NFL Playoff Bracket 2014: Latest Look at Each Conference After Wild Card Round

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2014

Jan 5, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lambeau Field.  San Francisco won 23-20.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After four thrilling games, the divisional round of the NFL playoffs is set. 

The top two teams from both the AFC and NFC will come in off a week's rest, but won't be able to breeze into the conference championship round easily, as each of the Wild Card Round winners come in with a considerable amount of momentum and realistic Super Bowl hopes.

The NFL playoffs are as do-or-die as it gets and January tends to produce the season's best matchups, with everything on the line between some of the league's best teams. Eight teams remain for the two tickets available to New York for the 2014 Super Bowl and spots are getting thinner by the week. 

Let's break down the updated playoff bracket along with the outlook of both conferences.

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round
AFC Divisional RoundDateTime (ET)TV
Indianapolis Colts at New England PatriotsSat., Jan. 118:10 p.m.CBS
San Diego Chargers at Denver BroncosSun., Jan. 124:40 p.m.CBS
NFC Divisional Round
New Orleans Saints at Seattle SeahawksSat., Jan. 114:35 p.m.Fox
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina PanthersSun., Jan. 121:05 p.m.Fox
ESPN.com

 

NFC 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 04:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to throw a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 4, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by M
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

We're only one week into the postseason in the NFC, but it's already down to just two divisions, as things are now controlled by the NFC South and West. 

The Saints were able to pull away in the third quarter and overcome a late deficit to kick a game-winning field goal in Philadelphia. New Orleans finally found some success on the road, but will need to build upon that given the upcoming test next weekend. 

Dec 29, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) celebrates a touchdown run with Seattle Seahawks tackle Breno Giacomini (68) during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees and company will travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks, who boast a Guinness World Record-holding crowd and dominant 13-3 record.

A late-season loss to the Arizona Cardinals was the team's first at home all season and a week of rest will be a big factor against a Saints team that is still hurting after a tough win.

On the other end of things, Carolina will host the San Francisco 49ers for a trip to the NFC Championship Game. Jim Harbaugh's Niners survived Lambeau Field with a last-second win over Green Bay and they have now won seven straight.

The battle between San Francisco's potent rushing attack, led by Frank Gore, and the stiff Carolina run defense that ranks among the league's best will be a huge indicator of who wins the game. 

There's a decent chance that the NFC will be decided in the championship round between two teams that hail from the same division, which would only up the intensity on an already pressure-filled, looming showdown.

 

AFC

Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) runs the ball away from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (59) during third quarter of the AFC wild card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandator
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC doesn't have to wait until championship weekend to see a potential divisional matchup. 

After the Chargers' against-all-odds charge to the playoffs and upset victory in Cincinnati against the Bengals in the Wild Card Round, San Diego will be meeting a familiar foe in the Denver Broncos. 

The Chargers got the best of Peyton Manning and Denver on Thursday Night Football to give the Broncos their only home loss of the season. Manning only threw two touchdowns and a pick in that game, well off the pace of his 55-touchdown campaign. 

Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mand
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Manning has gone down twice in the postseason to the Chargers in his Colts career and will have to carve up a resurgent San Diego defense in order to get past them this time. Meanwhile, Denver's defense has been suspect and the Chargers boast plenty of offensive weapons. 

The winner of that game will get the winner of another enticing matchup that puts the Indianapolis Colts in New England in a playoff matchup that has become a normality this time of the year. 

Andrew Luck's late heroics led his team over Kansas City in the Wild Card Round, but the Colts will now have to go on the road in a sure-to-be-frigid Gillette Stadium. Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount have led a potent Patriots offense that could give a questionable Colts defense some issues. 

There's a chance we will see Manning and the Broncos against either the Colts or Patriots—either of those matchups would boast an endless amount of huge storylines.