Published December 31, 2012
New York, NY – The NFL playoff picture has been set after the completion of Week 17's games, and the league has released its times for the first round of the upcoming postseason.
The first wild card game on the slate will take place at 4:30 p.m. (et) on Saturday and features a rematch of one of the AFC Wild Card games from last season, as the AFC South champion Houston Texans (12-4) welcome the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) to Reliant Stadium.
Houston backup T.J. Yates, starting in place of an injured Matt Schaub, led the Texans to a 31-10 victory last year to give Houston its first playoff win since the team's founding in 2002, while extending Cincinnati's playoff losing skid to four games.
This season, Houston seemed poised for a first-round bye and the top spot in the AFC just two weeks ago, but the Texans dropped their final two games of the regular season to fall to the third seed in the conference.
The Bengals, conversely, enter the postseason on an upswing, having won their final three games of the season to claim the sixth and final playoff spot. Cincinnati went 7-1 over the second half of the schedule as well.
Saturday night's game, which will take place at 8 p.m. (et) -- will be a rematch of a Week 17 clash between NFC North rivals Green Bay (11-5) and Minnesota (10-6). The Vikings won Sunday's matchup between the teams, 37-34, at home to clinch the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC, while Green Bay took a 23-14 decision early in December at Lambeau Field.
The Packers will host Saturday's matchup as they look to bounce back from last season's 37-20 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the Divisional Playoffs.
Minnesota, meanwhile, wrapped up the season with four straight wins to earn its first playoff bid since 2009.
The two teams have squared off once before in the playoffs, with Minnesota earning a 31-17 victory at Lambeau Field back on Jan. 9, 2005.
Sunday's slate begins with the feel-good story of the year, as Chuck Pagano leads his Indianapolis Colts (11-5) into Baltimore to take on the Ravens (10-6) at 1 p.m. (et) from M&T Stadium.
Pagano, who was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia back in September, returned to the sidelines for Indianapolis' season-ending triumph over the Texans.
Under the guidance of Pagano and interim head coach Bruce Arians, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck helped turn a 2-14 Colts team into a 11-win unit bound for their first playoff game since the departure of long-time quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Ravens were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl last season, but suffered a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots after Billy Cundiff's 32- yard field goal sailed wide left in the closing seconds of the AFC Championship.
In the final Wild Card game at 4:40 p.m. (et) on Sunday, a pair of surprising squads led by rookie quarterbacks will square off when the NFC East champion Washington Redskins (10-6) host the Seattle Seahawks (11-5).
Russell Wilson has the Seahawks back in the playoffs for the second time in three years in his first season under center. The Redskins, under the guidance of rookie Robert Griffin III, are hosting a postseason game for the first time since 1999.
The NFL also announced the times of the Divisional Round games. On Saturday, Jan. 12th, the top-seeded Denver Broncos will host the lowest remaining AFC seed at 4:30 p.m. (et), while the San Francisco 49ers will start their playoff adventure at 8 p.m. (et) on the same day.
The Atlanta Falcons, the NFC's No. 1 seed, will try to avoid going one and done at 1 p.m. (et) on Sunday, Jan. 13th. The No. 2 seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots, will finish off the weekend at 4:30 p.m. on the same day.