NFL Playoff Picture: Top Matchups That Could Turn into Blowouts

Stephen SheehanCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2012

The 49ers defense would have no problem shutting down the Vikings.
The 49ers defense would have no problem shutting down the Vikings.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football taught us anything, it's that the New England Patriots and Houston Texans would be one lopsided playoff matchup. 

New England scored on Houston at will, dropping 42 points on what many considered to be the top defense in the AFC. 

As the regular season comes to a close this Sunday, the playoff picture is nearing its final stages of completion, and many intriguing matchups appear on the docket. However, while seeing the Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos take on Tom Brady and the Pats would be yet another thriller in the Manning-Brady saga, the same can't be said about some other potential first-round matchups.

Let's take a look at three matchups that could turn into blowouts. 


San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings 

Assuming the Vikings sneak into the No. 6 slot, they will likely draw the 49ers in the first round. 

Sorry, Adrian Peterson, but you'll be in for a long, painful day at the office if that's the case. 

San Francisco has shown some vulnerability of late, blowing a 28-point lead against the Patriots before sealing the victory late in the fourth quarter. However, last week's 42-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks opened eyes around the league. 

Luckily for the 49ers, a first-round matchup with the Vikings would be easy pickings for the likely NFC West champions. 

With Percy Harvin on IR, the Vikings' passing game has suffered tremendously. Christian Ponder, who tossed six touchdowns and just two picks in leading the Vikings to a 4-1 start, has been downright awful in the second half of the season. He's been so bad that in some weeks Peterson's yards-per-carry average was higher than Ponder's yards-per-completion mark. 

While AP can't be counted out, there's no way even the superhuman running back would be able to carry the Vikings to a first-round upset. 

In fact, it wouldn't even be close.

San Francisco's defense has taken a step back in the past two weeks, but that was against two of the hottest offenses in the league. 

Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith would wreak havoc on Ponder and the Vikings offense, bottling up AP and forcing the former Florida State star to beat them with his arm. 

Offensively, the 49ers may be missing Mario Manningham for the rest of the year, but Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker still form a very solid receiving corps, and San Fran's depth at running back is among the best in the league. 

In this potential wild-card matchup, San Fran's physicality on both lines of scrimmage would leave Vikings fans with their heads in their hands. 


New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts 

In the second edition of Tom Brady versus Andrew Luck, the results would be the same: a New England blowout. 

The Colts are the feel-good story of the NFL this year. Chuck Pagano's valiant and successful battle with leukemia has warmed the hearts of any football fan, and Luck's ability to seamlessly replace Peyton Manning just a year after the Colts were the worst team in football is truly amazing.

But if the Colts square off against the Patriots in the Wild-Card round, their dream season would end in a nightmare.

New England has faltered the past two weeks, but expect a totally different team to come out against the Miami Dolphins Sunday in preparation for the playoffs. Tom Brady seems to have lit a fire under his team after an extremely disappointing effort against Jacksonville last Sunday.

A motivated Brady would spell doom for Luck and the Colts, who already experienced the wrath of No. 12 when the Patriots spanked the Colts, 59-24, in Week 11.

With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker comprising the league's best set of receiving weapons, and Stevan Ridley anchoring a much improved ground game, New England's offensive firepower would overwhelm the Colts' smaller defense.

Offensively, Luck might be able to move the ball, but New England's defense has forced 39 takeaways—good for second in the NFL—while Luck is tied with Drew Brees with a league-high 18 interceptions. 

The future is bright for Luck and the Colts. 

Unfortunately for them, Brady is on a quest for a fourth ring and won't stop for anyone. 


Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys

If Dallas manages to beat the Washington Redskins for the NFC East title, they better enjoy that celebration. 

That's where the party ends. 

With Seattle likely finishing as the No. 5 seed, the Cowboys would host the Seahawks in a first-round matchup. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, not even home-field advantage would put a stop to the Seattle train. 

No team enters the playoffs on a better roll than the Seahawks, who have outscored their opponents 150-30 in their last three games, including a 42-13 blowout win against the 49ers. 

Dallas has also stepped its play up as of late, but the Cowboys are a mirage. 

Sure, Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have been a lethal connection the past seven games, but Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have the size, speed and physicality to neutralize the Pro Bowl snub. 

Seattle's defense simply has too many playmakers and size in the secondary for the Cowboys to overcome. Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin would also make mince meat of Dallas' overrated offensive line, which has surrendered 34 sacks on the year. 

Tony Romo is one of the great improvisers in the game, but not even he would be able to outrun Seattle's speedy front seven. 

On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys' front seven was once one of the best in the game, but the loss of inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will be fatal in a matchup against Marshawn Lynch. Seattle's offensive line is quietly one of the best in the game, and Lynch would turn on Beast Mode in Dallas. 

Combined with the terrific play of Russell Wilson—who can neutralize DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer with his legs—Seattle would ensure a repeat of its 27-7 victory over Dallas and a first-round playoff blowout.