NFL Playoff Scenarios 2013: Analyzing Most Exciting Potential First-Round Games
While there is just one week remaining in the 2012 NFL season, we know nothing about which teams will be facing off in the first round of the playoffs.
Heading into the season's final week, every team not named the Atlanta Falcons could be playing on Wild Card Weekend. That means there are an infinite amount of potential matchups, with a few that stick out way above the rest as titillating.
The most exciting matchups obviously aren't always going to be the likeliest scenarios. However, with the mathematical possibilities boundless, there are some potential games that could be considered conference championship-worthy.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few potential wild-card matchups that could captivate audiences nationwide.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Of the potential AFC playoff matchups, this is the only one that would really cause casual fans to glue themselves to a television set. Battles between AFC South (Houston and Indianapolis) or AFC North (Baltimore and Cincinnati) foes would be intriguing, but they wouldn't be nearly on the same scope as this contest.
Obviously, the Patriots need to help fans out by losing on Sunday to make this even a remote possibility. The Colts are locked into the No. 5 seed, so New England will have to lose to Miami and have the Ravens win over the Bengals to make this happen.
It would pretty much be the culmination of two completely separate, sports movie plots. On one side, you have the grizzled veteran coming off his second Super Bowl loss and hoping to keep his place as the NFL's best quarterback. On the other, you have a Colts team that seemingly wins all of its games in the last minute, has the whole Chuck Pagano storyline and Andrew Luck's ascent as well.
Truth be told, New England probably wins the actual game by three scores. However, based on the pre-game intrigue alone, there may be no potential matchup in the AFC with more hype than this one.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
While Indianapolis-Denver has enough off-the-field intrigue to create a trilogy of movies, a potential game between the Redskins and Seahawks would just be a plain-old brilliant football matchup.
First and foremost, the game would pit the two hottest teams in the NFC against one another. Heading into Week 17, Washington is sporting a six-game winning streak while Seattle has won six of its past seven. And just about the only way the two teams can meet is if the Redskins keep their winning ways alive for a seventh game.
Assuming they do, this has the potential to be the best game of Wild Card Weekend.
Led by Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the Redskins have a unique offense that could present problems for Seattle's brilliant defense. They're one of a few select teams that don't need to pass for over 250 yards to drop 30-plus points, a fact that could help negate Seattle's scintillating secondary.
What's more, the Redskins' home-field advantage would loom large. At CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks are favorites over just about any team in the NFL. However, they have a 3-5 road record and wins over the struggling Bears and Bills aren't going to change the fact that they're a very different team away from Seattle.
The Seahawks' own rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson, will present problems for Washington's anemic secondary and has come into his own down the stretch. With Marshawn Lynch towing the offense as well, Seattle's threats on both ends make them an unquestionable favorite. It's just not by as much as one may think.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
Well, at least they're not technically eliminated just yet. Though the Giants have some pretty insurmountable odds to make the postseason, at least their journey is crystal clear. They need to beat the Eagles and have three other interconference games go their way on Sunday.
The Redskins must win against Dallas, the Packers over the Vikings and Lions to unseat the Bears. According to Grantland's Bill Barnwell, the probability of those four things happening in Week 17 is exactly 8.5 percent.
Even if the Giants beat the odds, their reward is a guaranteed trip to Seattle or San Francisco, depending on which team wins the NFC West.
If that team is the 49ers, that might not be the worst thing in the world. Those with a solid 12-month memory will instantly remember that New York went into Candlestick last year en route to its Super Bowl championship. It's also hard to forget the Giants' 26-3 road shellacking of San Francisco in Week 6.
For whatever reason, Tom Coughlin essentially owned the Alex Smith-led 49ers. Will his Giants be able to do the same against Colin Kaepernick? That remains to be seen and is the overarching reason why the Giants are the most intriguing six-seed from an objective perspective.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|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|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (9-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-7)|
|New York Giants (8-7)|
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|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|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); Clinched Playoff Berth|
Atlanta: vs. Tampa Bay
San Francisco: vs. Arizona
Green Bay: at Minnesota
Washington: vs. Dallas
Seattle: vs. St. Louis
Minnesota: vs. Green Bay
Chicago: vs. Detroit
New York: vs. Philadelphia
Houston: at Indianapolis
Denver: vs. Kansas City
New England: vs. Miami
Baltimore: at Cincinnati
Indianapolis: vs. Houston
Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore
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