NFL Playoff Schedule: Breaking Down Every First-Round Matchup

Matt BuschCorrespondent IIIJanuary 3, 2011

NFL Playoff Schedule: Breaking Down Every First-Round Matchup

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The 2010 NFL regular season has come to an end.

    The final week of the season was crucial to many teams. Heading into Week 17, the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars were all still in the hunt for the final playoff spots.

    The Packers' win over the Bears eliminated the Giants and Buccaneers.

    The Colts eliminated the Jaguars after beating the Titans.

    And after the Sunday Night Football game, the Seahawks were crowned NFC West champions (as the first-ever division winner with a losing record at 7-9) and eliminated the Rams.

    So the playoff teams are set. And the march to the Super Bowl begins next Saturday.

    Here is a look at all the Week 1 playoff games.

Game One: New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Saturday, Jan. 8  4:30 p.m. ET

    The New Orleans Saints begin their Super Bowl title defense on the road in Seattle. The Saints earned the first of two Wild Card spots in the NFC, finishing behind the division-rival Atlanta Falcons.

    The fifth-ranked Saints should be favored despite being on the road. The Saints, behind last year's Super Bowl MVP, Drew Brees, sport the second-ranked passing offense in the NFL with 282.2 yards a game.

    The Seattle Seahawks locked up the NFC West with a victory over the St Louis Rams. The home-field advantage will be key for a team that may be missing its starting quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck.

    The Seahawks will need to rely on winning a turnover battle and playing the field position game if they are going to have a chance. They cannot let the game turn into a shootout or the Saints will plainly outgun them.

     

    War within the War

    Russell Okung, the starting left tackle for the Seahawks, has been battling injury all season and was forced to leave once again midway through the Rams game.

    The Seahawks have struggled to move the ball without Okung this year and the Seahawks may be without Okung for the playoffs.

    Should he be out, the main battle to watch for is Will Smith, right defensive end for the Saints, taking on Tyler Polumbus (or whoever the Seahawks use to replace Okung), the left tackle for the Seahawks.

     

    Prediction

    Saints 31, Seahawks 17

Game Two: New York Jets (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Saturday, Jan. 8   8:00 p.m. ET

    The Indianapolis Colts are in the unusual position (for them) of having to play a playoff game without a first-round bye.

    The Colts have been decimated by injuries to many offensive weapons this season. From Dallas Clark, to Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon, Donald Brown, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez have all missed time this season.

    Despite this, Peyton Manning has still been able to guide the Colts to an AFC South title even with one of his worst statistical seasons to date.

    The Colts still had the top-ranked passing game in the NFL with over 290 yards per game. This was due to a complete inability to run the ball.

    The Colts ranked 30th in the NFL at rushing the ball, but with the return of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, the Colts could be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.

    The New York Jets have been one of the best running teams in the NFL over the last few seasons and 2010 was no exception. With a world-class offensive line and LaDainian Tomlinson having a career resurgence, the Jets ranked as the sixth-best rushing game in the NFL.

    The Jets will rely on second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. He will be making his second run at a Super Bowl. Last year as a rookie, he led the Jets to an AFC Championship game before falling to the Colts.

    Sanchez has had his ups and downs in his sophomore year. The Jets added weapons for Sanchez to utilize in their playoff run, including former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

     

    War Within the War

    The Colts will be trying to run against the fifth-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. This game will be won or lost by how well the Colts offensive line can make holes for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. If they aren't able to open lanes for the backs, they will have to rely on the passing game.

    If the Colts become one-dimensional, look for Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to make some plays on passes from Manning.

     

    Prediction:

    Jets 27, Colts 24

Game Three: Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

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    Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

    Sunday, Jan. 9  1:00 p.m. ET

    The Baltimore Ravens were a team that expected to be one of the top teams in the AFC this season. They have delivered on their promise.

    The Joe Flacco-led offense has been suitable to usually put up enough points for their superb defense to hold onto a lead. Flacco has become the quarterback that the franchise has been desperately looking for since it moved to Baltimore. 

