While the opening slate of NFL playoff games are certain to entertain, the divisional round is what will truly be memorable. If we are lucky, there will be some classic battles in the second round of the postseason.
The NFL does not have a straight bracket like the NCAA tournament, but instead rearranges the teams after the first round. This means that the No. 1 seeds will always play the lowest-rated squad in the second round.
Here is a look at the seeds for each conference to help you start dreaming about possible second-round options:
|1||Denver Broncos||13-3||1||Seattle Seahawks||13-3|
|2||New England Patriots||12-4||2||Carolina Panthers||12-4|
|3||Cincinnati Bengals||11-5||3||Philadelphia Eagles||10-6|
|4||Indianapolis Colts||11-5||4||Green Bay Packers||8-7-1|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||11-5||5||San Francisco 49ers||12-4|
|6||San Diego Chargers||9-7||6||New Orleans Saints||11-5|
Although a lot is still left to be determined, there are a few games that would be a thrill to see in Round 2. Fans should hope for these scenarios to play out in the Wild Card Round to bring on some truly thrilling matchups.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
What Must Happen: 49ers beat Packers; Eagles beat Saints
In the past few years, there might not be a better rivalry in the NFL than this one. Before the 49ers faced the Seahawks in Week 2, Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman wrote:
The hatred is pure and raw, like fusion, and it will be on display again this week when the 49ers and Seahawks play in a game that has Super Bowl ramifications. This rivalry has eclipsed all others in the NFL, and it could be argued that 49ers-Seahawks is now the greatest rivalry in all of sports because of the genuineness of the dislike and the physicality of the games.
Of course, that game ended up looking nothing like a close rivalry as the Seahawks were able to win 29-3. San Francisco answered with a win of its own later in the season against Seattle, although the 19-17 final was much less dominant.
Still, both sides are aware that this matchup could be the biggest road block to a Super Bowl win. According to Vegas Insider, the Seahawks are the odds-on favorite to win a championship, while the 49ers have the third-best odds behind the Denver Broncos.
If these two teams meet either in the second round or NFC Championship Game, it is certain to be a hard-nosed, competitive battle that could end up deciding the Super Bowl. No matter who wins, this is certain to be a good one.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
What Must Happen: Colts beat Chiefs; Bengals beat Chargers
There was plenty of emotion when Peyton Manning took the field against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7. That much was expected.
However, what was not expected was Andrew Luck and an overachieving Colts defense playing well enough to hand the Broncos their first loss of the regular season.
If these teams meet in the playoffs, though, you can bet the entire Broncos roster to be all business, especially after losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the first game last season. Head coach John Fox discussed how the team is handling the disappointing finish in 2012, via DenverBroncos.com:
Obviously, everybody in our building, our city, probably our region, maybe the country was disappointed with how we finished a year ago.
Hopefully that has been a fire in the belly of most everybody in our building since last January.
Manning has especially been completely focused on winning, failing to show much emotion while breaking individual records over the past few weeks.
Still, the Colts have proved the ability to beat the best teams in the NFL, and they could throw a wrench in Denver's plans early in the postseason.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
What Must Happen: Bengals beat Chargers
This is another game that happened earlier in the year, with the Bengals coming away with an impressive 13-6 victory over the Patriots in Week 5. Although the teams look different with various injuries since then, this would still be an excellent battle between two talented teams.
The difference, however, would be the location, as New England earned a first-round bye and the right to play at Gillette Stadium. This is important as each of these teams finished the regular season with perfect 8-0 marks at home.
On the other hand, Cincinnati went 3-5 on the road this year with only one win in the last four such games.
Still, these are two extremely talented teams that ranked in the top 10 in both points scored and points against. If the Bengals can take care of business against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, they will create an excellent showdown against Tom Brady and company in Round 2.
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