NFL Playoff Bracket 2013: Teams That Will Reach Conference Championships

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NFL Playoff Bracket 2013: Teams That Will Reach Conference Championships
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Eight teams remain in the quest to raise the Lombardi Trophy, and by Sunday night, that number will shrink to four. That will only happen after an intriguing group of divisional round games that feature some of the NFL's biggest stars.

From elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to defensive standouts such as J.J. Watt, Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis, who's staring down the end of his career, there's no shortage of big names left. But only some of them will survive.

Let's predict how the conference championship matchups will set up after another weekend of terrific clashes. For a complete look at how the playoff bracket is shaping up, click here.

 

AFC: Denver Broncos and New England Patriots

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The Broncos and Patriots both face rematches against teams they handled comfortably in recent weeks. Denver went on the road and beat the Baltimore Ravens by 17 while New England blew out the Houston Texans by four touchdowns.

Which team would win this matchup?

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Heading into the weekend, the main talking point will be what those teams can do differently in order to reverse the results. The short answer is not much. The Broncos and Patriots are both big favorites, and that's exactly how it should be.

Even though Lewis wasn't available for the previous meeting, it's hard to imagine his return having a major impact. Manning should be able to carve up the Ravens secondary after having a week to dissect the prior game. At the same time, Von Miller will be forcing Joe Flacco into mistakes.

In New England, Brady and Co. have been on an absolute tear for basically the entire campaign. They averaged nearly 35 points per game, and the Texans defense, which has faded after a strong start, will struggle to slow them down. And they aren't built to beat the Patriots in a shootout.

 

NFC: Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers

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On the NFC side, the games are a little more difficult to predict. Both matchups are basically even, and all four teams can make a solid case as to why they will end up living to fight another week. Ultimately, the Falcons and Packers should ride their offenses to victory.

Which of these teams is more likely to get beat in the divisional round?

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Matt Ryan is 0-3 in playoff games. It's a stat fans are going to hear a lot before Sunday. But playing at home, where he's 33-6 during his career, with two top-tier receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones, at his disposal makes his job a lot easier.

Not having Chris Clemons, who tallied 11.5 sacks during the regular season, is going to hurt the Seattle Seahawks defense. Russell Wilson has been terrific, but the environment he's going to face in Atlanta will be unlike anything he's seen so far.

As for the Packers, the reason they should advance is more simple: Depth. They showed it off last week against the Minnesota Vikings and will do it again on Saturday night.

When you give a quarterback like Rodgers that many weapons in today's NFL, which favors high-powered passing games, it's tough to stop him. Even for the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense.

 

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