The Wild Card Round will feature intriguing matchups, but NFL fans will hope that certain teams survive in order to create a scenario in which they get to watch truly exciting conference championship games.
Week 17 contained two thrilling showdowns with massive playoff implications. The Minnesota Vikings kicked a last-second field goal to beat the Green Bay Packers and secure a postseason berth, while the Washington Redskins edged out the Dallas Cowboys in a de facto playoff game for both teams.
It was a fitting end to a season full of surprises. If the postseason is equally exciting, it will be a treat for spectators.
Here are the conference championship matchups that would be most fascinating, and the scenarios in which these teams would meet on January 20.
AFC: No. 2 New England Patriots at No. 1 Denver Broncos
This is the matchup that every NFL fans wants to see. Marquez versus Pacquiao IV was one of the best sporting events in 2012, and Manning versus Brady IV would be an early candidate for the best of 2013.
The Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts faced off in the postseason three times during Peyton Manning’s tenure in Indy. Tom Brady won in 2003 and 2004 en route to victories in the Super Bowl in both years, but Manning came out on top in 2006 and also went on to win a championship.
Now that Manning is in Denver, the matchup will be slightly different, but a change of scenery may even add to the intrigue. Mile High Stadium is certainly an arena worthy of such an exciting matchup.
Both quarterbacks are surefire Hall of Famers and the two greatest signal-callers of their era. Despite being in their mid 30s, each is in the midst of a spectacular season, and their teams own the top two seeds in the AFC.
Due to their places atop the conference, it is extremely simple for this matchup to occur. Both teams simply need to win in their Divisional Round contest, and if this does not happen, it will be extremely disappointing for NFL fans.
NFC: No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 3 Green Bay Packers
An age-old adage states that revenge is a dish best served cold, and with a playoff game at Lambeau Field in late January likely to feature frigid weather, the Packers will have a chance deliver vengeance on the frozen tundra.
While there have been plenty of highlights during the 2012 season, the Week 3 game between Green Bay and Seattle was one of the lowlights. On a now infamous Hail Mary effort, Packers safety M.D. Jennings intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass, but the replacement referees—in their final mistake—awarded a touchdown to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate.
The blown call set off a social media firestorm in which fans fully expressed their outrage, and Green Bay offensive lineman T.J. Lang summed up the general sentiment in the most retweeted Tweet of the NFL season. The comment, and the link provided, does contain profanity.
But the real refs returned to work the following week, and if these teams reach the conference championship, they will only have to deal with occasional minor errors, instead of inexplicable calls that alter outcomes.
For this matchup to go down, both teams will obviously need to win in the Wild Card Round. This would create Divisional Round games between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, in addition to the Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons. If both teams win these potential showdowns, NFL fans will have their ideal NFC conference championship.