NFL Playoff Schedule: When and Where to Watch All Wild Card Weekend Games

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NFL Playoff Schedule: When and Where to Watch All Wild Card Weekend Games
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While some view the NFL's Wild Card Weekend as an opportunity to get rid of the dregs of the playoff teams, history tells us that one team's Super Bowl journey will start on Saturday or Sunday.

Five of the past seven teams to hold the Lombardi Trophy have played on the NFL's first weekend, and even more have made it to the big dance. Though any astute football fan was already going to watch every minute of NFL action, this recent league-wide trend adds even more intrigue to an already-great slate of games.

Over the course of 24 hours, three of the best rookie quarterbacks in NFL history will be in action, as will arguably the greatest middle linebacker of all time—playing in possibly his final home game—and unquestionably the best running back of this era.

To put it mildly, the storylines and intrigue are among the best in recent memory.

With that in mind, let's take a look at when and where you can watch every single game of Wild Card Weekend. 

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

When: Saturday, Jan. 5, at 4:30 p.m. ET

Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston

Watch: NBC

The Texans made history during the 2012 regular season, but it certainly wasn't the kind they envisioned. They became the first team in NFL history to start the season 11-1 and not receive a first-round bye.

Houston's present for its late-season swoon is a first-round visit from a Bengals team that has won seven of its last eight games. The one loss? A one-point home game to the Cowboys which most agree Cincinnati blew in the fourth quarter.

This is also a rematch of last season's playoff opener, a game the Texans dominated, 31-10, even with Matt Schaub out of the lineup. 

Though a year has changed plenty, it hasn't altered the fact that Houston is the more complete team on both sides of the ball. The Texans rank seventh in the NFL in terms of total offensive and defensive yardage allowed and rank inside the top 10 in points allowed on both sides, as well.

Cincinnati is no slouch, either, but its pendulum swings far heavier to the defensive side of the ball. The Bengals are just 22nd in total offense but rank sixth in total defense and have given up an average of just 12.8 points over their last eight contests.

Nonetheless, the Bengals' biggest advantage comes on special teams. Per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, Cincinnati has the seventh-best special-teams unit in the NFL, while Houston ranks dead last.

Production on that unit is almost always sporadic, but if the Bengals get one or two big special-teams plays, it would go a long way toward winning the ballgame. 

 

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Andy King/Getty Images

When: Saturday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

Watch: NBC

It's impossible to preview this game and not be heavily influenced by Minnesota's 37-34 victory over Green Bay last week. Both teams gave their unrepentant best efforts, as the Packers desperately wanted a bye and the Vikings obviously wanted to, you know, make the playoffs.

They will certainly adjust game plans and see where weaknesses lay. For the Packers, it began and ended with a complete inability to stop either facet of the Vikings offense.

Adrian Peterson's 34-carry, 199-yard performance has been well documented by just about everyone in the continuous United States, but Christian Ponder was nearly as spectacular. The oft-maligned quarterback completed 16-of-28 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns, which was good for a 94.6 QBR, his second-highest rating of the season.

While recent history tells us Ponder is unlikely to play at that level again, Green Bay's injuries in the secondary leave anything within the realm of possibility.

Meanwhile, the Packers were essentially carried by their own passing game last week. Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of his 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns, including a game-tying score with two minutes and 54 seconds remaining. His passing performance was contrasted by only 14 run attempts for DuJuan Harris. 

To put it bluntly, whichever team adjusts better to what it saw a week ago will come out on top.

Playing at Lambeau puts the advantage back in Green Bay's favor, but the Vikings and Packers have played two close games this season.

 

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Watch: CBS

As if this game didn't already have enough off-the-field storylines, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had to go and prematurely announce his retirement following this postseason. Now we have Lewis' retirement on top of the Colts returning to their former stomping grounds in Baltimore and Chuck Pagano's second game back following cancer treatments.

In other words, if you're not getting a little misty eyed when the clock strikes zero on Sunday, your tear ducts may need checked.

As for the actual play on the field, I continue to be flabbergasted by the Colts' 11-5 record. Sure, they played the worst schedule of any team in the NFL, but they ended the season with a minus-30 point differential. According to Grantland's Bill Barnwell, that's the fifth-worst differential for a playoff team since 1990.

What's more, based on its Pythagorean Expectation (via Pro-Football-Refernce.com), Indianapolis should have been a seven-win team. 

Still, the Colts continue to defy all odds and win games. 

Baltimore, meanwhile, has spent the second half of its season learning how to lose close games. The Ravens have lost four of their last five games, and only one of those defeats came by more than six points. That contrasts their early-season luck in those games, so essentially we have a team that's defied all odds against one that's already seen a regression to the mean.

All told, Lewis and Pagano may carry the sentimental storylines, but Andrew Luck versus Joe Flacco will decide a close game.

 

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, at 4:30 p.m. ET

Where: FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

Watch: Fox

Seattle and Washington are playing so well that it's almost a shame they have to meet up this early in the playoffs. The two teams combined to go 14-2 in the second half of the season and carry a combined 12 straight victories coming into Sunday.

Obviously, the story starts here with two otherworldly rookie quarterbacks.

After Seattle got off to a slow start, saw many question Pete Carroll's decision to start Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks head coach's decision paid off in spades down the stretch.

In Seattle's final eight games of the season, Wilson averaged 206.5 passing yards per game and threw 16 touchdowns against two interceptions. That was good for an astounding 120.3 quarterback rating, which dwarfed that of just about every other quarterback in the league.

Robert Griffin III's ascent has pretty much been from day one. His second-half stats were also pretty impressive (203.1 YPG, 12 TDs, 2 INT, 109.0 QB Rating), but there wasn't anyone questioning Mike Shanahan's decision to start the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.

Instead, Washington's ascent had much more to do with the descent of its divisional opponents. After starting the season 3-6, the Redskins took off by beating down NFC East foes in five of their last seven games, with the other wins coming against Baltimore and Cleveland. 

As for how they'll do against the Seahawks, that remains to be seen.

Seattle is the only team in the NFL to finish inside the top five of Football Outsiders' DVOA ranking, a fact that will be particularly important on special teams. The Seahawks' No. 3 special-teams ranking contrasts well with the Redskins' 27th-ranked unit.

If the two rookie quarterbacks play the contest to a draw, the game could once again come down to the least-talked-about facet of football.

Full NFL Playoff Predictions Through the Super Bowl

 

Complete NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Round

Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Cincinnati Houston 1/5/13 4:30 p.m. ET NBC
Minnesota Green Bay 1/5/13 8 p.m. ET NBC
Indianapolis Baltimore 1/6/13 1 p.m. ET CBS
Seattle Washington 1/6/13 4:30 p.m. ET Fox

 

Divisional Playoffs

Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Bal/Ind/Cin Denver 1/12/13 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
GB/Wash/Sea San Francisco 1/12/13 8 p.m. ET Fox
Wash/Sea/Minn Atlanta 1/13/13 1 p.m. ET Fox
Hou/Bal/Ind New England 1/13/13 4:30 p.m. ET CBS

 

Conference Championships

Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
NFC NFC 1/20/13 TBD TBD
AFC AFC 1/20/13 TBD TBD

 

Super Bowl XLVII

Team 1 Team 2 Date Time TV Info
AFC Winner NFC Winner 2/3/13 TBD

CBS

 

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