The NFL playoffs begin on Saturday and Sunday, January 5-6, with Wild Card Weekend. On Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals play at the Houston Texans (NBC, 4:30 PM ET) and the Minnesota Vikings visit the Green Bay Packers (NBC, 8:00 PM ET). Wild Card Weekend continues Sunday with the Indianapolis Colts at the Baltimore Ravens (CBS, 1:00 PM ET) and the Seattle Seahawks traveling to face the Washington Redskins (FOX, 4:30 PM ET).
The following week (January 12-13), the Denver Broncos (Saturday, CBS, 4:30 PM ET) and New England Patriots (Sunday, CBS, 4:30 PM ET) in the AFC and the Atlanta Falcons (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET) and San Francisco 49ers (Saturday, FOX, 8:00 PM ET) in the NFC host the Divisional Playoffs. The Broncos and Falcons own home-field advantage for the Conference Championship Games (January 20) if they win their Divisional contests.
The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, January 27 in Honolulu, Hawaii followed by Super Bowl XLVII on February 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
For the first time since 2005, and just the fifth (2005, 2003, 2000, 1986) since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978, all teams in the playoff field have won at least 10 games.
There are four new playoff teams in 2012: Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle and Washington. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
In the 11 seasons since realignment in 2002, 28 of the 32 NFL teams have won a division title at least once, including the Redskins, who claimed the NFC East for the first time since 1999.
Washington rebounded to win the NFC East after a last-place finish in 2011. This marked the NFL-record 10th consecutive season that a team went from “worst-to-first” in its division.
The 2012 field also showcases teams that have enjoyed recent postseason success. Since realignment in 2002, the Indianapolis Colts have been to the playoffs 10 times, the most in the NFL. The New England Patriots are second with nine postseason berths and the Green Bay Packers rank third with eight playoff appearances.
The Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks are among the teams tied for the fourth-most postseason berths since 2002 with seven.
Four of this season’s 12 playoff teams have won at least one Super Bowl since 2000, capturing six of the past 12 Vince Lombardi Trophies. Those teams are Baltimore (XXXV), Green Bay (XLV), Indianapolis (XLI) and New England (XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX).
The teams with the most seasons participating in the playoffs (includes 2012): New York Giants (31), Dallas Cowboys (30), Green Bay Packers (28) Minnesota (27), Pittsburgh Steelers (27), St. Louis Rams (27).
While home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is a coveted prize, it has been no guarantee of a trip to the Super Bowl. And like so much about the NFL, an unpredictable result is seemingly the only predictable outcome.
Since the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format in 1990, only 21 of the 44 (47.7 percent) No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl, with nine No. 1 seeds being crowned champions (20.5 percent).
The New England Patriots posted a 12-4 record this season and became the 13th Super Bowl runner-up since 1990 to qualify for the playoffs the following year.
The New England Patriots scored an NFL-high 557 points this year, the third-most in a single season in NFL history.
The Washington Redskins have won seven in a row and are the fifth team in NFL history to advance to the playoffs after a 3-6 start.
The Indianapolis Colts, who finished 2-14 in 2011, are the second team to win 11 games following a season with two or fewer victories since 1970.
The Seattle Seahawks finished the 2012 regular season undefeated at home.
Since 2000, only 20 teams have posted a perfect regular-season record at home. Of the previous 19 teams, five have gone to the Super Bowl (26.3 percent).
The Denver Broncos enter the postseason with 11 consecutive victories, the NFL’s longest current winning streak. Denver is the No. 1 seed in the AFC and is tied for the fifth-longest winning streak to enter the playoffs since 1970.
The playoffs have featured at least one overtime game in 10 of the past 12 postseasons.
In 2010, the NFL adopted a modified sudden-death system for the playoffs, which was expanded to cover all NFL games in 2012. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score.
Green Bay Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XLV and was named the MVP of the title game. In seven career playoff games, Rodgers ranks as one of the top postseason quarterbacks in NFL history.
His 105.5 passer rating is the highest mark in NFL postseason history (minimum 150 attempts), just ahead of another Packer, Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr (104.8).
