Green Bay at San Francisco
As exciting as the Falcons-Seahawks game is going to be, there’s just something special about this matchup. The Packers and 49ers met in Week 2 of the regular season, resulting in a 30-22 victory for the 49ers. Luckily for Green Bay, that game couldn’t mean less now. You’d have to seriously weave words together to convince me that any Week 2 matchup has any relevance for a playoff game 3+ months later, and that is no different in this case. San Francisco sports a new starting quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, and the Packers have turned around their early-season woes.
San Francisco is first and foremost a running team, but that is a concept that is currently ingrained in Green Bay schematics. After back to back matchups with Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, the Packers are already in all-out run stop mode. They may not be facing one of the NFL’s all-time greats this weekend, but the 49ers still sport the league’s number four ranked rushing offense which is aided by a fast quarterback. Kaepernick has shown that he can stretch the field, and while the 49ers don’t have an elite receiving corps, Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss give them threats that need to be respected.
Green Bay’s ability to stop the run and disrupt San Francisco’s second year signal caller are paramount to a win, but it really gets interesting on the other side of the ball. Minnesota’s mediocre defense gave Aaron Rodgers lots of time and room to find his receivers, but he probably won’t be so fortunate against the 49ers. San Francisco’s penchant for getting to the quarterback is undoubtedly the first thing on the Packers’ mind this week, and their ability to keep Aldon Smith out of the backfield may determine the game. The Packers have become a more balanced offense since Week 2 so it will be interesting to see what type of attack they bring to the 9ers.
Seattle at Atlanta
After a season of perpetual media Falcon-bashing, the squad from Atlanta finally gets a chance to defend their colors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a number one seed get as little respect as the Falcons, and while I’m not sure how much I think of them, they are still a number one seed with home field advantage. The Falcons have received little credit for their successful year because of both the playoff monkey and unconvincing victories, and this is their chance to silence the haters.
Seattle was able to slow the powerful Washington run game as the contest wore on, but that isn’t the concern against Atlanta. The Falcons ended the regular season as the 29th ranked rushing attack, while the Seahawks put out the 10th best rushing defense in the NFL. Barring some dramatic change of events, this game will be decided through the air as far as Atlanta is concerned.
When the Seahawks have the ball, though, it’s a different story. Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch has been unstoppable of late, and the Seattle ground attack may be a lot for the Falcons’ 21st ranked rushing defense. Atlanta’s defensive forte is their confusing pass defense and blitz schemes, and Russell Wilson’s ability to deal with these will be crucial.