NFL Playoff Predictions: Breaking Down How NFC Bracket Will Play Out

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes the ball during a game agains the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Whether you're into elite quarterbacks, stout defenses, explosive rookies or (nearly) record-setting running backs, there's something for everyone in the stacked bracket that composes the 2013 NFC playoffs.

There's no such thing as an easy game, as each of the six teams competing for the chance to represent the NFC at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans is capable of doing so—but only one will.

Much like Mel Gibson's 1985 sci-fi  classic, the aptly named Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, when "Two men enter, one man leaves," the mantra works for the playoffs as well.

Two teams enter, and for one team, they live to fight another day.

For the loser, well, "dyin' time" has arrived to collect the pieces of their 2012 season.

While the No. 1 Atlanta Falcons and No. 2 San Francisco 49ers get to sit back and take in the opening round of action, there's no guarantee that either squad will be picking up a win in this year's NFC playoffs.

Let's take a look at who will be the last to emerge victorious.

Wild Card Round

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 Green Bay Packers

The third time's the charm in this heated rivalry between members of the NFC North, as Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense get set to face off against Aaron Rodgers and all of his wonderful toys for the second consecutive weekend.

Peterson has run for 409 yards against the Packers this season, yet the Vikings are only 1-1 against Green Bay. The Packers will fill the box with seven or eight defenders, daring Christian Ponder to try and beat them with his arm.

Although Christian Ponder played well against the Packers in Week 17, throwing for 234 yards and three touchdowns, he's not very good.

Rodgers is.

The reigning NFL MVP has completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 651 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception against Minnesota this year.

His big-game experience and multitude of weapons on the offensive side of the ball will be too much for the Vikings defense to take, and the Packers will move on.

Green Bay 38, Minnesota 27

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 4 Washington Redskins

Seattle brings a team without an obvious weakness into its battle with Washington, a team that can't defend against the pass.

A pair of dynamic rookie quarterbacks, Seattle's Russell Wilson and Washington's Robert Griffin III, lead their offenses onto the field with two of the most prolific running backs in the NFL sitting a few yards behind them, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris, respectively.

While things figure to stay close for much of the game, Washington's porous secondary will be the downfall of the NFC East champions.

Wilson, who has thrown for 1,067 yards, nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in his past five games, will have success looking downfield all game long, allowing Seattle to eventually pull away.

Seattle 31, Washington 21

Divisional Round

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons

We've already seen Atlanta's defense struggle against a mobile quarterback this season, as Carolina's Cam Newton gave the Falcons defense fits in Atlanta's 30-20 loss to its NFC South rivals in Week 14.

While Newton has superior running ability, Wilson's a more finished passer, but his ability to throw on the run will prove to be an equally difficult task for Atlanta to overcome.

Stopping Wilson may prove to be an even more difficult task if cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel and/or defensive end John Abraham can't play. The trio all suffered injuries in Atlanta's Week 17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (h/t ESPN).

Atlanta's passing attack is too explosive to not find some success against Seattle's defense, but Atlanta's issues when Seattle's offense is on the field will prove to be too great for even "Matty Ice" to overcome.

Seattle 27, Atlanta 21

No. 3 Green Bay Packers at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers

In what many thought could be the NFC Championship Game matchup heading into the season, the Packers explosive offense collides with San Francisco's dynamic defense.

San Francisco running back Frank Gore will be used early and often to wear down Green Bay's defense, making things a bit easier for quarterback Colin Kaepernick under center.

Although Green Bay hasn't had much in the way of a viable running game all season, unlike when these teams last met in the opening week of the regular season—a 49ers win—Aaron Rodgers won't be the Packers' leading rusher in this one.

Both defenses are battle-tested, but in Kaepernick's first taste of NFL playoff football, his lack of experience will result in one or two costly errors—just enough of an advantage for Rodgers to find himself working with a short field, putting up more points on the 49ers than Kaepernick can muster against Green Bay.

Green Bay 35, San Francisco 27

Championship Game

No. 5 Seattle Seahawks at No. 3 Green Bay Packers

While playing on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field might be problematic for some, it'll be a homecoming of sorts for Russell Wilson.

Wilson, who honed his craft at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, about two-and-a-half hours southwest of Green Bay, will feel right at home with the swirling winds and inclement weather that is sure to await him,

Seattle will feed Green Bay's defense a steady diet of Lynch, who will eat up large chunks of the clock, keeping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' explosive offense on the sidelines.

While Rodgers' experience and ability has been able to make up for Green Bay's lack of a potent running game up until now, that flaw will prove to be fatal against a Seattle defense that is more than up to the challenge of defending against Rodgers and the Packers aerial attack.

Rodgers will put points on the board, but Green Bay will find itself punting the ball more than Seattle, and those empty possessions will cost the Packers dearly.

Seattle 35, Green Bay 31

NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Round        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Cincinnati Houston 1/5/2013 4:30 p.m. ET NBC
Minnesota Green Bay 1/5/2013 8 p.m. ET NBC
Indianapolis Baltimore 1/6/2013 1 p.m. ET CBS
Seattle Washington 1/6/2013 4:30 p.m. ET FOX
Divisional Playoffs        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Bal/Ind/Cin Denver 1/12/2013 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
GB/Wash/Sea San Francisco 1/12/2013 8 p.m. ET FOX
Wash/Sea/Minn Atlanta 1/13/2013 1 p.m. ET FOX
Hou/Bal/Ind New England 1/13/2013 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
Conference Championships        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
NFC NFC 1/20/2013 TBD TBD
AFC AFC 1/20/2013 TBD TBD
Super Bowl XLVII        
Team 1 Team 2 Date Time TV Info
AFC Winner NFC Winner 2/3/2013 TBD CBS


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