NFL Playoff Bracket: Analyzing Potential Conference Championship Matchups

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2013

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates as he walks off of the field after the Ravens won 38-35 in the second overtime against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the Divisional Round wrapping up and Championship Sunday on the horizon, the list of potential NFL playoff scenarios this January is getting shorter and shorter.

The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, led by the Harbaugh brothers, have already secured berths in the AFC and NFC Championship Games, respectively. Now all that's left is for the weekend's final two games to deliver us two more winners.

But before that happens, let's take a closer look at the four potential conference championship matchups that fans could be gearing up for next weekend. 


AFC Championship Game Scenarios

No. 4 Baltimore Ravens vs. No. 2 New England Patriots

If New England can stop Houston on Sunday in Foxborough, we'll be locked into a rematch of last January's memorable AFC Championship Game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.

The Ravens narrowly edged the Pats back in Week 3, winning on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker and avenging their 2011 AFC title game loss in the process. Considering that, as well as the star power, this potential matchup has to be the most desired one of the two, as fans would get to see Tom Brady versus Ray Lewis one last time before the legendary linebacker retires.


No. 4 Baltimore Ravens vs. No. 3 Houston Texans

A matchup between the Ravens and Texans would be an AFC Championship clash that no one, and I mean no one, would have seen coming. 

Both teams played poorly down the final stretch of the regular season, leading many experts and pundits to believe that they would be knocked out of the playoffs early. The Texans finished 1-3 over their last four regular season games, while the Ravens finished 1-4 over their last five.

The two teams met in Houston back in Week 7, with the Texans coming away with a 30-point win over the short-handed Ravens. With Ray Lewis back in the middle of Baltimore's defense, though, the result could be very different this time. 

Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub would both be question marks under center, having never reached the Super Bowl, but that makes this potential matchup all the more intriguing. 


NFC Championship Game Scenarios

No. 2 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

A potential conference championship showdown between the NFC's top two seeds would be unpredictable, to say the least. These two teams haven't met since October 2010, when the Falcons overcame a 14-point deficit to win 16-14 inside the Georgia Dome.

While San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be the No. 1 topic of discussion coming into the game, Atlanta's home-field advantage would be another major talking point. The Falcons have been superb at home all season long (7-1 in the regular season) and would need just one more win there to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998. 


No. 5 Seattle Seahawks vs. No. 2 San Francisco 49ers

While 49ers-Falcons would be a rare matchup, the other scenario, Seahawks-49ers, would be a familiar battle between two NFC West rivals who have already split their two regular season meetings . Each team won at home, with the Seahawks winning big in Seattle most recently.

These two teams know each other very well, which would make for an entertaining championship game, if nothing else. Both boast elite defenses and exciting young signal-callers in Kaepernick and Russell Wilson as well.

With home-field advantage on their side, the Niners would be the hands-down favorite to win at Candlestick Park and advance to Super Bowl XLVII.


NFL Playoff Bracket


Baltimore vs. New England/Houston

Baltimore will either play at New England or Houston in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The winner of that game will advance to Super Bowl XLVII to play the NFC champion on Sunday, Feb. 3.



San Francisco vs. Atlanta/Seattle

San Francisco will either play at Atlanta or host Seattle in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 3 p.m. ET on Fox. The winner of that game will advance to Super Bowl XLVII to play the AFC champion on Sunday, Feb. 3.


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