For football fans around the world, the wait is over. After a long, grueling season that featured many twists and turns, the 2013 NFL playoffs are finally upon us. This year’s postseason features a perfect blend of youth and experience. While some stellar rookies led their respective squads to surprising seasons, household names also came up big in the biggest games of the year.
Storylines abound for the 2013 NFL playoffs. You can follow all the action, track your favorite team, make your predictions, or get involved in an office or friendly pool with a complimentary NFL playoff bracket. These brackets will keep you up-to-date from Wild Card weekend all the way through Super Bowl XLVII.
2013 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Rookies
The opening round of the 2013 NFL playoffs will be headlined by the three rookie quarterbacks that stole the show during the regular season. On the NFC side of the playoff bracket, two of the rookies will meet as Robert Griffin III and the Redskins will square off with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in Washington. The ‘Skins traded up to take “RG3” with the second overall pick, while Seattle snagged Wilson in the third round. The duel-threat signal-callers each guided their teams to double-digit wins in their first season.
The opening-round game with the most storylines is unquestionably the AFC Wild Card bout between the Colts and Ravens in Baltimore. After finishing 2-14 last season, the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. Luck went on to lead Indianapolis to a surprising 11-5 record and a Wild Card berth. Luck played much of the season without head coach Chuck Pagano, who endured a battle with leukemia and returned to the sidelines for the final game of the season.
The Colts aren’t the only ones with storylines in this affair, as star Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced days before the game that the 2013 NFL playoffs will mark the end of his career. The 37-year-old Lewis is hanging up his cleats after 17 NFL seasons. Lewis is the last remaining original Raven and was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.
2013 NFL Playoffs: Legends and Legacies
While the rookies garnered the bulk of the attention during the regular season, the 2013 NFL playoffs wouldn’t be complete without a pair of quarterbacking legends attempting to cement their legacies. Peyton Manning returned from a one-year absence and guided the Denver Broncos to the best record in the AFC. Manning enters the 2013 NFL playoffs as a leading candidate for both Comeback Player of the Year and league MVP.
While Manning captured the Lombardi Trophy and MVP honors while with the Colts in Super Bowl XLI, his interception returned by Tracy Porter for a touchdown was the back-breaking play in a Super Bowl XLIV loss to the New Orleans Saints. The 36-year-old Manning has just a 9-10 record in playoff games and has one fewer Super Bowl ring than younger brother and Giants quarterback, Eli.
Manning isn’t the only future Hall-of-Famer looking to add to his legacy. Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to the second-best record in the AFC during the regular season. The 35-year-old Brady is already a three-time Super Bowl champion, but has come up short against Eli and the Giants in his last two appearances in the big game, including last season. Brady enters the 2013 NFL playoffs looking to become the first quarterback to lead a team to six Super Bowls.
2013 NFL Playoffs: Open Questions
The 2013 NFL playoffs are full of open questions. After leading the Atlanta Falcons to the best record in the NFC, can quarterback Matt Ryan finally get his first playoff victory? Will 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh regret his decision to go with Colin Kapernick at quarterback over Alex Smith, who led second-seeded San Francisco to the conference title game just last season?
Can the Houston Texans recover from their late season swoon, or will the Cincinnati Bengals pick up their first playoff victory since 1991? Days after finishing just short in his pursuit of the single-season rushing record, can Adrian Peterson lead the Minnesota Vikings to another upset win over the Green Bay Packers?
All these questions and more will be answered when the 2013 NFL playoffs get underway on Saturday, January 5th. The conference championship games will take place on Sunday, January 20th before the season culminates with Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans on Sunday, February 3rd.