NFL Playoff Schedule 2013: Ranking Most Intriguing Divisional Matchups

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 09:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by Carlos Rogers #22 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL season opener at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first week of NFL playoff football was—how should I put this—HISTORICALLY BORING. All four games were a rare combination of low-scoring and lopsided, with only the Seahawks-Redskins game providing any sort of intrigue.

But there's hope on the horizon in the form of divisional weekend. Always one of the most fun weekends of the season, the NFL's elite eight will battle for a chance to play in their respective conference championships.

Let's look at which games, ranked from least likely to most likely, have the best chance at bucking the trend of banality.


4. Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (Saturday, Jan. 12 – 4:30 p.m. ET)

There are a few good reasons to tune in. Peyton Manning makes his triumphant return to playoff football, while Ray Lewis, in all likelihood, bids his triumphant adieu.

But other than that this game could be pretty barren.

When these teams met last, all of 22 days ago, Denver whooped the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore. And it wasn't even as close as it looked; the Broncos led 31-3 after 45 minutes, then opted to take their foot off the gas.

The emotional boost of Ray Lewis' farewell tour could swing things in the slightest. But at the end of the day, the talent disparity between these teams is too big to overcome.

Don't expect the fourth quarter to be of much import.


3. Houston Texans at New England Patriots (Sunday, Jan. 13 – 4:30 p.m. ET)

Contrary to the asinine ramblings of Dan Shaughnessy, this is not the most lopsided game in NFL playoff history. It's not even the most lopsided game of the week.

But as hard as it is to (at least somewhat) agree with such inanity, he's not THAT far off the scent.

Like Baltimore-Denver, this is a rematch of a semi-recent game. And like Baltimore-Denver, the first meeting in this series was over by halftime.

New England spanked the Texans 42-14 in Week 14, and it probably wasn't even that close. That loss started a massive spiral in Houston, one that resulted in them losing a seemingly assured first-round bye.

The Texans would love to get revenge on Tom Brady and Co., and they'll be duly motivated to pull the upset. Unfortunately, they won't be duly talented.


2. Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, Jan. 13 – 1:00 p.m. ET)

Finally, something to get excited about.

Unlike the AFC, which stands poised to produce their third and fourth dud of the postseason this week, the NFC boasts two intriguing divisional bouts.

Robert Griffin III's late injury dominated the postgame talk on Monday morning, but don't let that overshadow the Seahawks. Seattle played impressive, borderline dominant, football in the final three quarters, winning in an insanely hostile environment.

Things won't get any easier this coming Sunday, where they'll play inside one of the league's loudest domes. Atlanta, like Houston, struggled a little down the stretch, but they creamed the Giants in their last home game.

Whoever wins this game will have certainly earned a shot to play for a Super Bowl berth.


1. Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (Saturday, Jan. 12 – 8:00 p.m. ET)

What a treat. Honestly, I know it's not possible, but would anyone complain if this were the Super Bowl?

Green Bay made quick work of Minnesota last week, but San Francisco is a different animal. It's like going from guppy to piranha.

The Niners certainly looked the part of piranha in Week 1, where they beat Green Bay 30-22 at Lambeau. The starting quarterback that day was, of course, Alex Smith, but on Saturday he'll take a backseat to Colin Kaepernick.

Whether Kaep can keep up with Aaron Rodgers, and how short of a rope he's given if he can't, will likely be the dominant storyline of the weekend.