NFL Playoffs 5 Things to Know: Wild Card Weekend Matchups, AFC and NFC Favorites, Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots, Broncos Byes, Peyton Manning Starts

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Jan 08, 2016 05:16 PM EST
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Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos drops back for a pass during practice at Dove Valley on January 6, 2016 in Centennial, Colorado. The Denver Broncos held their first practice for the upcoming playoff game against an undecided opponent in the first round of the AFC playoffs. "

The NFL playoffs start this weekend with the Wild Card Round in the AFC and NFC with games on Saturday and Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals will be the teams in action. The New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos have byes into the divisional round and will wait and see who they play based on the wild card winners.

Here are 5 Things to Know heading into the playoffs:

The Wild Card Weekend matchups could be....wild

The first round of the playoffs has some great matchups this year and some of the games could end up being very entertaining. The Seahawks and Vikings are set to play Sunday and the temperatures could be below zero for the duration. The two teams have played already this season and that adds some drama to the matchup.

The Steelers and Bengals continue their divisional rivalry into the playoffs, while Green Bay will try and bounce back against the Redskins after losing the NFC North. The Chiefs have won 10 straight and the Texans have played stellar defense over the last month. The wild card weekend could be an epic one this year.

Are the Panthers and Broncos favorites in the NFC and AFC?

The Panthers and Broncos are the top seeded teams in the NFC and AFC, but does that make them favorites to win their respective conferences? The Panthers went 14-0 to start the season and surprised everyone and with Cam Newton playing at an MVP level, the team has a chance to make a Super Bowl run. But the Seahawks have looked great for the last seven weeks, while the Packers have shown they can get things done in the playoffs. The Broncos were able to get the top seed after the Patriots lost in Week 17 and with Peyton Manning back, could they be the favorites in the AFC? The defense has been stellar this season and as long as Manning doesn't make any major mistakes, the team should have a chance to make a run.

Will the Seahawks make another Super Bowl run?

The Seahawks were not looking like a playoff team for the first half of the season, but things surely are different now. Russell Wilson has played at an MVP level and the team has won six of the last seven games. The Seahawks will get Marshawn Lynch back this week from an injury and if they can get past the Vikings, a team they already beat this season in Minnesota, they likely will be looked at as a Super Bowl contender in the NFC.

Peyton Manning will start for the Broncos

The Broncos have announced that Peyton Manning will start the divisional round game for the team in the playoffs over Brock Osweiler. Head coach Gary Kubiak made the announcement and said it was the "best move" for his team and it comes after Manning helped lead the team to the AFC West title in Week 17 after coming in for Osweiler in the game.

Injuries could play a factor for teams

Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson are both going to start for their teams in the wild card round, but the Steelers and Bengals are dealing with some major losses. Andy Dalton will not be ready to return for Cincy, while DeAngelo Williams is out for the wild card round game. Tom Brady is coming off of an ankle injury, but with the Patriots getting a bye, he is expected to be fine for the playoffs in the divisional round.

Check here for more on the NFL playoffs.

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