The NFC Divisional Championships kick off on Saturday (Jan. 12) with the bracket match-up (via CBSSports.com) that most people were looking forward to last post-season but saw pre-empted by a Super Bowl bound New York Giants, who clipped the then once-beaten Green Bay Packers. The team they were to meet, the San Francisco 49ers, made it to the Conference Championship but met the same fate as the Packers. This season the two teams meet in the Divisional Championship.
The third seed Green Bay Packers come into the game having won 10 of their last twelve games. Of their other three losses on the season, one was with that questionable call by a replacement referee against the Seattle Seahawks and the other was a first game loss to the 49ers. Their ace has always been their passing game, though, and they made it to the playoffs with four of the Top 11 receivers in the NFL.
Otherwise, the teams are evenly matched. The Packers have the No. 7 rated defense (via ESPN team stats), while the 49ers post the No. 3 overall defense. The 49ers boast the NFL's 11th-ranked offense while the packers slide in at No. 13. Although Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers second-year quarterback, has little experience and is considered an intangible for the game, he actually played in 13 games during the 2012 season and posts as the No. 3 on the overall quarterback rating list, ahead of No. 5 Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and his own teammate, the guy he replaced, Alex Smith (No. 7).
If the Packers can get by San Francisco in the Divisional Playoff game, they just might get a chance to avenge that other early season loss to the Seahawks...
One of the hottest teams going into the NFL Playoffs this season was that same Seattle team, rolling in on a five game winning streak (third only to the Washington Redskins -- 7 -- and the Denver Broncos -- 11). But they took care of the Redskins, 24-14, and now have a shot at the Conference title. But that road goes through Atlanta...
The No. 1 seed Falcons will enter Sunday's football game with the best record in the NFL (13-3, tied with the Denver Broncos) and a two-week lay-off due to the bye. Quarterback Matt Ryan has the fourth-best overall QB rating in the NFL. He also leads an eighth-ranked offense. At the same time, the Seahawks posted a 17th-ranked offense behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (ranked 8th in QB rating), averaged about 20 yards per game less and put up about half a point less.
But the Seahawks defense might be a major part of the story, much as they have been throughout the 2012 season. Ranked No. 4 in the NFL, they could pose problems for Ryan's lowly rated offense. The Falcon's defense is ranked 24th overall. They also rank 21st against the rush, while the Seahawks have the No. 2 rusher in the League in their backfield, Marshawn Lynch.
So it shouldn't be a surprise if the Packers end up playing the Seahawks in a rematch with hopes of avenging that early seasonal loss. But Atlanta didn't get the best record in the NFL by losing games...
NFC Playoffs Divisional Championship Games TV Schedule
Saturday, Jan. 12, 8:00 p.m. on FOX Television
(3) Green Bay Packers vs. (2) San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, Jan. 13, 1:00 p.m. on FOX Television
(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (1) Atlanta Falcons
****** Both games Eastern Standard Time.