The top two teams in the NFC are also probably the top two teams in the NFL, Green Bay and New Orleans. It would seem, at this point, that one of the two will be a lock to come out of the NFC and either squad would be favored in the Super Bowl. But does anyone else have a shot in the NFC? We'll examine that in our NFC Playoffs Preview.
Green Bay Packers - They've got homefield throughout, they've got a great QB, a killer offense, only lost one game all year, they're defending champs... There's a reason that most people see this as the best team in the NFL. There are warts though. They've got the second worst defense in the league in terms of yards and often rely on getting turnovers. But what happens when they face a QB like say, Drew Brees, who doesn't turn the ball over? All that said, it's very tough to see someone heading up to Lambeau and beating them.
New Orleans Saints - I doubt that anyone is going to go down to the Superdome and beat the Saints. Problem is, they're only guaranteed one home game and history shows us that dome teams playing outside in the playoffs lose pretty often. Even these same Saints went up to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks last season as a heavy favorite and lost. But if they beat the Lions, they'll only have to go to San Francisco in the second round. Not a cold weather/scary place to play. But after that, a likely trip to Green Bay looms. That doesn't bode well for a dome team. All that said, New Orleans went 6-1 against playoff teams this year, which ties Baltimore for the most quality wins in the league.
San Francisco 49ers - It's hard to know what to make of the 49ers. They played in a terrible division and racked up a nice record beating up on it. They also had the weak NFC East on their schedule this season, so their gaudy 13-3 record could be a bit misleading. That said, they do have a couple quality wins. They beat the Bengals in Cincy and whipped the Steelers in that odd blackout game in San Fran.
Here are my two main concerns with San Fran however. Their #1 strength is stopping the run, but no NFC playoff team, other than Atlanta, needs to run the ball to win. Plus, anytime you have the worst QB amongst the playoff teams, that's a bad thing. Alex Smith has had a good year, but not a dynamic one. If he was in a draft tomorrow with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Matt Stafford & Matt Ryan clearly they'd all be picked before him. Of course the irony is that he was in the real draft with Rodgers and went first...
New York Giants - The Giants have the worst record of all the NFC playoff teams, but get a home game for having won the weak NFC East. They were awful to end the year, losing 5 of their last 8. But the Giants are an odd team. They can get dominated by the Redskins one week and then play a great game against the Patriots the next. They really seem to play to their competition... at times. It is worth noting that the Giants played San Francisco, New Orleans & Green Bay in the second half of this season and lost all three games. They were competitive at San Fran and at home to Green Bay, but were destroyed by New Orleans.
So it will really come down to which Giants team shows up. I have trouble seeing them going on the road and beating Green Bay in the next round and certainly they'd have no shot against New Orleans in the NFCCG, but having a dome team like Atlanta coming up to New York this weekend is not the worst matchup.
Atlanta Falcons - This is a team I have very little confidence in. For one, Matt Ryan, who has that "Matty Ice" nickname, has anything but "ice" in his veins in the postseason. He's 0-2 with 6 turnovers in his career. So all the pressure is on him to finally show something in a big game.
Plus, this is a very soft team. We already know that they play in a dome, which means like all dome teams they're awful outside in the postseason. They played in five games against playoff teams this year and lost all but one.
Detroit Lions - Speaking of soft teams... The Lions have the great combination of being soft and dumb. They did not beat a single team with a winning record this season (0-5) and beat just one playoff team, the Denver Broncos. They built up a big rep early in the season by beating up on the drek of the leauge (Tampa, Minnesota, & KC) but folded in every big game they played.
Plus, you can count on them taking a dumb penalty or two simply out of a lack of discipline. Their poor pass defense will get shredded by Drew Brees, the question is whether their own high powered offense can keep them in this game. There's no doubt that Matt Stafford and co and can pout points, but many times this year we've seen them fall behind thanks to a slow start and have a big second half. That's not going to work against the Saints.
Saints over Lions
Giants over Falcons
Packers over Giants
Saints over 49ers
Packers over Saints