NFL Playoff Scenarios: Breaking Down Nightmare Matchups for Top Seeds

Tim KeeneyContributor IJanuary 4, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Linebacker Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before playing against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL postseason is weird, but the top two seeds in each conference wouldn't have it any other way.

Because of reseeding (No. 1 seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the divisional round, No. 2 seed plays the other survivor), there are several different options for how the divisional round might look at this time next week.

Let's take a gander at who the top seeds should be rooting against this weekend. 

Note: A complete look at the playoff picture and schedule can be found at the bottom of this page. 



No. 1 Denver Broncos

Finding a weakness in the Denver Broncos isn't exactly the easiest thing to do. There is a reason, after all, they haven't lost since October 7. 

Still, though, Denverites—Denverens? Denverees?—have to be significantly less confident when Peyton Manning can't find a groove. Knowshon Moreno (3.8 yards per carry) is slightly more intimidating than a cuddly teddy bear and the Broncos are just 25th in the league in rushing. 

The wild-card team with the best chance of limiting Manning and making the Broncos try to run the ball is the Cincinnati Bengals.

Marvin Lewis' squad has won seven of its last eight and is giving up just 12.75 points per game over that span. If the Bengals knock off the Houston Texans this weekend, Geno Atkins and that dangerous defensive line will life extremely difficult for Peyton Manning in the divisional round. 



No. 2 New England Patriots

This one is pretty simple. 

The Houston Texans are not only playing horrendously over their past seven contests, but they went into New England and got destroyed less than a month ago.

The Indianapolis Colts, on the other hand, are a dangerous team that is playing very well, but they have too many holes on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots would exploit them quickly.

That leaves the Baltimore Ravens as the team New England doesn't want to play. 

While Baltimore's offense is inconsistent, it has the weapons to score a lot of points in any given week. Moreover it has veterans—including Ray Lewis, whose soon-to-be-retirement will have the team fired up—on the defensive side of the ball who won't be intimidated to go into New England in January. 



No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White give Atlanta one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league, but the Falcons have quietly had severe problems on the defensive side of the ball.

They are 29th in the league in yards per rush allowed, 20th in yards per pass allowed and 24th in total yards allowed per game.

Any of the remaining wild-card teams will be able to put up points on Atlanta, but the Minnesota Vikings have a little weapon named Adrian Peterson who has the ability to absolutely crush this defense, slow the game down and keep Matt Ryan off the field.



No. 2 San Francisco 49ers

The Niners beat the Seattle Seahawks in San Francisco in a fairly ugly game back in Week 7, but the 'Hawks got revenge two weeks ago with a 42-13 blowout victory.

49ers fans will tell you they want their own shot at revenge, but it's hard to imagine San Francisco being pumped about playing a team that mirrors its own style, just beat it by four touchdowns and is arguably the hottest team in the league.

In the divisional round, no less. 



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



Super Bowl XLVII

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




For a complete look at the current postseason bracket and where teams are predicted to land, check out CBS Sports