Rodgers has completed 144 of 220 attempts in his postseason career for a 65.5 completion percentage. He is one of only four quarterbacks in NFL playoff history (minimum 150 attempts) to complete at least 65 percent of his passes.
Rodgers has averaged 8.10 yards per pass attempt. He and KURT WARNER are the only quarterbacks in NFL postseason history (minimum 150 attempts) to average at least 8.00 yards per attempt with a completion percentage of at least 65.
Rodgers has thrown only four interceptions in 220 career attempts in the postseason. His 1.8 interception percentage is the third-lowest in NFL postseason history (minimum 150 attempts).
Pro Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning of Denver and Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay have each had a 400-yard passing game in the postseason. Manning had two 400-yard games with Indianapolis (1/9/05 and 1/13/08) and Rodgers threw for 400 yards in a 2009 playoff game (1/10/10).
Drew Brees (three), Manning (two) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (two) are the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 400 yards in multiple playoff games.
There are five players in the 2012 postseason who have been named Super Bowl MVP: quarterback Tom Brady of New England (XXXVI, XXXVIII), wide receiver Deion Branch of New England (XXXIX), linebacker Ray Lewis of Baltimore (XXXV), quarterback Peyton Manning of Denver (XLI with Indianapolis) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay (XLV).
Brady is one of only five players in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP multiple times and aims to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana as the only players to win the award three times.
New England quarterback Tom Brady has a 16-6 (.727) postseason record, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman for the third-best postseason record as a starting quarterback in NFL history (minimum 15 starts).
Brady is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to win at least three Super Bowls.
Only 11 QBs in NFL history have won multiple Super Bowls. Of the 11, three are active and seven have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For the first time in the Super Bowl era, three rookie quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III (Washington), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) – will start a game in the same postseason. Previously, only 11 rookie quarterbacks have started a playoff game in the Super Bowl era.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-most in a season in NFL history (Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, 2,105 in 1984).
Peterson needs 380 yards to pass Terrell Davis (2,476 in 1998) for the most rushing in a single season in NFL history, including the playoffs. Davis, who rushed for 2,476 yards in 1998 for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, had 2,008 rushing yards in the regular season and 468 in the postseason.
There are nine players in the 2012 playoff field who recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards in the regular season: Houston’s Andre Johnson (1,598), Denver’s Demaryius Thomas (1,434), Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne (1,355), New England’s Wes Welker (1,354), Atlanta’s Roddy White (1,351), Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (1,350), Atlanta’s Julio Jones (1,198), San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree (1,105) and Denver’s Eric Decker (1,064).
The No. 1 seed in each conference – Denver (AFC) and Atlanta (NFC) – both had two 1,000-yard receivers.
There have been seven 200-yard receiving games in NFL postseason history. Denver’s Thomas and Indianapolis’ Wayne have each had one such performance.
Indianapolis wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was second among NFL rookies this season with 861 receiving yards. He was one of only three rookie wide receivers with at least 50 catches (50).
In 17 career postseason games, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne has 83 receptions for 1,128 yards.
There have been only 20 punt-return touchdowns in playoff history. The last player with a punt-return touchdown in the postseason was New Orleans’ Reggie Bush in the 2009 Divisional round (83 yards, the third-longest in NFL playoff history). No player has ever recorded more than one in a career.
There have been 22 playoff kickoff-return touchdowns. The last player with a kickoff-return touchdown in the postseason was Atlanta’s Eric Weems in last year’s Divisional round (102 yards, the longest in NFL playoff history). Ron Dixon of the New York Giants (2000-02) is the only player with two career kickoff-return touchdowns in the playoffs.
Four rookies had at least six sacks this season and all four are in this year’s playoff field. Seattle defensive end Bruce Irvin led NFL rookies with eight sacks, followed by New England’s Chandler Jones (six), Houston’s Whitney Mercilus (six) and Denver’s Derek Wolfe (six).
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has 10 postseason sacks in 11 career playoff games. Suggs is currently tied for the seventh-most postseason sacks.
Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed (eight) needs one interception to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott (nine), Bill Simpson (nine) and Charlie Waters (nine) for the most postseason interceptions in league annals.
Green Bay’s Casey Hayward led all NFL rookies with six interceptions, tied for the fifth-most in the league this season.