The NFL announced its full 2011 playoff schedule on Sunday night, with wild-card weekend highlighted by a rematch of last year's AFC championship game.
The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts will face off in primetime on Saturday night, 50 weeks after Peyton Manning(notes) led his team to an AFC title over Rex Ryan and the Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis rebounded from a 6-6 mark in early December to rally for four straight wins to close out the team's seventh division title in the past eight years. Manning and the Colts are slight favorites over an 11-5 Jets team that has been playing inconsistent football since racing to a 5-1 start.
[Related: Unceremonious ending for legend Brett Favre]
A matchup between two of the top quarterbacks in football will be the featured game on Sunday, when Aaron Rodgers(notes) and the Green Bay Packers travel to Philadelphia to play Michael Vick(notes) and the Philadelphia Eagles. On Christmas, Philly was considered one of the favorites in the NFC, but two straight losses to finish the season have some predicting a Green Bay upset. Don't read too much into Philly's problems, though; losing that bizarre Tuesday game and a meaningless Week 17 affair in Dallas shouldn't outweigh the successes Vick and the Eagles had throughout the season.
The other two games will pit strong wild-card teams against the weakest division winners. The Seattle Seahawks became the first 7-9 team to win a division by virtue of an ugly victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday night. Pete Carroll's squad will host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the wild-card opener on Saturday afternoon. The next day, Baltimore will face off against the surprise AFC West champions Kansas City Chiefs. Both road teams are favored, but don't put it in the books just yet. Seattle and Kansas City are two of the toughest places to play in football, so both games (particularly Ravens-Chiefs) could surprise.
[Related: Can John Elway save the Broncos?]
Two of the wild-card games are rematches: Green Bay earned a 27-20 victory in Philadelphia in Week 1 and New Orleans easily handled Seattle in a Week 11 game at the Superdome.
The full schedule:
Saturday, Jan. 8
Sunday, Jan. 9
Saturday, Jan. 15
4:30 p.m. ET – Best remaining AFC seed (Indianapolis, Kansas City or Baltimore) at Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS)
8 p.m. ET – Worst remaining NFC seed (Seattle, New Orleans or Green Bay) at Atlanta Falcons (FOX)
Sunday, Jan. 16
1 p.m. ET – Best remaining NFC seed (Philadelphia, Seattle or New Orleans) at Chicago Bears (FOX)
4:30 p.m. ET – Worst remaining AFC seed (Kansas City, Baltimore, New York Jets) at New England Patriots (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 23
3:00 p.m. ET – NFC championship at best remaining seed (FOX)
6:30 p.m. ET -- AFC championship at best remaining seed (CBS)
Super Bowl XLV
Sunday, Feb. 6
6:30 p.m. ET – NFC winner vs. AFC winner, at Cowboys Stadium (FOX)
1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
2. Chicago Bears (11-5)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
4. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
5. New Orleans Saints (11-5)*
6. Green Bay Packers (10-6)*
1. New England Patriots (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
3. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
5. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)*
6. New York Jets (11-5)*
* Wild-card qualifiers
- New York Jets
- Indianapolis Colts
- Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles
- New Orleans Saints