NFL playoff picture

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

A look at the playoff teams as they head into the postseason:
1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) -- Despite a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a meaningless regular-season finale, the Falcons cruised to the top NFC seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Atlanta's success is predicated largely on an offense that ranked No. 5 in the league heading into Week 17. The Falcons' defense rated an unimpressive No. 23.
2. San Francisco 49es (11-4-1) -- The 49ers routed the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to clinch the NFC West championship, and they caught a break when the Green Bay Packers lost. That handed San Francisco a first-round playoff bye. Over the final 10 weeks, San Francisco slipped up just three times: a loss and a tie against the St. Louis Rams, and a blowout defeat at Seattle.
3. Green Bay Packers (11-5) -- With a last-second defeat to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Green Bay blew a chance to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye. Instead, the NFC North champion Packers must play the Vikings again on wild-card weekend. Green Bay might have earned a week off if not for its controversial, Week 3 loss to the Seahawks that ended with a disputed Seattle touchdown.
4. Washington Redskins (10-6) -- The Redskins made a late charge into contention, winning seven in a row to erase a 3-6 start. They're led by electric rookie QB Robert Griffin and another first-year workhorse RB Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick who finished with over 1,600 rushing yards.
5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) -- The Seahawks captured the NFC's top wild-card spot by winning their final five regular-season games, including Sunday's finale against the Rams. Seattle's December wins included a 23-17 overtime decision at Chicago and a 42-13 home blowout of San Francisco. The Seahawks open the postseason at Washington.
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) -- A home win over the Packers on Sunday earned the Vikings the final NFC playoff berth. Minnesota went 4-0 down the stretch, including a win over the Bears, allowing the Vikings to surge past Chicago on a tiebreaker (better division record).

1. Denver Broncos (13-3) -- The Broncos closed with an 11-game winning streak, and they secured a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs when the Houston Texans slipped up and dropped their last two games. Denver won the AFC West by a six-game margin. In his first season with his new team, Peyton Manning posted the second-highest passing yardage total of his career (4,659).
2. New England Patriots (12-4) -- The Patriots shut out the Miami Dolphins 28-0 Sunday to capture the second AFC bye. New England also cruised in its division, winning the AFC East by five games.
3. Houston Texans (12-4) -- The top team in the conference for most of the season, the Texans dropped three of their final four games. The skid forces the AFC South champs into a first-round playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) -- The Ravens captured the AFC North title by a tiebreaker over the Bengals. However, Baltimore wrapped up the division early, allowing coach John Harbaugh to rest key players in the regular-season finale. The Ravens slide into the playoff having lost four of their past five.
5. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) -- The league's surprise team earned the top AFC wild-card spot a year after finishing with the NFL's worst record. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led the Colts to five wins in the past six weeks, giving the team plenty of momentum heading into the first-round playoff matchup at Baltimore.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) -- After going 3-5 in the season's first half, the Bengals went 7-1 in the second half. Cincinnati won its final three regular-season games.

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