NFL Playoff Picks: Previews and Predictions for NFC Wild Card Games

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 16: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 16, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Of the two conferences, the NFC features more teams with a chance to make the Super Bowl. While the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are a step above the pack in the AFC, the other side of the bracket is far more wide open.

The amount of parity should begin to show during Wild Card Weekend with two terrific matchups. On Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings travel to face the Green Bay Packers in a rematch of a Week 17 game. On Sunday, it's the Seattle Seahawks against the Washington Redskins.

Both games should be up for grabs well into the second half. Let's take a closer look at each matchup before making picks for which teams will advance to the next round.


Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Although the Vikings are road underdogs, they should not be lacking confidence after beating the Packers last week to earn a trip to the postseason. It also helps that they have Adrian Peterson, who's rushed for 409 yards against Green Bay this season.

The Packers will counter with an elite passing game, headlined by Aaron Rodgers. He put together another MVP-level season, throwing for nearly 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns. His job should get easier now that all of his wide receivers are healthy.

Since both offenses should be able to move the ball, Minnesota on the ground and Green Bay through the air, the game will be decided by which defense is able to get more second-half stops. That will be the case a lot throughout the NFC playoffs.

Ultimately, it will be the Packers' pass rush that gives them the edge on that side of the ball. They rank fourth in the league in sacks, led by Clay Matthews' 13. Green Bay should be able to get enough pressure on Christian Ponder to force him to make one key mistake.

Prediction: Packers


Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Few people predicted a playoff game between Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, but that's exactly what fans will get—and it should be terrific. Both rookie quarterbacks exceeded expectations and now face the biggest game of their young football careers.

The most impressive unit in the game, however, will be Seattle's defense. It doesn't get a lot of credit on the national level, but the Seahawks ranked fourth in total defense during the regular season. They are led by players like Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas, who don't get the praise they deserve.

That will present a major challenge for Griffin. He hasn't looked like his usual explosive self during the past couple weeks since returning from a knee injury. The Seahawks know that, and they are going to test him at every turn to see if he can handle taking a hit.

The presence of two reliable running backs in the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris should mean the game is played at a reasonable pace, keeping it close in the second half. The Seahawks should then pull away late.

Prediction: Seahawks