The field is set to the final 12 teams in the NFL with all of them vying for a shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 51. The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons will both be spectators this weekend due to first-round byes, while the other four NFC teams will do battle to determine who faces the top-two seeds. The New York Giants will travel to Lambeau Field for a clash with the Green Bay Packers while the Detroit Lions will head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Two teams will see their seasons come to an end while the other two will take one step closer to Super Bowl glory.
Giants @ Packers
The biggest marquee matchup of Wild Card Weekend will feature two of the best franchises in NFL history. Eli Manning will lead the New York Giants into Green Bay for a primetime showdown against Aaron Rodgers and the red-hot Packers.
Manning is back in the postseason where he seems to make magic happen. Rodgers said the Packers would run the table when the team was 4-6 and that became a fact. Which of the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will prevail and advance?
In his last four playoff games, Manning has averaged 305 yards to go with nine touchdowns and just one interceptions. Going into Lambeau Field is normally a daunting task, especially the further it gets into winter, but Manning doesn’t let that phase him as he is 2-0 versus the Packers in Green Bay.
Rodgers has been the hottest quarterback in the NFL over the final six games of the regular season. Remember when people were saying the limelight was fading on No. 12? Yeah, me either. Over the last six games, Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
If the Giants defense can hold Rodgers and company in check, they will give Manning and his crew a shot to win the game. The key will be holding the Packers to under 23 points (good luck with that). In all five of the Giants losses this year, they have given up at least 23 points, including 23 exactly in a 23-16 loss to the Packers in Week 5.
The Packers will need to establish their running game with wide receiver-turned running back, Ty Montgomery. If Green Bay cannot establish a ground game, it will force Rodgers to throw the ball more – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but it will give the New York secondary even more confidence than it already has.
The two quarterbacks will be the x-factors in this game. If Manning can get the ball to his wide receiving corps led by Odell Beckham Jr., his team will be in good shape to pull off the “upset.” If Rodgers is able to move in the pocket and find the likes of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Devante Adams, it could prove to be a long day for the Giants defensive unit, which a lot of money was spent on in the offseason.
Lions @ Seahawks
This has the makings to be bowling show ugly, as famous professional wrestling broadcaster Jim Ross would say. The Lions are limping into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. Seattle is looking to find its groove and prove they are still a team nobody wants to see in the postseason.
With Pete Carroll as the head coach and Russell Wilson as the quarterback, Seattle is 4-0 at home in the playoffs and are 7-1 there this season. Going to Seattle is never fun for the opposition due in large part to the decibel level the crowd provides.
Detroit will do or die on the arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The former No. 1 overall pick had a pretty good season this year, despite not having Calvin Johnson Jr. Stafford led eight game-winning drives in the nine Lions wins this season and might have to do that again. He will continue to play with a splint on his right middle finger, but that doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue.
A big problem the Lions face is the lack of a running game. This will allow Seattle to put most of their eggs in the secondary basket, despite not having safety Earl Thomas, who the Seahawks miss.
The key for Seattle will be putting points on the board. With the offense they currently have, you would think it wouldn’t be hard to score points, but that is something Seattle struggled with this season. A shot in the arm from the home crowd could be just what the doctor ordered for Mr. Wilson and company.