The 2013 NFL regular season is over, and the 12 teams, most of them already comfortably in before the final week, are the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers from the NFC and the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers from the AFC.
The Seahawks, Panthers, Broncos and Patriots have the bye week, while the games that will be played next weekend will involve the Chiefs playing in Indianapolis, the Saints playing in Philadelphia, Chargers in Cincinnati and the 49ers in Green Bay.
Seattle Seahawks (bye week, 13-3): The Seahawks make the playoffs for the second straight season, this time finishing as the #1 team in the NFC, and their best regular season record since 2005, which ended for them with a Super Bowl appearance which they lost. The Seahawks have lost only one game at home this season, and all their three losses this season have come by 7 points or less. It’s probably going to be the defense that makes the difference for them, ranked 1st in the NFL against the pass and 7th against the rush.
Denver Broncos (bye week, 13-3): The Broncos finish the season in the same spot as they were last year – number one in the conference, with the exactly same record. The difference? Peyton Manning broke quite a lot of records along the way. Their defense is a problem, their offense is almost unstoppable, and they also lost only one game at home this season, coming against the Chargers.
Carolina Panthers (bye week, 12-4): Despite a 1-3 start to the season, the Panthers enjoy a strong finish that included beating both the Patriots and the Saints to make sure they have at least on game at home. This is the first postseason appearance for the Panthers since 2008, surprising everyone with the Cam Newton – Ron Rivera combination many didn’t think would work, with an incredible front seven, probably the best in the league, being their strong asset.
New England Patriots (bye week, 12-4): So many injuries and Tom Brady clearly declining, but the Patriots remain the same team they always were. Clear flaws and faults but with a head coach that’s good enough to mask them, at least until the playoffs. The Patriots are perfect at home which means it’s going to be hard denying them reaching the conference championship game. It is the fifth consecutive postseason appearance for them.
Philadelphia Eagles (vs Saints, 10-6): All it took was changing the head coach and moving away from the Michael Vick disaster. Nick Foles put on quite an incredible second half to the season, culminating in the big 24-22 win in Dallas over the Cowboys to put the Eagles in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Cincinnati Bengals (vs Chargers, 11-5): The third consecutive postseason appearance for the Bengals despite the mediocre (And sometimes awful) play of their quarterback, but it’s been a very long time since they’ve had a home game to begin the postseason with. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1990.
Green Bay Packers (vs 49ers, 8-7-1): For the second straight season, the Packers play the 49ers for a second time. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb have come just in time as the Packers had to beat the Bears in the final game of the season to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, even though their regular season record was their worst since the 2008 season.
Indianapolis Colts (vs Chiefs, 11-5): Andrew Luck put on a great season and the Colts managed to do without the injured Reggie Wayne, partially thanks to a very easy division and meanwhile beating almost every Super Bowl contender there is, including the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. The Colts have now made the postseason twice in Luck’s two years since entering the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers (at Packers, 12-4): Play on the road despite a better record than their rivals. The 49ers make the playoffs for a third straight season, although without home advantage for at least one game to get them through. They’ve already beaten the Packers once this year, and have had a tendency of winning the games they were expected to and losing to better teams.
Kansas City Chiefs (at Colts, 11-5): A terrible finish to the season brings the Chiefs to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, hoping to pick up their first postseason win since 1993. They lost to the Colts, the team they’re playing against, 23-7 when the two met for the first time in Indianapolis. One of the big problems will be their declining defense, ranked in the bottom 10 of the NFL against the pass and the run.
New Orleans Saints (at Eagles, 11-5): The Saints finished undefeated at home but only 3-5 on the road, with Drew Brees’ play significantly dropping once he gets out of the dome. It is the return to the playoffs for the Saints after the Sean Payton-less season in 2012, making it the fifth postseason appearance for the Payton-Brees tandem since teaming up in 2006.
San Diego Chargers (at Cincinnati, 9-7): Winning five of the last six games, including in Denver and twice against the Chiefs, puts the Chargers in the playoffs for the first time after missing out three consecutive times. This was the comeback year for Philip Rivers, but it also puts them in Cincinnati, a team they lost to 17-10 on December 1 in San Diego.