    This season Flacco has been surrounded by much more talent at the skill positions. The Ravens brought in receivers TJ Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin to bolster the corps of receivers.

    Add them to one of the top running backs in the AFC in Ray Rice and the offense can really put up points in bunches at times.

    But everyone knows the Ravens are known for their defense and 2010 has just proven yet again why they have earned this reputation.

    The defense is led by Ray Lewis, who is once again a Pro Bowler. The Ravens give up the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL at only 94.2.

    The Kansas City Chiefs on the other hand were not expecting to be a playoff squad this year.

    Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have been running wild this season, to the tune of an NFL-best 167.5 yards per game.

    Charles in particular has been spectacular. He averaged 6.38 yards per carry in 2010, the second-highest average in NFL history, only behind Jim Brown who set the record 47 years ago.

    Along with the running game, the passing game has been a big plus for the Chiefs this year. Despite only averaging 192 yards per game, Matt Cassel has put up Pro Bowl numbers this year.

    Cassel has thrown for 3,001 yards and 27 touchdowns and only been picked off five times. He has had a great target to throw to all season in Dwayne Bowe. Bowe hauled in 67 passes for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

    The Chiefs defense is a young and talented squad that has improved all season. Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry form one of the best defensive back combos in the league.

    Add that to Tamba Hali, who should have been a Pro Bowler this season, and the Chiefs can cause many problems to opposing offenses.

     

    War within the War

    The Ravens' fourth-ranked run defense will need to contain Jamaal Charles if they want to move on. If Kevin Gregg and Haloti Ngata can penetrate the Chiefs line up the middle, that will allow Ray Lewis to limit Charles' effectiveness.  

     

    Prediction:

    Chiefs 20, Ravens 17

Game Four: Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Sunday, Jan. 9   4:30 p.m. ET

    The Green Bay Packers clinched the sixth-and-final NFC playoff spot with a win over the Chicago Bears in Week 17.

    The Packers have been one of the most injured teams in the NFL this season. They have lost starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett and Morgan Burnett for the season.

    Aaron Rodgers has been able to compensate for the injuries with another great statistical season. He threw for nearly 3,900 yards to go along with his 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    The Packers' ground game is nothing to write home about. Without Grant since Week 1, Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, and James Starks have filled in to varying success.

    But the Packers are built to beat you through the air and they can come at you in waves. The Packers can go four deep at the receiver position and live off of spreading out the defense so Rodgers can pick them apart.

    The Packers defense has been one of the best in all of the NFL. They rank fifth in passing yards allowed and can offer numerous blitz packages that get sacks and force turnovers. The Packers forced the sixth most turnovers in the NFL and had the fifth-best turnover ratio at plus-10.

    The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East and earned the third rank in the NFC playoffs.

    The Eagles season has really gone how Michael Vick has gone and that has been up and up for the most part.

    Vick took over the starting job after Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the Week 1 game versus the Packers with a concussion.

    Vick has led one of the youngest, most athletic offensive squads in the NFL. With Vick, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy, the Eagles offer some of the biggest-play ability in the league.

    Vick is obviously the key here. He has not played as dominantly as he had earlier in the season. Vick has turned the ball over seven times in his last five games after not turning the ball over at all through week 11.

    Despite the turnovers, Vick has helped lead the Eagles to the eighth-ranked passing game and third-ranked rushing game in the NFL.

    The Eagles defense is run very similar to the Packers defense. They run constant blitzes from many different areas and have ball hawks in the secondary that force turnovers. Asante Samuel has led their secondary once again with seven interceptions this year.

     

    War within the War

    Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson will blitz Vick constantly throughout the game. Matthews and Woodson must contain Vick and not leave the middle of the field open to where Vick can burn the Packers with his legs.

    During the Week 1 matchup that the Packers won 27-20 against the Eagles, Vick nearly brought the Eagles all the way back to victory after taking over for Kolb.

    The Packers led at one point 20-3 before Vick came into the game. Vick went off for 175 yards passing and 103 rushing yards while only playing the second half in that game.

     

    Prediction

    Philadelphia 31, Green Bay 24