It’s down to four teams in the NFC: Atlanta, San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle. No NFC East team in the final four this year. The Giants have played three of the four finalists this season, They trounced Green Bay and San Francisco and were on the opposite side of a beating in Atlanta. They did not play the Seahawks this season. They will face them and Green Bay next season. Here is a snapshot of the NFC Divisional Playoffs:
On Saturday, the Green Bay Packers (12-5), who won the NFC North, will travel to face the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1). On Sunday, January 13, the NFC’s top seed, the Atlanta Falcons (13-3), will welcome the Seattle Seahawks (12-5) to the Georgia Dome.
Green Bay Packers (12-5) at San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (Saturday, FOX, 8:00 PM ET)
The Packers and 49ers opened the year on Kickoff Weekend and will meet for the sixth time in the postseason. Green Bay has won four of the previous five meetings in the playoffs – most recently in 2001 – yet San Francisco defeated the Packers in Week 1 by a 30-22 score at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay defeated the division-rival Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in a Wild Card matchup last weekend behind AARON RODGERS’ 274 yards and 104.9 passer rating. Rodgers, who hails from Chico, California, will make his first ever start in San Francisco. He enters the game with the highest postseason passer rating (105.4) in league history, including 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.
“We’re a little thankful that we get the chance to play San Francisco again,” says Packers fullback JOHN KUHN, who scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in the Wild Card win. “They really whooped up on us the first game of the season. We’re looking forward to going out there and playing a better game.”
San Francisco will host a Divisional round game for the second consecutive year. The 49ers led the NFL with nine players selected to the Pro Bowl: linebacker NaVorro Bowman, safety Dashon Goldson, running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Aldon Smith, defensive tackle Justin Smith, tackle Joe Staley, safety Donte Whitner & linebacker Patrick Willis.
“We lost the NFC Championship Game at home last year,” says Whitner. “We want to take that next step this year and that’s our goal. We want to win the first playoff game, win the second and then go to the Super Bowl. We feel like we’re a top team in the NFL.”
Seattle Seahawks (12-5) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The NFC’s top seed, the Atlanta Falcons, will return to action after a first-round bye. Led by Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons are looking to continue their regular-season success in the postseason. Ryan has 56 wins as a starting quarterback, the most in a player’s first five seasons in NFL history.
“Matt’s had a great regular season for us this year,” says head coach MIKE SMITH about his quarterback. “He’s gotten the individual accolades. He’s led our team through some tough ballgames and been able to pull them out. I think those experiences will help us in the postseason.”
The Seahawks, who led the NFL allowing 15.3 points per game during the regular season, defeated the Redskins 24-14 in Washington, DC in the Wild Card playoffs. The victory was the first road playoff win for the Seahawks since 1983, when the team won an AFC Divisional game at Miami. This time, Seattle erased a 14-0 deficit, the largest it faced this season.
“It was only two touchdowns, but it’s still a big comeback and, in this setting and with this crowd, it’s a marvelous statement about the guys’ resolve and what is going on,” says Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass – his 27th, the most in a single season by a rookie (including postseason) – and running back Marshawn Lynch tied the franchise single-game playoff record with 132 rushing yards with one score.
“I just kept telling the guys, ‘We’ve been here before,’” says Wilson. “It was no different in this game. You just play one game at a time. You just stay in the now.”