NFL Playoff Scenarios 2014: Breaking Down Potential Divisional Round Matchups

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIJanuary 2, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 29:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints warms up before his team takes on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 29, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts passes during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
AFC Wild Card Schedule
MatchupDateTime (ET)TV
Kansas City at IndianapolisJan. 44:35 p.m.NBC
San Diego at CincinnatiJan. 51:05 p.m.CBS
AFC Divisional Round Scenarios
Winner #1Winner #2Matchup #1Matchup #2
ColtsBengalsIndianapolis at DenverCincinnati at New England
ColtsChargersSan Diego at DenverIndianapolis at New England
ChiefsBengalsKansas City at DenverCincinnati at New England
ChiefsChargersSan Diego at DenverKansas 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.

Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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

Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up prior to the game against the Arizons Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
NFC Wild Card Schedule
MatchupDateTime (ET)TV
New Orleans at PhiladelphiaJan. 48:10NBC
San Francisco at Green BayJan. 54:40FOX
NFC Divisional Round Scenarios
Winner #1Winner #2Matchup #1Matchup #2
EaglesPackersGreen Bay at SeattlePhiladelphia at Carolina
Eagles49ersSan Francisco at SeattlePhiladelphia at Carolina
SaintsPackersNew Orleans at SeattleGreen Bay at Carolina
Saints49ersNew Orleans at SeattleSan 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.

Dec 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes during the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Green Bay won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sport
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

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.