The NFC Wild Card Round will be played this Sunday, January 10, 2016. The two clear favorites in the NFC, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals, have first-round byes, and will be awaiting the teams that survive this round
Seattle: Seattle has the 4th best point differential in the league, outscoring their opponents by 146 combined points. They have the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL, and have allowed the least amount of points, surrendering only 17.3 points per game. QB Russell Wilson had a breakout season as a passer this year, throwing for 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns. Everyone just assumed this breakout would eventually happen, so nobody is really talking about it, but it is a major step forward for Wilson. Even with RB Marshawn Lynch banged up all season, Seattle rushed for the 3rd most yards in the NFL. They have won eight of their last ten games. If you have not figured it out yet, Seattle is still very, very good.
Minnesota: Minnesota has the 9th best point differential in the league, outscoring their opponents by 63 combined points. They have the 13th ranked defense and 29th ranked offense in the NFL. QB Teddy Bridgewater failed to improve on his impressive rookie season this year, throwing for only 14 touchdowns in 16 games. On the bright side, RB Adrian Peterson picked up right where he left off after missing almost all of last season. He rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading Minnesota’s 4th ranked rushing attack. Minnesota comes into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents (CHI, NYG, GB) by 60 points in those games alone.
The Pick: Seattle dominated Minnesota, 38-7, when these two teams met just one month ago. With Minnesota at home for this game, I would expect them to put up a much better fight this time around. But it will still likely not be enough to topple their superior opponent. Take Seattle giving the five points, but don’t think it is going to be easy.
I would be lying if I told you I have any idea how this game is going to play out. Green Bay has been underwhelming this entire season, and has lost their last two games. Washington is on a four-game win streak, and is playing at home. Kirk Cousins had a better QB rating, 101.6, than Aaron Rodgers did this year, 92.7. And yet, I still cannot find it in me to trust Washington.
The Pick: Pass. If I was forced to pick, I would put my money on Rodgers and live with the results.
By Michael Halpern