No. 6 Seattle Seahawks at No. 3 Minnesota Vikings
This will be the first time these two teams will meet in the playoffs, but not the first time this season. In Week 13, the Seahawks traveled to Minnesota and embarrassed the Vikings on their home turf in a 38-7 route. Seattle leads the all-time series between the franchises, 9-5. Additionally, the Seahawks have won their past three games against Minnesota, outscoring the Vikings 109-47.
The Seahawks have won 10 or more games in each of the past four seasons and have made the playoffs in all four, including one Super Bowl championship to boot. Seattle will aim for its third straight trip to the Super Bowl, which they lost last season to the New England Patriots. Despite being without running backs Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls, as well as tight end Jimmy Graham, the Seattle offense has been chugging of late thanks to quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Seattle has won six of their last seven games, outscoring opponents 224-98. Wilson led the NFL in quarterback rating (110.1) and is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and rush for more than 500 yards in a single season. Baldwin, on the other hand, is tied for first in the NFL with 14 touchdown catches. Rookie stud Tyler Lockett, a first-team All-Pro selection, is the second rookie in NFL history (Hall of Fame's Gale Sayers being the first) with five or more touchdown receptions, a kick-return touchdown, and a punt-return touchdown. Despite all of that offensive prowess, Seattle is best known for its menacing defense, which led the NFL in points allowed -- for the fourth consecutive season -- and rushing defense. The Seahawks were at the top of the NFC in total defense and pass defense. The Seahawks' Legion of Boom, led by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, will provide arguably the toughest challenge of the year for Minnesota's passing attack. Seattle had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl.
As for the Vikings, they're coming off a huge Week 17 win against their rival Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North for the first time since 2009. The Minnesota offense is led by running back Adrian Peterson, who won the NFL rushing title for the third time in his career. Peterson has rushed for more than 90 yards per game and five touchdowns in four career playoff games. Teddy Bridgewater set career-highs in wins (11), pass attempts (447), completions (292), yards (3,231) and passer rating (88.7). The Louisville product tied his career-high with 14 pass touchdowns. He has a 108.5 passer rating in the past 4 games and is 11-4 in his career at home, so he is clicking at just the right time. His top weapons on offense are rookie spark plug Stefon Diggs, who led all NFC rookie receivers with 720 receiving yards, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who led the team with five touchdown receptions. On defense, the team is led by Everson Griffen, who had 10.5 sacks this season. Rookies Eric Kendricks, who led the team in tackles, and Danielle Hunter, who was second on the team in sacks, have shined for Minnesota's front seven. On special teams, kicker Blair Walsh leads the NFL with 34 field goals on the season and has the most made field goals of more than 50 yards since 2012.
No. 5 Green Bay Packers at No. 4 Washington Redskins
This playoff contest marks the third time these two franchises will battle in the postseason, but the first time since 1972. Green Bay leads the all-time series, including postseason, 19-14-1, and has won five of the past six meetings.
The Packers have won 13 NFL championships, the most all-time, and this year marks the 31st time the franchise has made it to the playoffs, tied for most all-time. The team is led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has the highest career passer rating in NFL history (104.1). In his last game against the Redskins, Rodgers torched Washington's defense for 480 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-20 win in 2013. The top players on the Packers defense to watch are Clay Matthews, who has the most career sacks in playoff franchise history (8.5), Julius Peppers, rookie Damarious Randall, who led the team with 14 pass deflections, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who led the team in tackles (99). The Packers started out the season hot but have stumbled to a 10-6 record, losing six of their past 10 games.
As for the Redskins, they won the NFC East for the first time since 2012 and first time under head coach Jay Gruden. Washington has won four in a row and scored at least 34 points in each of the past three games. Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins is seemingly unflappable at FedEx Field, completing nearly 75 percent of his passes at home this season, which is the highest in NFL history. Cousins has thrown for 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the team's past seven home games. Cousins is also the first player in team history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a single season. Tight end Jordan Reed, his safety blanket, leads NFC tight ends in receptions (87) and touchdowns (11). Wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder, who led NFC rookies in receptions, provide a trio of weapons on the outside for Cousins. On defense, Washington is led by outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has 9.5 sacks and at least 7.5 sacks in each of his five NFL seasons. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland has led the team in pass deflections in each of his two seasons on the Redskins. Safety Dashon Goldson led the team in tackles in his first season with Washington.
Redskins blog: Hogs Haven