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The NFL Playoffs consist of twelve teams. Six from the American Football Conference (AFC) and six from the National Football Conference (NFC). The one through four seeds in each conference have won their division (North, South, East, West). The five and six seeds are called wild card teams. They didn’t win their division, but are still good enough to be given a chance to win their way to the Super Bowl. Although, the odds are never in their favor.

The one and two seeds get a bye week for the first playoff round. They don’t have to play because they have the two best records in the conference and deserve to rest since they are so good. No matter what playoff round it is, the higher seed gets the advantage by playing a home game. The lowest team in each round has to play the highest team. If seeds one, two, four and five are left after this round, the five seed would play the one seed on their field and the four seed would play the two seed on their field. With the rules in mind, let’s get into the playoff teams and the drama surrounding each team.

NFC #1 Seed

The Carolina Panthers are 15-1. They started the season 14-0 due to their MVP type performance from their Quarterback, Cam Newton. Let’s not forget about Cam’s favorite target in Greg Olsen who came out of nowhere and had a great receiving year as a tight end. No other team has a better record, but there is a lot of concern that they won’t make it to the Super Bowl. What seemed like a dominant team early in the season, has slowly won their games by fewer points than before and eventually lost to the Atlanta Falcons, who finished the season 8-8. The Panthers can match up with any offense in the league, but the defense is in question. Although their corner back, Josh Norman, had an outstanding defensive year, he can’t carry the team on his back. Remember, defense wins championships.

AFC #1 Seed

The Denver Broncos are 12-4. They started the season 7-0 before losing to the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos have the league’s number one defense, but other than that, nothing really interesting happened with them during the season. They finished the season with a 5-4 record the last 9 games and don’t have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs. Of course, Peyton Manning is back. After the future hall of fame quarterback had the worst start to a season in his career and got injured, he returned in week 17 and led the Broncos to a victory to secure the top playoff seed. Will this be Peyton’s story book ending where he wins it all, or will the shaky Broncos’ offense lead to their demise?

NFC #2 Seed

The Arizona Cardinals are 13-3. The Cardinals rattled off nine straight wins in the middle of the season thanks to 36 year-old Carson Palmer. Their quarterback was a shock this season after failing miserably in his tenure at Cincinnati. Whatever he did in the offseason definitely worked for him and has made Madden pick the Cardinals to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Although many have picked them for the Super Bowl, they did get blown out by the Seahawks in their last game of the season. They scored a whopping six points, while their defense gave up 36. After that performance, many wonder if their record was due to playing easy opponents all year. Nobody really knows if they’re the real deal, but we’ll find out soon enough.

AFC #2 Seed

The New England Patriots are 12-4. The Patriots started the season 10-0 before losing to the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady looked like his usual MVP form early in the season, but that was due to all of his weapons at wide receiver. Since a couple of his targets had season ending injuries or ones that sidelined them for weeks, Tom Brady has led his team to a 2-4 record to end the season. This does not look like the powerful New England Patriots that we all love to hate. This is more of the team that has Cable instead of Direct TV. Brady definitely knows how to win in the playoffs, so don’t count them out at all. He definitely has the money to pay for a lifetime of Direct TV.

NFC #3 Seed

The Minnesota Vikings are 11-5. The Vikings had an impressive three game win streak to end the season and win their division. They were a shock this year as a young Teddy Bridgewater led his team to beat many tough opponents. Adrian Peterson was a big help as he led the NFL in rushing yards. This was also a surprise, being that his career was almost terminated after being suspended for a year due to certain allegations. The Vikings aren’t a commonly talked about team when it comes to the Super Bowl, but they might be able to sneak their way in there.

AFC #3 Seed

The Cincinnati Bengals are 12-4. The Bengals dominated the AFC North and their only loss was to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They started 8-0 and was led by their red-headed quarterback, Andy Dalton. Dalton had the Bengals on track for a great season until he broke his thumb in the loss to the Steelers. Many believed that the Bengals’ season was over, but A.J. McCarron replaced Dalton and the team seemed to never skip a beat. A.J. will play in his first playoff game, but luck is not on his side. The Bengals have lost seven straight playoff games and have not won one since 1991. We’ll see if Dalton’s luck of the Irish helps the Bengals break their streak.

