The playoff table is set, and four of the 12 teams still alive will be eliminated next weekend. Here’s a breakdown of the NFC games on Sunday…
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Minnesota Vikings
Are the Vikes the mini-Seahawks?: Minnesota has a similar feel to the Seahawks squad that began to feel like a special team in 2012 and 2013. Good young quarterback buoyed by a veteran star at running back and a great defense. Of course, the Minnesota defense — which had only 22 takeaways while ranking fifth in terms of points allowed — isn’t as strong as Seattle’s, and Teddy Bridgewater has yet to prove he has Russell Wilson’s ability to deliver in the clutch, but these teams definitely look alike.
Nobody wants to play Seattle: Not only have the Seahawks run through the NFC playoffs in each of the last two years, but Wilson is hotter than ever and is coming off his best season, and the league’s highest-rated passer is likely to get Marshawn Lynch back. The offense is rolling, and they hardly ever turn it over. Throw in that the defense still managed to give up the fewest points in football and it’s fair to say the Seahawks are again a prime Super Bowl contender. That’s far from ideal for a Minnesota team that hasn’t really been here, done this.
Matchup to watch: The Vikes can’t win without Adrian Peterson rolling. And while Peterson led the league in rushing, he actually had a hot-and-cold season. Last time out against Seattle’s top-ranked run defense, he was extremely cold (18 yards on eight carries). If he can’t find some holes against that stacked defensive front Sunday, Minnesota might get blown out.
Prediction: One thing the Seahawks haven’t had to do the last two years is play a road playoff game, and we all know how much of an advantage Seattle has at CenturyLink Field. But Seattle still destroyed this Vikings team on the road last month and has fared extremely well against winning teams away from home in recent years. In fact, they have only one regulation loss in their last six such games. Seahawks 34, Vikings 17
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET: (5) Green Bay Packers at (4) Washington Redskins
Something’s wrong with the Packers: Aaron Rodgers is coming off the worst season of his career. Like, when you view the guy’s stats 2015 sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe it was the loss of Jordy Nelson or maybe he’s secretly hurt. Regardless, it was a weird season for a Green Bay offense that basically ranked in the middle of the pack. In fact, the Redskins were much better on paper, especially late.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: Cousins is the better quarterback here. And by here I mean FedEx Field. The man had an NFL-best 117.0 passer rating, 74.7 completion percentage and 16-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio at home in 2015. Rodgers’ road numbers aren’t even on that chart.
But the Redskins are very beatable: They don’t really have any experience winning playoff games, they don’t have a lot of balance, Cousins is still erratic at times, and Washington didn’t beat a single team all year with a winning record. Against an experienced team like the Packers (who are better defensively), nothing’s guaranteed.
Prediction: The Packers lost their only road playoff games in 2012 and 2014 and are coming off an ugly road loss in Arizona, while the Redskins have won six of their last seven home games. Momentum matters, and I’m not sure the Packers have the ability to fix what ails them on the fly. Redskins 31, Packers 24