The NFL playoffs are just getting started, but we can already see a few storylines to watch for this week.
Let’s start with a look at how the NFL’s playoff scenarios have unfolded this week, and why each one has become more significant.
Week 1: New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots have won their last five games, including a win over the Ravens.
Since then, they’ve lost four straight and have dropped three straight.
New England’s offense has been a mess, averaging fewer than 31 points per game and averaging just 18.5 points per contest.
This could change this week against a Saints defense that has allowed a whopping 10.8 points per drive, second-worst in the NFL behind the Jets.
The Ravens defense, meanwhile, has allowed the league’s third-most points per pass attempt (14.6), third-best in the league behind the Eagles (18.1) and Steelers (19.1).
It’s been a tough start for both offenses, with both scoring just three points in their first two drives against New Orleans, before the Saints defense held the Pats offense to only two points on the next two drives.
Both offenses have a chance to improve as they head into the bye week.
Week 2: New York Giants and Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans.
The Giants are coming off a win in Washington, and they’ll be coming to town for a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game.
Philadelphia has been the NFC’s best defense since Week 1, allowing just 2.3 points per play and allowing just 17.4 points per attempt.
The Eagles defense, however, has been anemic as well, allowing an NFL-low 19.3 yards per attempt on the season, third-lowest in the conference.
The Titans have also allowed a league-high 26.5 yards per game, second in the NFC behind the Bears.
They’ll be trying to stay in the playoff race despite an early loss.
Week 3: Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets vs. San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
This one’s a toss-up between the Chargers and Dolphins, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on their matchup.
San Francisco has had a difficult start to the season against the Colts, as they’ve only won two of their last six games.
San Jose has also been a poor offensive team with just 18 points per outing, second worst in the AFC behind the Dolphins (18).
Both teams have had some struggles on defense this season, allowing a league high 41.3 rushing yards per contest on the year.
If either team can get back on track against the Chargers, it could make the difference between making the playoffs and not.
Week 4: Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons.
The Bengals are still in the thick of the playoff hunt, but they’ve struggled against the Steelers this year, allowing 17.1 points per offensive possession.
Pittsburgh has also had a tough road to the playoffs, giving up more than 10 points per possession in four straight games.
The Falcons defense has been one of the NFL most stout in the second half of the season.
They’ve allowed just 13.8 yards per drive and have given up just 10 points in the last three games.
If they can put some points on Cleveland, that could be enough to give them the edge.
Week 5: Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia 76ers vs. Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers.
The Packers are in a great position against the Cardinals, who have struggled in their past two games against Green Bay.
The Cardinals defense has allowed just 2,931 passing yards per season, second best in the division behind the Packers (2,952).
Carolina has allowed 4,069 yards per offense, fifth most in the nation.
The Panthers offense is averaging just 15.7 yards per play, fifth-worst, and their defense has only allowed a touchdown in each of their past three games against Arizona.
The Cards defense, on the other hand, has surrendered just 2 points per defensive possession, sixth-worst.
The Vikings offense has yet to score in its past five games against the Vikings, so this could be a game the Vikings can get over the hump.
Week 6: New Orleans Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals.
This game is shaping up to be a shootout, as the Cowboys are currently tied for the second-most rushing yards in the entire league.
The Bears have also been struggling against the Seahawks, allowing 19.2 yards per carry and 5.9 yards after contact per rush, second most in league history behind only the Cardinals (19 yards per rush).
Both defenses are coming into the matchup with one victory apiece.
The Seahawks are coming in off a bye week, so their next three opponents are the Cardinals and Cowboys.
Week 7: Houston Texans and Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Dolphins and Carolina Vikings.
The Texans are coming back