NFL Playoff Schedule 2012: Most Intriguing Potential Wild Card Matchups

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2012

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks downfield to pass against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Despite rounding into a definitive shape, the NFL Playoffs have yet to be finalized.

We know 10 of the 12 teams who will compete for the Lombardi Trophy this January, but the seeding of those teams is still a very fluid situation. Divisions have yet to be won and first-round home games have yet to be clinched.

But that won't keep us from looking ahead to the first weekend of 2013, hoping for certain matchups to materialize.

Here's a look at three Wild Card games that would be particularly interest-piquing. 


Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins:

What Needs to Happen: If the season ended today, this is the 4-5 matchup we'd get in the NFC. But there's a lot of ways that could change. First and foremost, Washington needs to make the playoffs. If they beat Dallas, they'll do just that and clinch the fourth seed.

By virtue of their Week 9 victory over Minnesota, the Seahawks—who clinched a playoff birth last week—can't fall lower than the fifth seed. But they aren't quite locked in. In order for this game to happen, Seattle also mustn't win the NFC West. That is, either the 49ers need to win against Arizona, or the Seahawks need to lose against St. Louis. 

Why We'll Watch: Why wouldn't we? In Seattle and Washington you get two of the hottest teams in the league; between them, they have 12 wins and two losses since Week 9.

You also get the captivating "Rookie QB" subplot, with Robert Griffin III squaring-off against Russell Wilson. As both are considered strong front-runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year, this game brings forth a rare opportunity to see individual competitors go head-to-head with important team-consequences at stake.

Both QBs' careers have gotten off to magnificent starts this year. But the victor would get to add a playoff win to his precocious resume. Even ignoring the momentum of both teams, that alone provides incentive to tune in.


New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers:

What Needs to Happen: Put simply: a lot. For one thing, New York needs to make the playoffs. That would require not just a win over the Eagles, but also losses from Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas. As's Bill Barnwell kindly reminds us, that only has an 8.5-percent chance of happening

Then there's the Niners who, in order for this game to happen, would need to relinquish the NFC West title. That would require a loss against the lowly Cardinals coupled with a Seahawks win over St. Louis.

And even if that happened, Minnesota would need to lose to the Packers, who—thanks to the "Fail Mary" debacle—lose a head-to-head tiebreaker against Seattle. If, and only if, all of these things happen, San Francisco would host the Giants in the NFC's 3-6 Wild Card game. 

Why We'll Watch: The Giants have been listless of late, but they're a different team once they reach January. That's the way it's always been.

They visited San Francisco back in Week 6 and pummeled the Niners 26-3 on their own turf. This would be a rematch of that game, but more importantly, it'd be a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game—the one that San Francisco literally fumbled away.

Combine that with Colin Kaepernick's first playoff start, manifold shots of Alex Smith pouting on the sideline and the whole "can New York do it again?" angle, and we've got ourselves an interesting ball game.


Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens:

What Needs to Happen: Like Seahawks-Redskins, this would be a 4-5 Wild Card matchup if the season ended today.

Indianapolis is locked into the fifth seed and the Ravens have clinched the AFC North. But in order for this game to stay locked in, the Ravens need to remain behind New England, whom they hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over. 

So with either a Baltimore loss at Cincinnati, or a New England win against Miami, this game will be set in stone.

Why We'll Watch: I haven't been bashful talking about how I think both of these teams are overrated. But even though it wouldn't be the highest-quality playoff football we've ever seen, it would still be plenty entertaining.

Andrew Luck has passed each and every test this year, and he's done so with the aplomb of a seasoned vet. But the playoffs are a different monster. The Ravens have a creaky, injured defense, but it's still hard to imagine a harder first playoff game than at Baltimore.

Throw in the outcome-irrelevant-but-still-captivating bitterness Baltimore feels about Indianapolis stealing their beloved Colts, and you have a game that's definitely worth watching.