NFC #4 Seed

The Washington Redskins are 9-7. The Redskins didn’t have an impressive win streak and didn’t dominate any teams, but their quarterback was nothing less than impeccable. Kirk Cousins is one of those feel good stories. He was drafted with the intent to always be the backup to Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III. When the Redskins realized that Robert wasn’t an NFL caliber quarterback, they put in Kirk Cousins for the heck of it. They haven’t looked back since. Cousins’ 4,166 passing yards was the most in his career and broke the franchise’s single-season passing yards record. He is one of the hottest quarterbacks at the moment, but his lack of experience in the playoffs could lead to the derailing of his pass game.

AFC #4 Seed

The Houston Texans are 9-7. J.J. Watt. That’s all that could be said about the Texans. Most people don’t know who their quarterback is because of all the injuries and couldn’t tell you who a receiver is, but all they know is that J.J. Watt is a monster. Listed at 6’5” and 289lbs of pure muscle, Watt has possibly reinvented the game as a defensive end. He doesn’t rely on spin moves or throwing dirt in opponents’ faces. He relies on pure speed and strength. He once again led the NFL in sacks and Houston needs him to be on his A- game if they have any chance of moving on in the playoffs.

NFC #5 Seed

The Green Bay Packers are 10-6. The Packers started the season 6-0, but have not been that team for a while. They finished off the season with a 4-6 record and have struggled mightily on defense. The packers’ running back, Eddie Lacey, has had a more than disappointing performance this year as he was finally benched for not contributing to the Packers’ wins. After having a breakout season the year before, it looks like Lacey won’t have much of a future in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, but he won’t be able to win every game by himself.

AFC #5 Seed

The Kansas City Chiefs are 11-5. The Chiefs got off to a terrible start after losing five of their first six games. They are currently on a ten game winning streak and it looks like there is no stopping them now. After being released by the 49ers, Kansas City picked up quarterback Alex Smith and the rest is history. Smith isn’t a flashy quarterback that breaks passing records or is in the media every other day. He has quietly become a consistent quarterback and has led the Chiefs to a playoff berth. Like the Bengals, luck is not on their side either. Kansas City has lost eight straight playoff games dating back to 1994. Unfortunately for them, there’s no luck of the Irish to be found in Alex Smith’s hair.

NFC #6 Seed

The Seattle Seahawks are 10-6. The Seahawks struggled throughout the first half of the season. Marshawn Lynch came into the season being known for his powerful runs and skittles. By the end of the season, he lost his starting job and was replaced by Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers for Skittles promotions. Russel Wilson obviously didn’t care about the rainbow and took the team under control. He caught fire towards the end of the season and looks better and more confident heading into the playoffs than any previous year. The Seahawks are looking to return to the Super Bowl for the third straight year.

AFC #6 Seed

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-6. The Steelers aren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. The New York Jets had to beat the Buffalo Bills and they would be in the playoffs. The Jets lost and the Steelers snuck their way in. Pittsburgh is led by their veteran quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger, who was injured for a month with foot and knee injuries. Ben has slowly figured out the Pittsburgh offense and has put up an average of 30 points in the last seven games. The three headed monster in Martavius Bryant, Marcus Wheaton and Antonio Brown is pretty much unstoppable when Ben has his A- game. This caused Madden to pick the Steelers winning the Super Bowl and claiming their seventh Lombardi Trophy.

These playoffs are sure to be interesting. It’s the final journey for a Hall of Fame quarterback, both six seeds are favored to go to the Super Bowl by many analysts, two playoff losing streaks are on the line and bragging rights for the next year are at stake. Super Bowl 50 will be a great one to watch no matter who the teams are.

Start watching the playoffs from the beginning.

1/9 Kansas City @ Houston 4:20 p.m. ABC/ESPN

1/9 Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati 8:15 p.m. CBS

1/10 Seattle @ Minnesota 1:05 p.m. NBC

1/10 Green Bay @ Washington 4:40 p.m. FOX

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