With the Washington Redskins' 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the 2012 NFL regular season came to an end. And whether it unfolded how you expected it to, the playoffs will begin next Saturday.
The 2012 season had it all: rookies showing their worth early on, superstars returning from serious injuries, veterans cementing their status in this league, shocking surprises and major disappointments.
Luckily for those that follow the NFL, those same storylines make their way into the playoff picture—making the next month must-see action.
Though fans of their respective teams might suppose otherwise, there doesn't seem to be an unequivocal favorite heading into the postseason this year.
Here are the rankings for the entire playoff field.
Current Streak: Four wins
Fresh off their 37-34 must-win victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings enter the postseason as one of the league's hottest teams. The only issue is that this team is about as one-dimensional as one can be.
Though quarterback Christian Ponder had a career day in the win (234 yards and three touchdowns), Minnesota entered the game ranked last in the NFL in passing, averaging just under 169 yards per game.
Unless Ponder can repeat his performance next week in Green Bay, the Vikings will likely be one-and-done in the postseason.
Current Streak: Two wins
From 2-14 to 11-5 in the matter of one year, the Indianapolis Colts have to be thrilled with their 2012 season.
Avenging their Week 15 loss to the Houston Texans, the Colts knocked Matt Schaub and Co. all the way down to the third seed in the AFC.
While the win did nothing for Indy's standing in the AFC, it did prove that this team belongs. Though the Colts may be a year away from making noise in the postseason, the experience will be invaluable for this young team.
Current Streak: One loss
Losers of four of their last five games, the Baltimore Ravens are sputtering into the postseason.
Though this team has been known to turn it on at any time, the inconsistencies are not a good sign when playing this season's playoff field. The Ravens have lost games to the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC and to the Washington Redskins in the NFC.
Baltimore's 9-2 start—which included a win over the Bengals and New England Patriots in the season's first three weeks—seems long ago. This team will have to get it together quickly to avoid completely wasting 2012 away.
Current Streak: Seven wins
If not for the Denver Broncos, the Washington Redskins would be the hottest team in the NFL right now.
Sunday night's win over the Dallas Cowboys was for the NFC East title and fourth seed in the conference. What this team has done in short order in comparison to previous seasons is amazing.
Though it may take a year or two for Washington to be considered elite, this season sure has been fun to watch in the nation's capital.
Current Streak: Three wins
Though the Baltimore Ravens didn't impart their best effort on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals should be proud of the end of their season.
If not for a Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Bengals would be entering the postseason on an eight-game winning streak and winners of the AFC North. Andy Dalton and Co., however, are certainly not in a bad spot.
Though the sixth seed, Cincinnati draws the Houston Texans in the opening round—a team that is completely dejected after letting the AFC's top seed slip away.
Current Streak: Two losses
The Houston Texans have been the hot pick for a postseason run in the AFC for a few years. The 2012 season started out like this was actually going to be that year.
Instead, the Texans are losers of three out of the their last four games and are forced to play in the opening round after leading the AFC until the last week.
While talent isn't the question for the Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals will come to town with a lot more momentum.
Current Streak: Five wins
Unless you have been living under a rock the last few weeks, you would know that the Seattle Seahawks are the team that no one wants to see in the postseason.
Following the blueprint of the San Francisco 49ers, the Seahawks win games with a stout defense, a solid running game and a quarterback that doesn't make mistakes. The unbelievable part is that they are relying on rookie Russell Wilson under center.
Though they weren't quite able to catch the 49ers in the NFC West, the Seahawks' victory over San Francisco in Week 16 raised a lot of eyebrows around the league.
Current Streak: One loss
The Atlanta Falcons are the top seed in the NFC, yet most aren't quite ready to trust this team.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is winless in the postseason in three tries. Though the Falcons will have home-field advantage through the playoffs, the lack of a running game could hurt this team in the NFC.
When they are on, the Falcons are hard to stop. But when teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks stand in their way, the Falcons' season could end in a huge disappointment.
Current Streak: One loss
Though the Green Bay Packers are coming off Sunday's 37-34 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, this team might be the toughest in the postseason.
Winners of nine of their last 11 games, the Packers are on quite a run. They are fueled by the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is on the shortlist of guys you want with the ball with the game or the season on the line.
Other than the Seattle Seahawks' raucous crowd, the Packers might have the league's best home-field advantage. If they can somehow get the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay, this team might be a lock to emerge out of the conference.
Current Streak: One win
Falling just short of the Super Bowl last year, the San Francisco 49ers entered the 2012 season as one of the favorites in the NFC. And they have not disappointed.
However, head coach Jim Harbaugh made an interesting decision to stick with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick even when Alex Smith was given a clean bill of health to return from a concussion a few weeks back.
Whether you agree with that decision is of no concern to Harbaugh. If Kaepernick can overcome playoff jitters, the 49ers will be a tough out for a very long time in the NFC.
Current Streak: Two wins
What more needs to be said about Tom Brady and Co. Another regular season down and another playoff appearance. However, this New England Patriots team has the look of a more balanced squad than in years past.
Instead of being one-dimensional with Brady throwing the ball all over the field, the Patriots have a viable running game, led by Stevan Ridley.
If Rob Gronkowski is at full health, New England's offense might be unstoppable. Brady has the rushing attack to lean on and Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez at his disposal.
Current Streak: 11 wins
The Denver Broncos were expected to be a much better version of their 2011 self with the addition of quarterback Peyton Manning. But to enter the postseason on an 11-game winning streak and as arguably the league's best team was never on the minds of prognosticators entering 2012.
Somehow, Manning is better than ever and wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are doing their best impressions of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
The Broncos defense is nothing to scoff at either, ranking second in the league in yards and fourth in points allowed.
As the league's most balanced team and with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Denver should be the favorite against any opponent this postseason.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.