NFL Playoffs 2013: Matchup Guide and What to Watch For in Postseason

Eli NachmanyCorrespondent IIIDecember 30, 2012

NFL Playoffs 2013: Matchup Guide and What to Watch For in Postseason

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    With the Redskins garnering a victory over the Cowboys in the final game of the regular season, all 12 playoff spots are set.

    The NFL postseason is a time to separate the top teams from the truly elite and a number of teams have legitimate Super Bowl dreams.

    Like any other season, this postseason could come down to the quarterbacks and, if so, look for a good slate of games to come.

First-Round Matchups

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    NFC

    No. 1 Atlanta Falcons (first-round bye)
    No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (first-round bye)
    No. 6 Minnesota Vikings vs. No. 3 Green Bay Packers
    No. 5 Seattle Seahawks vs. No. 4 Washington Redskins 

    AFC

    No. 1 Denver Broncos (first-round bye)
    No. 2 New England Patriots (first-round bye)
    No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals vs. No. 3 Houston Texans
    No. 5 Indianapolis Colts vs No. 4 Baltimore Ravens

The Favorite

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    MVP: Peyton Manning

    Interesting Stat: The Broncos have ripped off 11-straight wins, making them the hottest team going into the postseason

    Analysis: While the NFC may be the power conference, the AFC is more top heavy. The battle to be the favorite was close, but there's no argument against the Broncos right now. Denver has, arguably, the best quarterback in the game right now in Manning and no team has really shut them down since the beginning of the year.

The Dark Horse

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    Team: Green Bay Packers

    MVP: Aaron Rodgers

    Interesting Stat: Of the 12 playoff teams, the Packers rank 10th in total rushing yards, topping just the Falcons and the Colts

    Analysis: While Peyton Manning has had a fantastic season, Aaron Rodgers' numbers aren't too shabby either. The Packer quarterback has done an excellent job of spreading the football around and incorporating every member of his deep receiving corps. Green Bay won a Super Bowl just two years ago and, surprisingly, is getting ignored just enough to fly under the radar and into the Super Bowl.

Matchup Nightmare

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    Team: New England Patriots

    MVP: Tom Brady

    Interesting Stat: The Patriots led the league in total offense and finished fourth in passing yardage

    Analysis: One thing about the three mentioned teams that they each have in common is that their MVP is their quarterback. The Patriots have one of the best in the business and are an absolute matchup nightmare. With Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead outrunning people horizontally and Brandon Lloyd taking teams vertical, the Patriots can't be stopped.

Player to Keep an Eye on

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    Player: Marshawn Lynch

    Stats: 297 carries, 1,490 yards, 11 touchdowns

    Analysis: For the Seahawks to get anywhere, Marshawn Lynch will have to have a great game. His success opens up the option for Russell Wilson, play action for Pete Carroll and ultimately helps the Seahawks to high point totals. Lynch is one of the most fun players to watch in the league. He's a bowling ball and any defense he faces is a collection of pins.

First-Round Must-See Game

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    Matchup: No. 4 Washington Redskins vs. No. 5 Seattle Seahawks

    Analysis: In a game that will resemble something of a college bowl, two mobile quarterbacks will look to run option out of the pistol formation all game and apply pressure to the opposing defenses. Russell Wilson vs. Robert Griffin III is a game that will be fun to watch, no matter which team is on offense. Tune into this matchup to get a look at the future of football.

Game to Watch Down the Line

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    Matchup: No. 1 Denver Broncos vs. No. 2 New England Patriots

    Round: AFC Championship

    Analysis: In a game that would pit the two powerhouses of the AFC against one another, Peyton Manning would get to face off against Tom Brady in a real vintage matchup that NFL fans are yearning to see in the playoffs. It'll be a great game to watch as Brady and Manning look to light up the scoreboard.

Super Bowl Prediction

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    Matchup: No. 2 New England Patriots vs. No. 3 Green Bay Packers

    Analysis: I predict that Tom Brady will take down Peyton Manning and end the Broncos' playoff hopes in the AFC Championship game. On the other side of the bracket, look for the Green Bay Packers to pass their way through the bracket and get to the playoffs. That'll be as far as they get, though, as Aaron Rodgers' bunch will be overwhelmed by the diversity of the Patriot passing attack and the exotic blitz packages that Bill Belichick will dial up.

    Prediction: Patriots 31-21