NFC Playoff Picture: Top Matchups Fans Would Love to See
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While the AFC playoff matchups are pretty much set in stone, the NFC is still wide open as the regular season winds down Sunday.
Atlanta has locked up the No. 1 seed, but the rest of the NFC playoff picture is as fluid as it gets.
With a number of quality teams still in contention for a wild-card spot and both the NFC West and East still up for grabs, let's take a look at the top matchups fans would love to see come playoff time.
Washington Redskins vs. Seattle Seahawks
What would be better than watching two of the most exciting rookie quarterbacks of all time square off in the first round?
Robert Griffin III entered the NFL as one of the most hyped rookies of all time, but the kid taken 73 picks later, Russell Wilson, has been just as exciting as the former Heisman Trophy winner.
While RG III has put together a rookie highlight reel for the ages, Wilson has steadily improved throughout the season and has put the Seahawks in position to overtake the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West title. Not too bad for a kid considered too short to ever make it at this level.
Wilson may have lasted until the third round, but he's been playing like a top-five pick for Pete Carroll. Those that don't watch the Seahawks routinely might miscast Wilson as a game manager, but don't be fooled: This kid can sling the ball.
With 25 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, the 5'11" signal-caller has taken good care of the ball and chipped in 431 rushing yards and three more scores.
Seeing Wilson face a veteran defense like Washington's would be interesting since the Redskins have a putrid pass defense but one of the stingiest run defenses. Could Marshawn Lynch take the heat off Wilson and dictate the pace, or would London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan shut down Beast Mode?
On the other side of the ball, no team combines great coverage with a good pass rush like the Seahawks. However, Kyle Shanahan runs such a diverse, unique attack that perhaps RG III could be the one to break Seattle's defense.
Can RG III outrun fellow first-round pick Bruce Irvin while avoiding the hard-hitting Bobby Wagner? Could Alfred Morris find room to run with Red Bryant controlling the line of scrimmage?
This matchup features so many talented, young players who can make a name for themselves on the big stage.
San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
The chances that the Giants sneak into the playoffs are slim at best, but if the G-Men manage to find their way into the postseason, a first-round matchup with the 49ers could be on the docket.
And after Eli Manning and Co. got the best of them last year, the 49ers would be out for revenge.
If not for a few Kyle Williams fumbles, the 49ers likely would have made it to the Super Bowl last year. But unfortunately, Jim Harbaugh's squad was forced to watch the game rather than play in it. This year San Francisco has been one of the top dogs in the entire league, playing lights-out defense and showing more diversity on offense.
However, injuries have hit the 49ers hard in recent weeks, as the team lost receiver Mario Manningham for the year (ACL) and may be without star defensive lineman Justin Smith (partially torn triceps).
As tough as it is to overcome injuries, you can bet the 49ers would come out swinging against Tom Coughlin's team, who have battled injuries and inconsistent play of their own.
New York hasn't played like a defending champion in 2012, but the talent is still there. Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck still comprise one of the NFL's most gifted defensive lines, and not many teams can match New York's wide receiver duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
Throw in Eli Manning—a two-time Super Bowl champion—and the Giants certainly have the parts in place to make a run at their third championship of the Coughlin era.
Unless Patrick Willis has something to say about that.
Along with fellow Pro Bowler NaVarro Bowman, Willis leads a ferocious stable of linebackers, including sack artist Aldon Smith. The 49ers have tremendous talent at every level of their defense and would need it all against a high-powered Giants attack.
An NFC Championship rematch to kick off the first round of the playoffs would be a real treat for NFL fans.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
This one would have to wait until the divisional round, but what a matchup it would be.
After a slow start, the Green Bay Packers have been on a tear lately, winning nine of their last 10 games. Last week they blew out the Tennessee Titans, 55-7, confirming their aerial assault is back in full force.
Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level again, which is bad news for the 49ers.
We already know San Fran boasts one of the league's toughest defenses, but Rodgers is one of the few quarterbacks who can pick apart pretty much any coverage scheme. The defending MVP has plenty of receiving options, and his scrambling ability could negate some of the 49ers' potent pass rush.
Defensively, Green Bay isn't as solid as it was in 2010 when the Packers won the Super Bowl, but there are still plenty of playmakers in place.
Clay Matthews (12 sacks) is an elite pass-rusher who has to be accounted for every snap, and rookie cornerback Casey Hayward (52 tackles, six interceptions) has played like a first-round pick.
This game could settle the debate of whether a great offense (Green Bay) can outscore a tremendous defense (San Francisco).
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