The NFL playoffs are about ready to get underway with the Wild Card Round beginning on January 4, and there are a number of potential matchups that could happen in the divisional round.
The divisional round will take place on January 11-12 between teams with first-round byes and the survivors of the Wild Card Round. The four teams that won't have to play wild-card games are the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, so they will be waiting to see which teams they will play.
Below is a look at the postseason schedule as well as the possible scenarios for the divisional round in each conference, followed by a prediction of the most likely matchups.
|AFC Wild Card Schedule|
|Kansas City at Indianapolis||Jan. 4||4:35 p.m.||NBC|
|San Diego at Cincinnati||Jan. 5||1:05 p.m.||CBS|
|AFC Divisional Round Scenarios|
|Winner #1||Winner #2||Matchup #1||Matchup #2|
|Colts||Bengals||Indianapolis at Denver||Cincinnati at New England|
|Colts||Chargers||San Diego at Denver||Indianapolis at New England|
|Chiefs||Bengals||Kansas City at Denver||Cincinnati at New England|
|Chiefs||Chargers||San Diego at Denver||Kansas City at New England|
The first AFC Wild Card Game will be a rematch from a couple of weeks ago between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. The Colts won 23-7 in a very strong performance back in Week 16, so they'll be looking to do that once again.
After losing Reggie Wayne, the Colts were struggling to find an identity on offense, especially in the first half. But with the recent emergence of both Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen, the offense has looked more effective, finishing the season strong with three straight wins and a 4-1 finish.
While the Chiefs have had a strong season with an 11-5 record, they only beat one team with a winning record all season, and that came against the Philadelphia Eagles back in Week 3. They finished the season going just 2-5, so I just don't see them taking down the Colts in this one.
In the other game, the Cincinnati Bengals have a matchup against the San Diego Chargers. The Bengals have a top-10 defense along with some great playmakers in A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard on offense, which makes this one of the best Bengals teams in a while.
For the Chargers, they were able to surge into the playoffs thanks to a 5-1 finish. Philip Rivers has been fantastic this year, throwing for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to give him a 105.5 passer rating. But his defense has been inconsistent, and that will likely keep the Chargers from advancing to the next round.
With the two favorites winning, the Colts would head to Denver to take on the Broncos, while the Bengals would have to play the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
|NFC Wild Card Schedule|
|New Orleans at Philadelphia||Jan. 4||8:10||NBC|
|San Francisco at Green Bay||Jan. 5||4:40||FOX|
|NFC Divisional Round Scenarios|
|Winner #1||Winner #2||Matchup #1||Matchup #2|
|Eagles||Packers||Green Bay at Seattle||Philadelphia at Carolina|
|Eagles||49ers||San Francisco at Seattle||Philadelphia at Carolina|
|Saints||Packers||New Orleans at Seattle||Green Bay at Carolina|
|Saints||49ers||New Orleans at Seattle||San Francisco at Carolina|
Two of the top offenses in the league will be going head-to-head in the first NFC Wild Card Game, with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints taking on Nick Foles and the Eagles. The two offenses combined for 816.7 yards and 53.5 points per game during the regular season, so this could be a potential shootout.
With both offenses likely playing well, it will be the defenses that will be key. Rob Ryan has done a terrific job turning the defense around for the Saints, so I think he will find ways to stop Foles and LeSean McCoy to help lead New Orleans to a crucial playoff victory.
The other Wild Card Game is a divisional rematch from the 2012 playoffs between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. In that game last year, the 49ers won 45-31 thanks to 323 rushing yards, including 181 from Colin Kaepernick.
The Packers were finally able to get Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back just in time to beat the Chicago Bears and sneak into the playoffs, but their defense is still a major issue going up against the 49ers. This year's defense for Green Bay is arguably worse than the one in 2012, especially without Clay Matthews, so they're going to have a very hard time pulling out a win here.
Both the wild-card teams would win their matchups in this scenario, which means the Saints would have to play in Seattle and try to avoid another blowout loss against the Seahawks. For the 49ers, they would play the Carolina Panthers, who they also lost to, but only by a single point.