NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Showcasing Hot Teams Set for a Deep Run This January

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23:  Breno Giacomini #68 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after Marshawn Lynch #24 scored a 9-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Qwest Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

After three consecutive blowout victories and four straight wins overall, it's safe to say that no one wants to play the Seattle Seahawks this January.

Pete Carroll's Hawks annihilated the division-rival San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, securing a playoff berth and tightening the NFC West division race. But unless Seattle gets some help from the Niners in Week 17, it'll be forced to take to the road as an NFC Wild Card, which could prove disastrous for one of the league's most dominant home teams.

The surging Seahawks aren't the only scorching squad headed for the postseason though.

With just one week left before the playoffs, let's take a closer look at a pair of hot teams set to make a deep run this January.


Green Bay Packers

The Super Bowl XLV champions can secure a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a sixth division win in Week 17 at Minnesota, which is a scary thought considering just how strong the Packers have been at home this season.

Green Bay is on a roll right now, having won four straight, seven in a row at home and nine of its last 10 overall.

Offensively, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has hit his stride after a slow start by his standards. The reigning NFL MVP has scored nine total touchdowns and thrown just one interception over the Pack's current four-game winning streak. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay is peaking at the perfect time. The Packers are surrendering fewer than 14 points per game during their current winning streak, and they look to be gearing up for another deep playoff run. 


Denver Broncos

The Packers are lukewarm by the Broncos' standards. Denver is scorching coming into Week 17, and can potentially begin the postseason on an 11-game winning streak.

It's been more than two-and-a-half months since the Broncos lost a game, and if they top the Chiefs in their regular-season finale, they'll guarantee themselves a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, and perhaps home-field advantage throughout if Houston loses at Indianapolis.

Much of Denver's success can be credited to the team's strong play on defense. But it would be a crime to talk about the Broncos' dominant stretch of play without mentioning Peyton Manning, who is a front-runner to win the MVP and Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Like Rodgers, Manning has a Super Bowl ring already, and if his team is going to make a deep run this January, it'll need him to be at his very best in the biggest moments.



 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Clinched NFC South & Home-Field Advantage
 No. 2 Seed Green Bay Packers (11-4) Clinched NFC North
 No. 3 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth 
 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (9-6) Lead NFC East


 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)


 Chicago Bears (9-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
 New York Giants (8-7)



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


 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); Clinched Playoff Berth



Atlanta: vs. Chicago

San Francisco: vs. Arizona

Green Bay: at Minnesota

Washington: vs. Dallas

Seattle: vs. St. Louis

Minnesota: vs. Green Bay

Chicago: vs. Detroit

Dallas: at Washington

New York: vs. Philadelphia



Houston: at Indianapolis

Denver: vs. Kansas City

New England: vs. Miami

Baltimore: at Cincinnati

Indianapolis: vs. Houston

Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter


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