NFL Playoff Picture 2013: Most Exciting Potential Postseason Matchups

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IDecember 19, 2013

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to a first down against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at Raymond James Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  San Francisco won the game 33-14.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

What teams will ultimately face each other when January rolls around is anyone's guess with the way the NFL season has played out thus far. But, after an exciting Week 15 that ended with some tremendous upsets and a few teams dropping out of the playoff picture, the odds of each team making the postseason are becoming clear.

To say that these matchups will be guaranteed locks would not be a smart decision, but with a few teams already punching their tickets, it looks like many of these teams will at least be contending in their divisions to play on the last day of the NFL season.

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, here is a closer look at just a few of the most exciting potential matchups when January finally rolls around.

2013 NFL Playoff Standings
New England Patriots1040
Miami Dolphins860
New York Jets680
Buffalo Bills590
Cincinnati Bengals950
Baltimore Ravens860
Pittsburgh Steelers680
Cleveland Browns4100
Indianapolis Colts950
Tennessee Titans590
Jacksonville Jaguars4100
Houston Texas2120
Denver Broncos1130
Kansas City Chiefs1130
San Diego Chargers770
Oakland Raiders4100
AFC Wild CardWLT
Kansas City Chiefs1130
Baltimore Ravens860
Miami Dolphins860
San Diego Chargers770
New York Jets680
Philadelphia Eagles860
Dallas Cowboys770
New York Giants590
Washington Redskins3110
Chicago Bears860
Green Bay Packers761
Detroit Lions770
Minnesota Vikings491
New Orleans Saints1040
Carolina Panthers1040
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4100
Atlanta Falcons4100
Seattle Seahawks1220
San Francisco 49ers1040
Arizona Cardinals950
St. Louis Rams680
NFC Wild CardWLT
Carolina Panthers1040
San Francisco 49ers1040
Arizona Cardinals950
Detroit Lions770
Dallas Cowboys770


Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Let's go back to Week 9 of the NFL season. The Miami Dolphins had just won their first game over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football after four straight losses, but did so without one of their offensive linemen named Jonathan Martin, who missed the game due to emotional distress. We all know what happened next in that story.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens were mired in a three-game losing streak and had just lost to, of all teams, the Cleveland Browns on the road. Neither team looked like even a long shot to make the playoffs, but that's where they are now.

The Dolphins have righted the ship and have won four of their last six, including a win over the rival New England Patriots to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Ravens have rattled off wins in five of their last six and just defeated the Detroit Lions thanks to the leg of Justin Tucker—who apparently owns himself in fantasy football:

With two emerging quarterbacks in Ryan Tannehill and Joe Flacco at the helm, either team has a chance to win this game. Both defenses have improved as the season has gone on and should be at their best by the time the playoffs roll around, which should make for a grind-it-out type of matchup.

Both of these teams have fought back from adversity and deserve a shot at getting into the playoffs. The Ravens and Dolphins now control their own destinies and if all goes well for these teams they could be meeting up again in the playoffs.


Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on December 15, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

For two teams that were sputtering just weeks ago, they both once again look like teams that can contend for the Super Bowl. The matchup between Andrew Luck against the Kansas City Chiefs defense will be a chess match by itself, but there is so much more that goes into this one that makes it intriguing.

Just taking a look at the offensive weapons on each side of the ball, the first one to point out has to be Jamaal Charles. Many casual football fans more than likely saw his huge performance that he put up against the Oakland Raiders in which he had 195 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. If not, take a look at this video:

Though his production against the Raiders was tremendous, he has put together several huge games for the Chiefs this season. Charles has amassed 1,181 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground with another 655 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.

In his last four games, Charles has five receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns. To say that he's been the best player for the Chiefs would be a tremendous understatement.

But on the other offense, there is an elite quarterback who received some scrutiny midway through the season because of his inability to carry the team after Reggie Wayne went down for the season with a torn ACL. In fact, Luck put the blame on himself, according to the Huffington Post:

"It was my fault. Terrible throw. We know he's a fighter. He's our team leader so it hurts when he's not out here. But we're hoping for the best," Luck told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the game.

Over the last two games, Luck has appeared to get back on track. The second-year quarterback threw for four touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals in an attempt to get his team back in the game in the fourth quarter and led the Colts to a victory over the Houston Texans with a two touchdown performance in Week 15.

Fans won't have to wait long to see what this game could look like as the two actually play each other in Week 16. So with a two-week window separating the two games, this could be an exciting series between the Chiefs and Colts—with one obviously being a little more important than the other.


Carolina Panthers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 15:   Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after a play during their game against the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the two previous games are between teams that looked to be faltering midway through the season, these are teams that didn't start the season off well at all. But for the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, their paths to success have been completely different.

The Panthers are a team that started off the season at 1-3 and it looked like Ron Rivera already had one foot out the door.

Then came the defensive consistency that this team has missed during the last few years, headed by Luke Kuechly and a defensive line that includes both Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson on either end.

The Panthers official Instagram account has actually already dubbed Kuechly, in only his second season with Carolina, as the leader of the defense:

Insert the breakout play of Thomas Davis and rookie Star Lotulelei and this defense has been unstoppable. Oh, then there's the fact that the offense features Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams and an emerging star in Brandon LaFell and this team all of a sudden looks like a Super Bowl contender.

As for the Eagles, a rough season last year made it appear they would be looking to rebuild with Chip Kelly at the helm for his first season. But with talent still on the roster including the explosive play-making abilities of both LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia is once again eyeing a playoff berth and controls its own destiny.

With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles are 5-1 and look like a team that can contend in the NFC side of the playoffs. But with a porous defense that ranks 30th in total defense, this could wind up being a tough game for the Eagles to pull out.

If both teams take care of the rest of their respective schedules—the Panthers simply need one win and the Eagles need a Cowboys loss this weekend or take them out in Week 16—this could be a fun game to watch in Philadelphia.