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Playoffs Preview- NFC Divisional Round

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Aaron Rodgers

After a typically dramatic wildcard weekend, the Playoffs continue this week with the divisional games just around the corner.

The first of two NFC divisional games takes place on Saturday night as the Green Bay Packers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers.

The second game is on Sunday in Atlanta as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks tackle Matt Ryan and the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Mike McCarthy

Keys to the Game

When the Packers have the ball…

Aldon Smith

Aaron Rodgers vs 49ers Pass Rush

  • The 49ers boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL led by star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. However, it’s one of the Niners other starting linebackers that will provide the biggest test for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that is pass rusher Aldon Smith.
  • Smith had an outstanding 19.5 sacks in the regular season and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the league coming off the edge. Rodgers will be under pressure from Smith and the rest of the 49ers pass rush throughout the game and faces his biggest test of the year on the road in San Francisco.

When the 49ers have the ball…

Frank Gore

Frank Gore and 49ers Running Game vs Packers Run Defense

  • Whilst the 49ers passing attack has been inconsistent this season, their running game has remained one of the best units in the league led by starting running back Frank Gore. Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards again this campaign and he is also helped out by backups Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
  • The Packers defense is still a work-in-progress vs the run and rank as the 17th best team in the league. How Clay matthews and co. handle Frank Gore and the 49ers running game will be key to the outcome of this one.

Prediction

Clay Matthews

The Packers are coming off an impressive wildcard victory against their division rivals Minnesota Vikings and this will be a huge game in particular for their quarterback Aaron Rodgers against the team that passed on him in the 2005 Draft.

The 49ers are coming off a first-round bye and have the added pressure of having Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback with Kaepernick starting his first ever Playoff game.

In this contrast of quarterbacks between Packers starter Aaron Rodgers and 49ers backup Alex Smith, I think Rodgers proves yet again that the 49ers made the wrong decision.

Packers 28 49ers 19

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Russell Wilson

Keys to the Game

When the Seahawks have the ball…

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawks Running Game vs Falcons Run Defense

  • Just like the 49ers in their game, the Seahawks offense will likely lean on their rushing attack led by their Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch. Lynch rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards this season en route to helping the Seahawks to the league’s third best ground game averaging over 160 yards per game.
  • The Falcons defense ranks in the mid-twenties in terms of NFL rankings for both passing and rushing yards allowed per game but surprisingly, they only allow 18 points per game which is the fifth best in the league. Their run defense will set out to put the pressure on Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson in this one by shutting down Marshan Lynch and their running game.  

When the Falcons have the ball…

Julio Jones

Falcons Wide Receivers vs Seahawks Secondary

  • This is a key matchup in this game with two of the league’s best units going head-to-head with the Falcons wide receivers vs the Seahawks secondary. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will also be a target for quarterback Matt Ryan in the passing game.
  • Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones both had over 1,000 receiving yards this season with Jones in particluar emerging as a reliable weapon for the Falcons offense. The Pro Bowler will likely be covered by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas also being a key player for the Seahawks secondary.

Prediction

Matt Ryan

The Seahawks pulled off an upset last week in a win over RG3 and the Redskins on the road in Washington and they face another tough test this week on the road in Atlanta.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons may have lost their last regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the number one seed appear to be favorites at home in this one.

I picked the Seahawks to lose last week and I’m doing the same again this time around.

Seahawks 17 Falcons 20

Mike Smith

So those are your previews and predictions.

For more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

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