NFC Divisional Playoffs Preview

Contributed by: Bill Enright
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2011 4:07 AM

Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears

Not a lot of people expected this would be a match-up in the 2nd Round of the NFL Playoffs. But thanks to the shocking victory in Seattle, the Seahawks take on the well-rested Chicago Bears who earned the #2 seed in the NFC with an 11-5 record.

These two teams met during Week 6 of the regular season, when the Seahawks defeated the Bears in Chicago 23-20. During the game, Jay Cutler was sacked six times, Matt Forte rushed for just 11 yards, and the team scored just one TD on Offense (the rest of their points came off Field Goals and a punt return).

For the Seahawks, Matt Hasselbeck passed for 242 yards and a TD, his season high at that point in the season.  Both Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch reached the end zone and combined for 129 yards. Wide Receiver Mike Williams had a spectacular day, catching ten passes for 123 yards. As a whole the Seahawks racked up 356 total-yards, well above their season average of 297.8 yards-per-game. It's clear the Seahawks found some soft spots on the Chicago Defense, perhaps because star linebacker Lance Briggs was sidelined due to an ankle injury.

But in “football years”, Week 6 is nearly two decades ago, so onward to what these teams have done lately.  The Bears won seven of their last nine games, with an average of 27 points in those seven wins. During their two losses, the Bears scored a total of 10 points, seven points against the Patriots and three points against the Packers. Jay Cutler has six touchdowns and six interceptions in his last four outings and hasn't thrown for more than 300 yards since Week 1. The team with fewer turnovers tends to win the ball game, especially in the playoffs. In order for the Bears to advance, Cutler needs a much better TD to INT ratio. But first he'll need better protection from his O-Line, which is allowing one sack for every nine passing plays. Yet, Chicago's rushing attack was very effective during the second half of the season, especially the last three games when Matt Fort erushed for 92, 113, and 91 yards, all coming against teams with Top 10 rushing defenses. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the final six games.  As for their receiving corps, one man has been consistent all season, and that's Johnny Knox. He led the team with 960 yards and his 51 receptions and five TDs tied for a team high. Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and Tight End Greg Olsen, get plenty of opportunities to make plays in Mike Martz's scheme. Inside the Red Zone Cutler connected with them a combined 12 times. Hester of course is a tremendous weapon in the team's Special Teams/Return game.

Moving over to Seattle, who became the 3rd team in history to finish the year with a losing record and still make the playoffs.  During their upset victory over the Saints, Matt Hasselbeck had his best performance of the season, he finished with 272 yards and tossed four TD passes. Perhaps his most important stat is the fact he only threw one interception against a team that typically shuts down opposing QBs. The rest of the team's Offensive playmakers came on strong too and need to ride their momentum into Chicago. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 131 yards, including a 67-yard TD that was one of the best plays Wild Card Weekend.  In the regular season, Wide Receiver Mike Williams led the team across the board. He started off the playoffs with a solid performance, catching five passes for 68 yards and a TD. Ben Obomanu developed into the team's #2 WR during the second half of the season and also had five receptions during the game.  Brandon Stokley and Tight End John Carlson are two players that had low stats during the regular season, but made a big splash during their game against the Saints.  Carlson scored the team's first two touchdowns and Stokely had a great catch and run of 45 yards for a score.

Can Seattle get a second consecutive upset even if it's on the road? Find out Sunday at 1:00 pm (est).

Here's how the players breakdown for Fantasy Football:

Good Start: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Johnny Knox

Middle of the Road: Matt Hasselbeck, Mike Williams, Devin Hester, Earl Bennet

Risky Start: John Carlson, Justin Forsett, Leon Washington


Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

The top seeded Falcons will host the 6th seeded Packers at the Georgia Dome, Saturday Night. It's the same spot Atlanta defeated Green Bay 20-17 in Week 12. It's also the same location where Matt Ryan and the Falcons have 19 wins in their last 21 games. Both team's  scores were among their season lows, the Falcons averaged 26 points-per-game, while the Packers averaged 24. The game went against the norm on the other side of the ball too, as both defenses allowed more points than usual. The Packers typically held their opponents to 15 points-per-game, while the Falcons allowed 18 points per game.

During the first go-a-round, Ryan passed for just 197 yards and one TD, but completed an amazing 24-of-28 passes. Running Back Michael Turner had a productive day on the ground, rushing for 110 yards and one TD. Pro Bowl Wide Receiver, Roddy White had one of his worst stat lines of the season, catching just five passes for 49 yards. It was Tight End Tony Gonzalez who caught Ryan's TD, he finished with six receptions for 41 yards.

Compared to Ryan, Aaron Rodgers had much bigger numbers. He passed for 344 yards and rushed for 51, plus he score twice (one rush, one pass). But unlike Ryan, Rodgers didn't have any help from his Running Backs. In fact, Rodgers' 51 yards led the team. Brandon Jackson gained just 26 yards on 10 carries. Wide Receiver Greg Jennings put on his typical performance by catching five passes for a buck-nineteen. Jordy Nelson came down with a TD catch to go along with his five receptions and 61 yards. James Jones also had five receptions. Donald Driver had an off day, catching just two passes for 26 yards.

In Green Bay's win over Philly last weekend, Packers rookie, James Starks, rushed for 123 yards, a franchise post-season record. Atlanta's Defense gave up the 5th least amount of points to opposing Running Backs this season, but Starks didn't play in the original meeting, so it will be interesting to see how things shake out this weekend. Interestingly, the Packers gave up the 3rd least amount of points to opposing RBs, yet Turner had a very solid day back in Week 12. Point being, whichever team caves to the run, may not advance to the NFC Championship.

Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game but keep in mind Aaron Rodgers picked up his first post-season victory just last week. I'm repeating myself from earlier, but Ryan is 19-2 at home. Other than Tom Brady, Ryan has the best home record for any Quarterback in the NFL.

This should be one of the more exciting match-ups of the weekend with both team's capable of posting points in bunches. Likely the reason it's on Primetime, Saturday night at 8:00 pm (est).

Lots of fantasy SUPERSTARS in this one:

Good Start: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Turner, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez

Middle of the Road: Matt Ryan, James Starks, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones

Risky Start: Andrew Quarless, Michael Jenkins

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