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Most Intriguing NFL Playoff Matchups through Week 9

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Seven of the most intriguing potential 2012 NFL Playoff matchups

Thomas J. Russo-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 NFL season is officially past the midway point, and what an exciting bit of football it has been so far. We’ve had high-scoring shootouts, upsets that no one could have predicted and record-breaking performances from unexpected sources.

All of this is leading up to what every NFL team hopes to be a part of when January rolls around: the NFL Playoffs.

Consisting of three weekends of madness followed by one Sunday of pure football ecstasy, the NFL Playoffs are the culmination of year-round speculation and analysis. After an entire regular season of guessing and waiting, the 12 teams that earned their right into the postseason finally get to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs.

If the NFL Playoffs started today, the first round would look like this:

New England Patriots (third in AFC) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (sixth in AFC)

Denver Broncos (fourth in AFC) vs. Indianapolis Colts (fifth in AFC)

Houston Texans (first in AFC) and Baltimore Ravens (second in AFC) have a bye

San Francisco 49ers (third in NFC) vs. Seattle Seahawks (sixth in NFC)

New York Giants (fourth in NFC) vs. Green Bay Packers (fifth in NFC)

Atlanta Falcons (first in NFC) and Chicago Bears (second in NFC)

These matchups, however, are obviously far from cemented with seven weeks of NFL action still to come. With several teams still in the hunt and only a win or two away from being in the playoff picture, anything can happen between now and January.

Here’s a look at seven of the most intriguing potential playoff matchups that this January could serve up.

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7. Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers


An AFC West showdown in the playoffs? How could that be? The division as a whole has been lackluster at best this season, so the thought of two of these teams making it to the postseason is intriguing in of itself. What’s more baffling is the idea that Philip Rivers could lead the Chargers to the playoffs at this point in his career. And yet, it’s definitely not out of the question. The Broncos, however, wouldn’t have too much trouble disposing of an inconsistent San Diego team that is surprisingly in possession of the AFC’s seventh seed at the moment.

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6. San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks


Although a battle between the assumed shoe-in for the NFC West and the conference dark horse would be exciting, the main attraction would be Russell Wilson’s first playoff appearance as an NFL quarterback. The rookie gunslinger has exceeded expectations in 2012 and is leading a middle-of-the-road Seahawks passing attack to consistent wins. Maybe we’d even be lucky enough to see another one of those absurd Marshawn Lynch runs…

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5. Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Who doesn’t love a good NFC North showdown to make things interesting in the postseason? While the Bears will likely end up with a first-round bye, the Packers and Vikings could battle as the third and sixth seeds for a change to take on their other divisional rival in the Divisional Round. It would be interesting to see if an inefficient Vikings defense can slow down Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team that knows the pressures of being in the playoffs. Victory is always within reach when Adrian Peterson is on your side, though, so don't think that the Vikings are out of the playoff picture just yet.

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4. Atlanta Falcons vs. Chicago Bears


When one of the most efficient offenses faces off against the most dominant defense in recent history, the only possible result is great football. While Matt Ryan and the Falcons have rolled their way to 8-0 on the season, the Bears and their point-producing defense have risen to the top of the NFC North. If these two teams wound up in a 60-minute war, the ultimate outcome would likely come down to whether or not Jay Cutler could keep his composure and put his quarterbacking talents to good use.

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3. New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers


Defense wins championships. That’s how the saying goes, and it has stood true for the most part over the past decade. So what would happen if the Patriots’ No. 1 offense went head-to-head against the Steelers’ No. 1 defense? While the Steelers have done a tremendous job of nullifying any opposing offense that dares snap the ball, the Patriots have put on offensive clinics this season while racking up heaping piles of points. Although it’s hard to imagine anyone slowing down Tom Brady and his improved running game, the Steelers would be a formidable foe.

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2. New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

In a rematch of last year’s NFC Divisional Round, the Packers would look to enact revenge on a Giants team that bounced them from the postseason on their way to a dramatic Super Bowl victory. With the way that both teams are playing so far in 2012, this would end up being another shootout that came down to which offense could be more explosive. Both Rodgers and Eli Manning are hungry for another Super Bowl ring, but which one wants it more?

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1. Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck: the aging elite against the young star-in-the-making. It’s a playoff matchup that no one would ever have expected. And yet, that’s how the first round of the AFC Playoffs would play out if they started today. What’s even more ironic is the fact that the two quarterbacks each have 2,404 passing yards and their teams are both 5-3 through Week 9. Although Manning has a tad more postseason experience, this would be a matchup for the ages.

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