Now we turn to the NFC, Division-best Atlanta will look to prove that they can find success in the postseason, with an opportunity to rest; they will wait for the winner of Washington Redskins vs. Seattle Seahawks. Speaking of the Washington Redskins; No.2 overall pick, Robert “RGIII” Griffin III has completely rejuvenated the otherwise stagnant fan base in the nation’s capitol, leading the Skins’ to their first NFC East victory in over 13 years.
The Green Bay Packers and will have another opportunity to knock off the Minnesota Vikings. Just last week the two met with a chance for Green Bay to eliminate Minnesota from playoff contention and earn a playoff bye. However, the Vikings pulled off an upset that earned them a chance at the playoffs and another opportunity to beat the Packers to advance to the NFC Divisional Championship Game. The question remains if second year quarterback Christian Ponder can make the plays necessary to win in the postseason as he did in the regular season.
Pete Carrol will return to the playoffs with a much better Seattle Seahawks team than he did last season. Carrol has produced a league leading defense in points allowed (15.3ppg), Marshawn Lynch (1,590yds, 11TD’s) is still unleashing “Beast Mode” on opposing defenses and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (3,118 passing yards, 26TD-10INT) can easily be in the argument for this year’s offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Seahawks plus the “12th Man” will look to be the dark horse this postseason.
So now we turn to the 2013 NFL Playoff Power Rankings, let’s check out where I lay the landscape for the NFC Playoff picture,
6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Minnesota will get another opportunity to beat divisional foe Green Bay Packers for another opportunity at advancement in the playoffs. Just last week the two competed and Green Bay had an opportunity to eliminate the Vikings from playoff contention with a win, ultimately earning the No.2 seed and a bye. However, the Vikings pulled off an upset behind a matured QB Christian Ponder (2,935yds, 18TD-12INT) performance and the MVP-caliber effort of RB Adrian Peterson (2,097yds, 12TD’s). The Vikings will need a likewise effort from the duo and the pressure from their top ranked pass defense (44 sacks – 6th). In their final three games, Minnesota has averaged 32 points per game. Similar offensive production will have to show up if they have any chance of getting past a vengeful Green Bay and stingy San Francisco.
5. Washington Redskins (10-6) – At this particular point, the Washington Redskins are not a better team than the other four remaining NFC contenders, which is why they are No.5 on this list. However, that does not take away from the team's red-hot factor. Led by Rookie of the Year candidate Robert Griffin III and the championship experience of head coach Mike Shanahan, the Redskins are one of the league’s most feared teams. They also are on a 7-game win streak and have wins against two playoff teams.
4. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – As I stated in my earlier Power Rankings, the Seattle Seahawks remain one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL; under the ra-ra-style leadership of elite college coach-turned successful, competitive NFL head coach, Pete Carrol. Seattle comes into the postseason with the league’s stingiest defense (15.3ppg allowed-1st) and Russell Wilson continues to impress – and win - ranking among the league’s best in game winning drives (4-3rd) and 4th quarter comebacks (3-4th). If all the pieces fall into place and “Beast-Mode” shows up, the Seahawks could authorize a new prototype for success in the modern NFL.
3. Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – The bye week for the Falcons could be a gift and a curse. 2-2 in their last four after an 11-1 start, the Falcons only fueled the fire of criticism despite earning the No.1 seed in the NFC and the rest could refocus the team and rest up any injuries for a week. Nevertheless, it will be up to Atlanta to prove the naysayers wrong as they wait for the winner of Washington v. Seattle. Michael Turner will need to step up also despite having his lowest rushing seasons since ’07 (800yds, 10TD’s). Matt Ryan also needs to shoulder the load for the team. In his last three games, Ryan has a TD-INT ratio of 8-0. The Falcons defense is underrated (18.7ppg-5th), but with reason, the secondary has given up 1,144 yard, but only surrendered one touchdown in their final three games
2. Green Bay Packers (11-5) – The Green Bay Packers will enter the playoffs much like they did during their championship run in 2010, as a Wildcard and teetering on the on underdog line. Aaron Rodgers is back to nearly flawless football; in spite of being one the NFL’s most pressured quarterbacks. The fate of this year’s Green Bay Packers lies in the hands of its defense, which finished around the top ten in points allowed (21ppg)
1. San Francisco 49’ers (11-4-1) – My pick to win the NFC, all things considered. The integrity of John Harbaugh’s executive decision to go with “his guy”, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,814yds, 10TD-3INT in 13 games), will be put to the test. With the league’s second-best defense in points allowed (17.1ppg) and a Pro Bowl rusher in Frank Gore (1,214yds, 8TD’s), the Niner’s bring in perhaps the NFL’s most complete teams. The only thing that could possibly keep San Francisco from the Super Bowl actually hasn’t changed from last season, special teams. Hopefully – for the 49’ers - the bye will fix all of that.