NFL Playoff Scenarios: Potential Matchups Each Team Wants to Avoid
NFL playoff scenarios are starting to dominate the landscape as teams start to jockey for position and for a spot in the postseason.
The teams who will be standing when the dust of the regular season clears will all say the right things to the press and public before their respective first games. But there's always the one team that fans know have the possibly to destroy their favorite team's season.
The team that always find a way to win against their team, that get all the breaks. The team that possibly might be a better team than their teams.
With that in mind, here are some potential playoff matchups that some teams might not want any part of.
New York Jets-New England Patriots
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Who wants to avoid matchup: New England
A lot will depend on who wins the division and would be the home team in this potential matchup. Monday night's colossal tilt in Foxborough will go a long way to deciding that.
But in the very short time since Rex Ryan has come to New York, he's shown he's not afraid of the Patriots. His defense has proven it can get pressure and knock Tom Brady around, and the Jets offense is good enough to exploit Bill Belichick's D.
Why is home field so important in this matchup? Rex Ryan is 2-1 against the Patriots. Both wins came at home.
Atlanta Falcons-New Orleans Saints
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Both teams
The Falcons might be having their second-best season in franchise history (behind only the Jamal Anderson "Dirty Bird" Falcons that went to the Super Bowl). They've already beaten New Orleans once this season, but that was early on when the Saints seemed to be sleepwalking.
Now the Saints are getting healthier and hitting their stride on offense. Drew Brees can carve up most defenses in the league, and Atlanta's one of them.
On the flip slide, Matt Ryan had a great day against the Saints pass defense earlier in the season and the game could very well be played in Atlanta. Ryan is 19-1 in starts at home. That could very well derail the Saints' chances of a repeat.
Chicago Bears-New York Giants
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Chicago
The only thing that really needs to be said about this matchup can be summed up by watching the highlights of the Bears-Giants matchup from Week 4.
Jay Cutler started the game; Caleb Hanie finished the game, and Cutler sat on the bench nine sacks and a concussion later.
The Giants pass rush can cause havoc with the Bears' porous offensive line and if the two should meet in the playoffs, it could very well be more of the same.
Chicago Bears-Philadelphia Eagles
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Philadelphia
The Bears defense did what no other defense has been able to do this season: slow down and somewhat contain Michael Vick. Sure, the Birds did put up some points at the end of the game, but the Bears still harassed Vick all day. And that's just the defense.
That's not considering Jay Cutler had possibly his best day as a Bear, shredding the depleted Philadelphia secondary for four TDs. Yes, the Eagles were missing Asante Samuel, but the Eagles have struggled on defense and Cutler exploited it.
Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Baltimore
I'm not saying the Steelers have the Ravens' number, because for the last decade it's been a very close and very heated matchup, and both teams have the ability to knock each other out in the postseason.
But the Steelers have beaten the Ravens three straight times in games played late in November or later (including the 2009 AFC Championship Game) and the Ravens have never beaten the Steelers in the playoffs.
Especially with Ben Roethlisberger back and playing well, his ability to buy time and find open receivers breaking coverage after five or 10 seconds can kill the Ravens' thin secondary the same way it did in 2009.
Pittsburgh Steelers-New England Patriots
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Pittsburgh
Simply put, New England owns Pittsburgh. Save for the Steelers beating up on Matt Cassel in 2008, New England and Tom Brady always seem to find a way to beat the Steelers.
Doesn't matter if it's in Gillette Stadium or Heinz Field, Brady wins against the Steelers. Or should we forget the two AFC Championship games Pittsburgh hosted at home that the Pats passed through on the way to the Super Bowl?
Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots
Who wants to avoid matchup: Indianapolis
Peyton Manning has shaken the notion that he can't beat the Patriots, especially in a big game. But he still hasn't proven he can win a playoff game in Foxborough.
There's something about the cold of New England in January that seems to shake the Colts. Then again, a lot of those games were before Peyton finally broke through against the Pats, and those New England defenses were much better than this one.
But as we saw earlier this season, Manning still has demons in New England. And if the Colts want to go back to the Super Bowl, they'll probably have to go through Foxborough to do so.
Atlanta Falcons-Any Team Outdoors
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Who wants to avoid matchup: Atlanta
Inside the Georgia Dome, the Falcons have been unbeatable and one of the best teams in the NFL. But they've played outdoors three times this season, and lost two of them. One was the season-opening loss to Pittsburgh and the other was a blowout loss in Philadelphia.
If Atlanta has to play outside in the elements in January, it could really take away the speed factor for the Falcons and could rattle them.
Starting this week in Tampa, the Falcons play three straight road games outdoors, including a trip to Seattle. They'll have to prove they can play outdoors.
San Diego Chargers-AFC East
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Who wants to avoid matchup: San Diego
During the Bolts' recent run of division titles and playoff berths, the Chargers have beaten the Colts more times than they've beaten the AFC East—specifically the Jets and Patriots. Since 2004, the Chargers have played four playoff games against the AFC East, two against the Jets and two against the Patriots. Three of those were at home with the Chargers the higher seed.
They've lost all four.
Chances are if San Diego can take the division, they will have to face either the Jets or the Patriots. If San Diego wants to finally reach its potential, they have to beat the East eventually.
NFC West-Any Playoff Team
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Who wants to avoid matchup: NFC West
Think about this. The Rams lead this division right now. They're 5-6. The Cardinals are in last place and by far the worst team in this division.
They're two games back.
Every team in the NFC West has struggled mightily this season. And it's pretty clear that whoever wins this division will have a hard time with the wild card team that will have a better record.
And just think, whoever wins this division will have a home game.