The NFL playoffs begin this Saturday, but the Seattle Seahawks aren't playing this week. As the NFC's top seed, the Seahawks will be enjoying a bye week and waiting to see who they will be matched up against in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Just who Seattle will play next week is completely undecided. New Orleans, San Francisco and Green Bay could all end up being the team coming to CenturyLink Field next week. While the opponent might not yet be known, the Seahawks know they are just two wins away from making the trip to New York for the Super Bowl.
Two games. Five possible opponents. It is time to see how the Seahawks match up against each of the other NFC playoff teams.
Team Record: 11-5
Playoff Seed: 6
Path To Matchup With Seattle: Saints win over Philadelphia in Wild Card Round.
As was demonstrated in Seattle's 34-7 blowout win over the Saints on Monday Night Football in Week 13, the Saints do not match up well against the Seahawks.
Both the quality and style of Seattle's cornerbacks can nullify strengths of New Orleans' receivers. The Seahawks also have the speed at linebacker to contain Saints running back Darren Sproles and the pass-rushers needed to get after quarterback Drew Brees.
On the other side of the ball, the problem for the Saints is that they don't have the speed at linebacker to contain quarterback Russell Wilson. In the Week 13 game, Wilson was able to repeatedly extend plays and allow Seattle's receivers extra time to get open. This allowed the Seahawks to move the ball with ease against New Orleans' usually stout pass defense.
Team Record: 12-4
Playoff Seed: 5
Path To Matchup With Seattle: 49ers win over Philadelphia and Packers win over New Orleans in Wild Card Round, or 49ers win over Philadelphia in Wild Card Round and over Carolina in divisional round.
The Seahawks and the 49ers match up well against each other, because the teams are very similar.
Both teams have the speed at linebacker to negate the mobility of the mobile quarterback on the other team. Both teams have a power-running game and a solid run defense. Both teams are limited in their passing game because they have a limited number of weapons on the outside.
If Seattle and San Francisco play again in the playoffs, it'll be the third meeting this season. Seattle won in blowout fashion back in Week 2, and the 49ers won a slugfest in Week 14.
Team Record: 8-7-1
Playoff Seed: 4
Path To Matchup With Seattle: Packers win over San Francisco and Eagles win over New Orleans in Wild Card Round, or Packers win over San Francisco in Wild Card Round and over Carolina in divisional round.
The Green Bay Packers are one of the two NFC playoff teams that the Seahawks did not play in 2013.
This is a matchup that would appear to favor Seattle. The Packers aren't a great defensive team, and often rely on winning high-scoring games. Green Bay lacks the dynamic defensive players that have caused the Seahawks problems this season.
The strengths of the Packers are quarterback Aaron Rodgers and their passing offense, but the Seahawks have the defense to counter that. Seattle has the league's best pass defense and led the NFL in passing yards against, yards per attempt against and interceptions.
Team Record: 10-6
Playoff Seed: 3
Path To Matchup With Seattle: Eagles win over New Orleans in Wild Card Round and win over Carolina in divisional round.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the other NFC playoff team that the Seahawks have not played this season. This is a matchup that would be tough for the Seahawks.
Even though the Seahawks haven't been a great rushing team for most of this season, they still depend upon rushing the football to have consistent success on offense. The Eagles finished the season with the No. 4 rushing defense in terms of yards per carry.
The Eagles have the league's best rushing offense based on yards per carry and the league's best passing offense in terms of yards per attempt. Taking away one aspect of the offense won't work against the Eagles, as they will just burn their opponent with the other one.
Overall, this creates a small margin of error for the Seahawks. If their offense stumbles, their defense might not be able to slow down Philadelphia's high-powered offense enough to prevent a loss.
Team Record: 12-4
Playoff Seed: 2
Path To Matchup With Seattle: NFC Championship game, after both Carolina and Seattle win in divisional round
This would be a rematch of the Week 1 game in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Seahawks won that game 12-7, and both offenses struggled to move the football.
The Seahawks are one of the few teams in the NFL with the speed on defense to contain the running ability of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. Factor in the strength of Seattle's No. 1-ranked pass defense against a Carolina receiving corps that no longer has wide receiver Steve Smith, and it is difficult to see a way where Carolina would be able to score many points.
The same is true on the other side of the football. The Seahawks have struggled to contain explosive defensive linemen like Star Lotulelei and Greg Hardy this season. Those types of defensive players have been able to slow down Seattle's rushing attack as well as create far too much pressure on Wilson.
With both defenses holding the edge over the offenses, any game between these two teams will come down to turnovers and special teams.