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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Breaking Down Best Possible Divisional Round Matchups

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks to the sideline during a game with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in the second quarter on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2012

The list of superstars and Super Bowl favorites set to face off this January is nearly endless, as if NFL fans needed any more reason to tune into the thrilling month-long postseason.

Pending what happens in the Wild Card Round this coming weekend, a handful of possible Divisional matchups still exist—a few of which will generate tons of buzz. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers are all awaiting their next opponents, but only one scenario will produce the second-round showdowns NFL fans are hoping for.

Here we'll break down the four best possible Divisional Round matchups this January.


No. 5 Indianapolis Colts at No. 1 Denver Broncos

If the underdog Indianapolis Colts can continue their miraculous 2012 run against the Baltimore Ravens on Wild Card Weekend, then Andrew Luck and company could possibly be headed to Denver for an AFC Divisional Round showdown with the conference's top seed.

Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning. The No. 1 overall pick vs. a former No. 1 overall pick. What's not to like?

In addition to two marquee quarterbacks, this matchup would feature one of the league's top defenses in the Broncos and one that has been playing lights-out as of late in the Colts. Denver would no doubt be a heavy favorite, but Chuck Pagano's team has thrived as the underdog all year long. 


No. 3 Houston Texans at No. 2 New England Patriots

Things got ugly in a hurry when these two teams met on Monday Night Football in Week 14, but the game slows down in the playoffs, and a rematch between Houston and New England would certainly be a tighter affair.

The only requirement for this matchup to become reality is for the Texans to knock off the Cincinnati Bengals in Houston for the second straight postseason.

In that case, fans would certainly be in for a treat as the Jan. 13 clash would mark the first ever postseason meeting between these two franchises. As long as Houston could avoid trailing 21-0 at halftime this time around, I'd give them a great shot to advance to the AFC Championship Game. 


No. 4 Washington Redskins at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

Who wouldn't want to see the red-hot Redskins up against the NFC's top seed in Atlanta?

If Washington can survive the scorching Seattle Seahawks at home this Sunday and the Green Bay Packers defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night, then it's off to the Georgia Dome for the NFC East champs. There, the 'Skins would attempt to run their winning streak to nine straight games by earning a berth in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1991.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Matt Ryan and the Falcons would be attempting to win their first playoff game in the post-Michael Vick era. 


No. 3 Green Bay Packers at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers 

If Green Bay can fend off Minnesota at Lambeau Field on Saturday night, then it will secure a matchup with the NFC West-champion San Francisco 49ers one week later at Candlestick Park.

The Niners topped the Packers 30-22 in Week 1 in Green Bay, but will be taking on the Pack for the first time with Colin Kaepernick under center. Kaepernick has had plenty of bright moments since taking over full-time for Alex Smith, but he hasn't been perfect. 

Watching how he fares while going up against a Super Bowl champion quarterback in Aaron Rodgers would be must-see television.

Two storied franchise and incredibly high stakes?

Sign me up.


Wild Card Matchups


No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 3 Houston Texans - Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC

No. 5 Indianapolis Colts at No. 3 Baltimore Ravens - Sunday, Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. ET, CBS



No. 6 Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 Green Bay Packers - Saturday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. ET, NBC

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 4 Washington Redskins - Sunday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX


NFL Playoff Scenarios


*No. 1 Denver Broncos (will host highest remaining seed)

No. 2 New England Patriots (will host lowest remaining seed)

No. 3 Houston Texans (will play at No. 2 New England  with win)

No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (will play at No. 1 Denver with win and Houston win, at No. 2 New England with win and Cincinnati win)

No. 5 Indianapolis Colts (will play at No. 1 Denver with win and Houston win, at No. 2 New England with win and Cincinnati win)

No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals (will play at No. 1 Denver with win)


*home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs



*No. 1 Atlanta Falcons (will host highest remaining seed)

No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (will host lowest remaining seed)

No. 3 Green Bay Packers (will play at No. 2 San Francisco with win)

No. 4 Washington Redskins (will play at No. 1 Atlanta with win and Green Bay win, at No. 2 San Francisco with win and Minnesota win)

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (will play at No. 1 Atlanta with win and Green Bay win, at No. 2 Seattle with win and Minnesota win)

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings (will play at No. 1 Atlanta with win)


*home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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