Power Ranking the Matchups from the 1st Round of the NFL Playoffs
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The first round of the NFL playoffs offers four great matchups.
A compelling case can be made for all eight teams to win, just as an argument can be made that any of the four games is the "best."
Like usual in the NFL, neither No. 6 vs. No. 3 game is a lopsided game on paper. The No. 6 Vikings just beat the No. 3 Packers in Week 17.
And in the AFC, the No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals enter the postseason as a much hotter team than the No. 3 Houston Texans. It's a rematch from last year and could go down to the wire.
The Wild Card Weekend, two days and four great games.
Each matchup offers a unique story, but let's take a stab at power ranking the matchups in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
4. Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Just like last year, the Bengals and Ravens will face off in the playoffs.
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When: Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4:30 p.m. ET
The Texans and Bengals faced off in the first round of last year's playoffs. Houston won the game—the first playoff victory in franchise history.
But this season, the two teams will enter the game under very different circumstances. The Houston Texans looked like one of the best, if not the best, teams in football in the early part of the 2012 season.
But since then, the Texans have come back to earth. The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots both successfully spread the Texans out and attacked a vulnerable secondary. Despite the Texans having Johnathan Joseph at cornerback, the Bengals should be able to find A.J. Green downfield.
This game could really go either way. Both defenses are strong, and both offenses are relatively balanced.
This is the first playoff game on the 2012 slate, and it figures to provide football fans with a great appetizer to the postseason.
3. Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens and Colts will face off in a first-round playoff matchup next weekend.
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When: Sunday, Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. ET
The Indianapolis Colts have been the story of the 2012 season. Head coach Chuck Pagano's leukemia is in remission, and the Colts are headed to the playoffs.
But this upstart Indianapolis team will face a tough test in the form of the Baltimore Ravens next weekend. The Ravens have backed into the playoffs this year after an impressive start, but linebacker Ray Lewis figures to return next week, which should provide the team with an emotional boost.
One area in which Baltimore figures to exploit the Colts is the running game. Indianapolis has one of the more leaky run defenses in football, and the Ravens have Ray Rice. Advantage, Ravens.
On the other hand, Baltimore's defense hasn't been as good as it typically is without Lewis and top cornerback Lardarius Webb. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will certainly try to exploit the holes in Baltimore's secondary. And with Reggie Wayne, Donny Avery and T.Y. Hilton making plays on the outside, the Colts are capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Between Chuck Pagano going against his former team and the Colts-Baltimore connection, this matchup should make for great television Sunday afternoon.
2. Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Washington is a hot team, but so is Seattle.
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When: Sunday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET
The last matchup of the weekend may be the toughest game to pick.
Seattle enters the playoffs as perhaps the hottest team in the NFL. The Seahawks are on a five-game winning streak, but are just 3-5 on the road. The NFC East-champion Washington Redskins are hot in their own right, winning their last seven games.
The game also features two rookie quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Both quarterbacks are candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year along with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Seahawks may have the best defense in the NFL right now, but the Redskins may be the league's hardest offense to scheme for. So on several different accounts, something's gotta give next Sunday.
Assuming the Packers defeat the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, the winner of this game will head to Atlanta to play the top-seeded Falcons.
Both NFC matchups will be must-see TV next weekend, but a certain division rivalry figures to top it all.
1. Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
It will be the Packers against the Vikings on Saturday at Lambeau Field.
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When: Saturday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
The Packers and Vikings put on a show for NFL fans in Week 17.
Minnesota jumped out to an early 13-0 lead, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers battled back to pull even late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings ultimately won the game and punched their ticket to the playoffs, but the Packers will play host for this first-round playoff matchup.
The Vikings have a few impressive wins on their resume this season, beating the Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans on their way to a 10-6 regular season record.
Despite being a pleasant surprise this season, the Vikings haven't won a game outdoors all season. And now, they'll travel to Lambeau Field for a playoff game next weekend.
Adrian Peterson fell just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but he carried the Vikings into the playoffs and will give the Packers defense fits once again.
While arguments can be made for all four first-round games, this Packers-Vikings matchup looks like the best on the NFL schedule. Be sure to be near a television on Saturday night...if you're not at Lambeau Field.