NFL Playoff Scenarios 2013: Wild Card Hopefuls Most Likely to Win Playoff Games
Wild Card teams have won three of the last seven Super Bowls, which should be encouraging for the four teams battling for the sixth seed in the NFC.
The Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Chicago Bears are all hoping they can continue the trend of winning three straight playoff games on the road before taking home the title. Of course, they've got some work to do before that can happen, as all four teams will be fighting for the final NFC playoff spot in Week 17.
While the players will toss out cliches like "taking it one game at a time," we all know they're really thinking about the playoffs. Luckily, us fans don't have to lie to everyone like that.
So, let's take advantage of our privilege and look at which of these teams has the best chance to make a deep postseason run.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the league, but the Vikings are too one-dimensional to win multiple playoff games.
Peterson shreds every defense he faces, which allows Christian Ponder to manage the game. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they won't be able to ride AP as much in the playoffs. Teams will continue to load the box, and eventually, Christian Ponder is going to have to win a game, instead of just not losing it.
A strong running game is important in the postseason, but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. There's a reason the last nine Super Bowl champions have had either Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers under center.
Eventually, your quarterback has to be able to take over a game in order for you to advance. Ponder is incapable of that, so if the Vikings get in, they won't advance past the second round.
3. Washington Redskins
This might be a little low for Redskins, since they have the best rushing attack in the NFL (164.8 yards per game), and a quarterback who has proven this season that he can take over a game by himself.
Robert Griffin III is simply amazing, and he would be a nightmare for any defense in the postseason. He has the second highest passer rating in the league (104.2), he's rushed for well over 700 yards, and the Redskins are riding a six-game winning streak.
However, as good as they've been, I'm still a little skeptical about Washington's ability to beat playoff-caliber teams. They've squeaked out close victories over the Cowboys, Giants and Ravens during their streak, but none of those teams were playing their best football at the time.
I would be terrified to see RG3 in the playoffs, but I don't think he'll lead the Redskins to more than one playoff victory this season.
2. Chicago Bears
I almost put Washington here, but the Bears have two huge advantages on their side: Brandon Marshall, and their defense.
Aside from Calvin Johnson, Marshall is the most unstoppable receiver in the league. He is just too big, too fast and too athletic for defensive backs to stop. He will dominate any jump ball situation, and he's a menace in run-after-the-catch situations.
Right now, Marshall is second in the NFL in receptions (107), second in receiving yards (1,398) and third in touchdown catches (11). He's had seven games with at least 100 yards, and four with at least 10 catches. He will be a matchup nightmare for everybody in the playoffs.
On the defensive side, the Bears are the most opportunistic unit in football. They have 43 takeaways this year, which is most in the league by far. They've also been known to produce some points, scoring nine touchdowns this season.
Although they have some flaws, with Marshall and their playmaking defense, the Bears could go on a serious run.
1. New York Giants
The Giants have been woefully unimpressive the last two weeks, but until they are eliminated, you cannot count this team out. They have won two of the last five Super Bowls, and both times they did it after winning three straight playoff games to reach the championship.
Yes, they've lost their two games by a combined score of 67-14. But the Giants have proven twice that they can get hot when it matters most.
They are an experienced and battle-tested bunch, and although they certainly aren't finishing the regular season strong, they can beat any team in the league.
They have one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Eli Manning, a balanced and versatile rushing attack, and a defense that has forced the second-most turnovers in the league.
If the Giants get into the playoffs, I would almost be more surprised if they didn't go to the Super Bowl.
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