The team that got our NFL juices flowing back in early August on 'Hard Knocks' has the lone opportunity to represent an AFC South division that produced an AFC Championship representative in 2014. Led by the best defensive player in football (J.J. Watt) and one of the NFL's best young wide receivers (DeAndre Hopkins), the Texans have more firepower than given credit for.
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Green Bay Packers
This is not the same Packers team that we've grown accustomed to the past few seasons. Despite having Aaron Rodgers, the passing game has struggled most weeks throughout the season. The Packers have won games this season on the heels of a strong running game, but the defense hasn't taken over consistently enough to put the Packers in a position of power.
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At one point, it looked like the NFC East's division winner was going to be the easiest opponent to match up against in the postseason. That is no longer the case now that the Redskins have closed the season strong. Kirk Cousins closed out the regular season with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past three games, despite playing only the first quarter of Week 17. Winners of three more games at home than on the road this season, the Redskins are in a great spot heading into the wild-card round.
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Kansas City Chiefs
After Kansas City's wide receivers failed to score a touchdown in 2014, the Chiefs remedied that in 2015 thanks to free-agent acquisition Jeremy Maclin who led the team with eight. The postseason reputations of Alex Smith and Andy Reid may paint one narrative, but each season is different, and as winners of 10 straight -- the Chiefs are a dangerous postseason opponent.
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The Bengals are preparing as if AJ McCarron will be the starter, and if that's the case, one of two things need to happen. The Bengals either need to open up the offense or they need to lean more on Jeremy Hill in the run game. Hill had arguably his best game of 2015 in Week 17 with 115 total yards and a touchdown.
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The Steelers take one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks into the postseason, but they will need a youthful roster on the defensive side of the ball to grow up fast if they want to make a deep postseason run. It will also help if running back DeAngelo Williams' MRI on Monday on his right ankle comes back clean.
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Head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters that his gut told him to turn to Peyton Manning off the bench in Week 17. After helping to lead the offense to a more efficient second half in a key win that would clinch home-field advantage for the postseason, the reigns have once again been turned over to Manning for what could be one final run.
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With 1,485 rushing yards on the season, Adrian Peterson takes home the NFL's rushing title. He looks to cap off an impressive comeback season by helping his team go on a postseason run. With an excellent run game, pass rush and run defense, the Vikings are built for postseason run if they can get by the most difficult wild card -- the Seahawks. When the two teams met in Minnesota on Dec. 6, the Vikings lost 38-7.
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Although the Seahawks haven't been a model of consistency in 2015, they have displayed the upside needed to necessitate another deep postseason run. The new pass-first offense featuring Doug Baldwin and rookie Tyler Lockett has allowed Russell Wilson to get into an in-game rhythm. If Marshawn Lynch can return and play at a level we are accustomed to seeing, the Seahawks are arguably the most dangerous team playing on wild-card weekend.
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This time around, head coach Bruce Arians gears up for a postseason run with his starting quarterback Carson Palmer. Despite a shaky performance in the regular-season finale, Palmer has performed at an elite level throughout the 2015 season. The biggest question mark -- can the pass defense hold up throughout the postseason without Tyrann Mathieu?
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New England Patriots
The Patriots enter the postseason with a rash of injuries that have reshaped their roster, but as long as Tom Brady (ankle) is fine, they are always a threat to make a run. If Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola can get right after another week off, and stay on the field, the Patriots will make NFL fans forget their final two regular-season games quickly.
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With just one blemish on their regular-season record, the Panthers enter the postseason with some momentum after a blowout victory to close the season and a healthy roster. Cam Newton's ability to run has altered how defenses defend Carolina's offense, and few teams have found a way to stop them. With elite players at all three levels of the defense in Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman, the Panthers are the favorites to take home the Lombardi trophy.