It is finally everyone's favorite time of the year: the playoffs! The whole season has been built up for this: 12 teams, 11 games and just one final winner at the end of it all. This weekend is the first step of the process and it brings with it tons of excitement, opportunity and possibility. Just think about it—any of the teams playing this Wild Card weekend could possibly be holding the Lombardi trophy in about a month.
Each team comes in with strengths and flaws, which will all be on full display for the entire country to see this weekend; depending on how well each of those is either displayed and/or exploited in their games will decide who moves on.
The Texans were once 11-1 and thought of as possibly the best team in the league and were sure to have the 1-seed in the AFC, but they tailed off this month and ended up at 12-4 and the 3-seed instead. They still have a great defense and their offense has Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and a great cadre of blockers to make running lanes and protect during passes, so it would be a mistake to count them out just yet.
The Ravens backed in by losing 4 of 5 games and have been crushed by injuries, but they have never been one-and-done under John Harbaugh and should have an emotional boost from the return of Ray Lewis on defense.
The Colts won 11-5 and have been the love of the league all year because of their success despite their coach being diagnosed with cancer. Also, of course, because of the amazing abilities of Andrew Luck, who led them on 7 game-winning drives. The question is, then, how far can he drag a team still lacking in overall talent?
The Bengals finally have pushed themselves into consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in about 30 years mostly due to great play from their outstanding defense, but their offense has been lacking and could be what ultimately causes their demise.
In the NFC, the Packers come in as a pretty hot team after winning nine of 11 games and have one of the (if not the) best QBs in the league in Aaron Rodgers leading them. They have the potential to be the most dangerous team in the NFC, but that is only if the O-line holds up (Rodgers was sacked a league-high 51 times) and the defense can find a way to outgrow their youth and make the key plays needed in the playoffs to advance.
The Redskins come in with a 7 game winning streak and a pair of amazing rookies leading their offense in RG3 and Alfred Morris. Their defense has been overachieving through some brilliant scheming during this streak though, so if their opponent can attack it right they will be in major trouble.
The Seahawks have a really tough defense that will beat up any opposing offense on every level of it, but don't forget their mightily impressive rookie QB who plays well beyond his years (Russell Wilson). Behind Wilson, the Seahawks have scored the most points of any team over the past five weeks, including a 58-0 win over the Cardinals and a large blowout of the 2-seed 49ers a couples weeks ago. They have overall struggled on the road all year though, so it will be a challenge for them to do so this week.
Minnesota has easily the best RB in the game today in Peterson, and they are up against a team that in two matchups he put up over 400 yards rushing on. They only won one of those however because the passing side of the offense is not as formidable and that could end up costing them this weekend.
Now, onto the actual matchups, who will win, and why.