The NFC has had a wild finish over the second half of the season. At the midway point, it looked like the Eagles and Cowboys were both going to miss the playoffs while the Redskins and Panthers would get in easily. Now, both Philadelphia and Dallas will play this weekend while the other watch on their couches. The crazy NFC could get even crazier this weekend with these two good matchups. The winners will move on to face possibly the two most dominant teams in the league this year in the Rams and Saints.
More Foles Magic for Philly?
Philadelphia may believe that Carson Wentz is their franchise quarterback, but he hasn’t been winning the big games for the Eagles. That quarterback has been Nick Foles. Since last season, Foles has won 9 of his 11 starts with the only two losses coming in Week 17 last year, when the Eagles had wrapped up home-field advantage, and Week 2 this year. His Super Bowl run last year was one for the ages and he has willed them to three straight victories to get them back to the postseason.
Now he has to face possibly the toughest defense in the league. The Bears’ defense has allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game this year. The unit includes key players like NFL interceptions leader Kyle Fuller, young star safety Eddie Jackson, plus elite pass-rusher Khalil Mack. This will be his toughest test yet, but the quarterback on the other side, Mitchell Trubisky, will be making his first career postseason start. Chicago has played dominant defense all year and the Eagles will need Foles to continue to play well if they want to survive.
Old School Football for Dallas and Seattle
The Cowboys and Seahawks will be looking to run the football on Saturday night. Both teams are in the top ten in rushing attempts for the year and Seattle leads the league in rushing yards. Both teams also pride themselves on their defense. Seattle allowing 21.7 points per game and Dallas just 20.2 points per game. The styles of these teams are very similar and should lead to a defensive battle.
Don’t expect this game to end in a 40-37 score because possessions will be limited. Both teams have capable signal-callers, but will be looking to establish the run and control the time of possession. Whichever team can take care of the ball and limit the other team on the ground should be able to advance to next weekend. They would undoubtedly face a different style of team in Los Angeles or New Orleans.
This will be a theme not only this round, but throughout the NFC playoffs. Early in the season, it looked like the NFC Championship would be a shootout between the offensive superpowers in the conference, the Rams and the Saints. However, the teams playing this weekend have proven these top teams can be beaten by playing good defense. The Cowboys knocked off the Saints 13-10 and the Bears and Eagles both took down the Rams’ mighty offense.
This week, no team playing has a dominant offense. However, look for which defense is able to control these wild card games. The Saints and Rams have both been vulnerable against elite defenses. The 45-42 NFC Championship that everyone wanted may not be happening. The team coming out of the NFC this year will be the team that can get those elite offenses off of the field.