away, the Seahawks can challenge what is still a suspect Washington offensive line.
That means Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin will be able to pressure Griffin into some mistakes. The Redskins don't possess that kind of pass-rush arsenal to do the same to Wilson.
The Seahawks will spring a surprise and claim a three-point win.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
This particular Packers squad will always beat this Bears team. They will make it three wins this season in the final wild-card game.
The Packers can pressure Jay Cutler and expose Chicago's porous offensive line. Expect another tough game for Cutler and at least six more sacks for the Packers.
As usual the Bears own defense will play things tough. However, that won't stop Aaron Rodgers from manufacturing his share of decisive plays.
The game will be close for three quarters, before the Packers pull away and seal a 10-point win.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
This author is going to take a big leap of faith and trust the Falcons not to get conservative once the playoffs begin. There's absolutely no reason why they should become cautious.
They own the most dangerous pass offense in the NFL and if they use it, they can beat the Packers. As long as they keep Green Bay's zone blitzes under control, Matt Ryan will post huge numbers.
Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are too explosive and versatile for the Packers to contain. The question is can the Falcons stop Rodgers and the Green Bay air attack?
They have a chance, given their performances against great quarterbacks this season. Atlanta's defense has already confused Peyton Manning and Drew Brees into nine interceptions.
With the likes of Asante Samuel and William Moore, the Falcons could create some vital takeaways. They will be hungry for revenge after losing to the Packers at the same stage two seasons ago.
This time, the Falcons will make the big plays they need to earn a place in the NFC Championship Game.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
The 49ers will win a power struggle in an all-NFC West clash and advance to their second straight NFC Championship Game.
The Seahawks are physically intimidating on both offense and defense. However, no team in the league is meaner or stronger than the 49ers.
Their deep defensive front will swarm all over Wilson and end his phenomenal debut campaign. Offensively, Colin Kaepernick has given the Niners' passing game greater downfield potential.
Their defense will force two key turnovers and San Francisco will overpower their division rivals.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers will play their part in another classic NFC Championship Game. This time however, it will be San Francisco who emerge victorious.
The Niners' ability to generate heavy pressure with just a front four rush, will be decisive. They will frustrate Ryan by consistently collapsing the pocket.
The 49ers also have the players to cover tight end Gonzalez. Inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis could actually match up with Gonzalez underneath.
That will prove crucial, as will it allow both safeties to stay deep. Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner are talented enough to help contain the vertical threat posed by Jones and White.
Ryan and his receivers won't have many opportunities to best a smart San Francisco secondary. That's because the 49ers can use their smash mouth ground game to control the clock.
Niners' star Frank Gore will pound a Falcons defense that ranks 24th against the run. With the Falcons forced into catch-up mode, the 49ers pass-rush will seal their passage to the Super Bowl.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
Peyton Manning completes his remarkable comeback season by returning to the Super Bowl for a third time. His opponent will be one of the teams rumoured to have courted him during the offseason.
Sadly, facing the 49ers' elite defense will see Manning again finish empty-handed on football's grandest stage. A disciplined zone scheme like the one the 49ers run is ideal for limiting Manning.
San Francisco also has the right weapons on offense, to create a host of matchup problems. Tight end Vernon Davis will be too much for the Broncos linebackers and safeties.
Yet that doesn't mean the 49ers will pile up the points. Miller and Dumervil will keep Kaepernick in the pocket and the game will quickly become a defensive struggle.
That's the kind of game the 49ers love. They will eventually claim the win and the Super Bowl, by a margin of less than seven points.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers