NFL Playoff Schedule 2013: Predicting Outcome of Projected Wild Card Games

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 11: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota ViKings eludes Ricardo Silva #39 of the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter on a 61-yard touchdown run on November 11, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The ViKings defeated the Lions 34-24. (Photo by Andy King/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

While there's still a week left of the NFL regular season, it's never too early to look ahead to what awaits us when the playoffs get underway.

The AFC's six playoff teams have already been determined, and the outcome of the games involving those half-dozen teams will determine the conference's playoff seeding, with both of the top two seeds still up for grabs.

The NFC picture is a bit more muddled, with two divisions yet to be decided and four teams vying for one wild-card spot.

Yet eight teams are going to be playing next weekend while others sit at home, whether it be biding time until the second round of the playoffs or steaming over failing to advance to the postseason.

Let's take a look at how those games are going to play out.

AFC Wild Card Game No. 1

No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 3 Houston Texans

When last these two teams met, it was in the AFC Wild Card Game last season—a game that Houston won going away, 31-10.

Cincinnati had the ball with less than a minute remaining in the first half with the game tied at 10 when Houston's J.J. Watt intercepted Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and ran 29 yards into the end zone for a 17-10 Texans lead.

Dalton is another year older and wiser, and while he still turns the ball over too much—16 interceptions on the season, including five in December—Houston's defense hasn't been nearly as good as it was last season.

While Houston's run defense is a top-10 unit, ranked seventh in the NFL, the Bengals defense is a top-10 unit regardless of what the opposition is doing, ranking eighth against the run and 10th against the pass.

Cincinnati's defense will be able to keep Arian Foster in front of them, forcing Texans QB Matt Schaub to win the game with his arm.

Against New England, Green Bay and Minnesota, Schaub failed when asked to be the focal point of the offense. He's a game manager, not a playmaker like Dalton.

By the time this game is over, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis will be lauded as a genius while Houston's Gary Kubiak, well...let's just say that his seat is going to be nice and toasty by the time he gets back on the team bus.

Cincinnati 28, Houston 17

AFC Wild Card Game No. 2

No. 5 Indianapolis at No. 4 Baltimore

The mere fact that the Indianapolis Colts are playing a playoff game only a year after winning two regular-season games is nothing short of extraordinary, and rookie QB Andrew Luck is deserving of every accolade that he's got coming to him.

But Luck's luck is going to end against the Ravens.

The game is being played at M&T Bank Stadium, one of the hardest places for a road team to play. While Luck has played—and succeeded—in hostile environments before, he's never played in a NFL playoff game before.

The noise is ratcheted up to an entirely different level.

Baltimore doesn't typically lose at home, posting a 6-2 home record in 2012 and a 21-3 record in front of the Ravens faithful since 2010.

A fired-up, motivated Ravens squad will live to fight another day.

Baltimore 31, Indianapolis 24

NFC Wild Card Game No 1

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 San Francisco 49ers

Minnesota may have beaten San Francisco once already in 2012, but these are two drastically different teams than they were back in Week 3.

Alex Smith is no longer under center for the 49ers, while Percy Harvin is no longer giving defenses and special teams units fits for the Vikings.

San Francisco will have no trouble game planning for this game, as Minnesota's entire offense is Adrian Peterson.

Stop him and you stop Minnesota.

While the 49ers defense hasn't been nearly as stout down the stretch as it was earlier this season, the unit ranks sixth in the NFL against the run and has allowed only seven rushing touchdowns all season, the fourth-fewest in the league.

Christian Ponder's ineptitude under center for the Vikings will prove costly for Minnesota as San Francisco advances to the next round.

San Francisco 21, Minnesota 10

NFC Wild Card Game No. 2

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 4 Washington Redskins

This has all the makings of the best playoff game on Wild Card Weekend, as two red-hot teams with dynamic rookie quarterbacks do battle at FedEx Field in Washington D.C..

Washington has won six consecutive games (seven after it takes care of business against Dallas in Week 17), while Seattle is on a four-game roll and has won six of its last seven.

A game that features the two most potent running games in the NFL—and two of the best run defenses as well—will be decided in the air.

Washington's pass defense has been atrocious all season long, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll will look to take advantage of that by having Russell Wilson and Sidney Rice try to stretch the field early.

Seattle's secondary is just better than Washington's, and that ultimately will be the difference in the game, despite Robert Griffin III's best efforts.

Seattle 35, Washington 27

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Round

Team 1 (Home) Team 2 (Away) Date Time TV Info
AFC Division Winner AFC Wild Card 1/5/13 TBD TBD
NFC Division Winner NFC Wild Card 1/5/13 TBD TBD
AFC Division Winner AFC Wild Card 1/6/13 TBD TBD
NFC Division Winner NFC Wild Card 1/6/13 TBD TBD

Divisional Playoffs

Team 1 (Home) Team 2 (Away) Date Time TV Info
AFC  AFC 1/12/13 TBD TBD

Conference Championships

Team 1 (Home) Team 2 (Away) Date Time TV Info

Super Bowl XLVII

Team 1 Team 2 Date Time TV Info
AFC Winner NFC Winner 2/3/13 TBD TBD


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