Wouldn't want to face Saints and Packers in playoffs

Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes over the middle against the Buccaneers in New Orleans,...

Saints quarterback Drew Brees passes over the middle against the Buccaneers in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 2, 2011. (SEAN GARDNER/Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:00 AM ET

TORONTO - In the NFC the call is out, the wild cards are coming, hide the women and children.

In the NFC the two wild card teams the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints are more like the Wild Bunch, the western classic of director Sam Peckinpah that starred William Holden.

Nobody wanted that crew of killers to show up in their town and the same can be said for the teams that get to play host to the Packers and the Saints.

The Saints will be headed west to play the NFC West Division winner and will be heavily favoured.

The Packers, meanwhile, by virtue of their 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears, nailed down a playoff spot as the No. 6 seed and will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and Michael Vick. It will be interesting to see the line on this one.

The Packers may be No. 6 in the seedings but there are plenty of fans and experts who would rank them, given their recent form, as the team to beat even though they will have to win three games on the road to make it to the Super Bowl, Feb. 6 in Arlington, Tex.

The Saints, meanwhile, even though they lost what to them was a meaningless game Sunday to Tampa, finished 11-5 and are the defending Super Bowl champions.

Over the last half of the season, the Saints regained their health, started to run the ball more effectively and meshed defensively. And they have Drew Brees throwing the ball.

They are hitting their stride and look just as impressive as they did last year when they entered the playoffs maybe moreso as they are battle tested and know what it takes to win.

In Sundays clutch game against the Bears, it was a struggle for the Packers who trailed 3-0 after the opening half where they looked uptight, couldnt run the ball a lick, receivers couldnt get open in their routes and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered the ball, couldnt squeeze it and hang on.

In the second half, the Bears kept them shackled up until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Rodgers on a 46-yard pass play to Greg Jennings that put the ball at the one.

Forced to settle for a field goal when placed in the same position in the third quarter, Rodgers connected with Donald Lee to give Green Bay a 10-3 lead, one they wouldnt give up.

A late Jay Cutler interception sealed it for Green Bay.

Given all that, it would not be shocking to have both NFC wild card teams win next weeks game and move on.

What then?

The Atlanta Falcons (13-3) and Bears (11-6) are 1-2 in the seedings and if the wild card teams move on, that would have the Packers in Atlanta with the Saints travelling to Chicago the weekend of Jan. 15/16.

While the Falcons have built the best record in the conference, they do not have a track record of success in the post-season. Quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. have been terrific and have triumphed in a number of comebacks but may have lost some of their mojo in a 17-14 loss to the Saints, Dec. 27.

The defeat was their first of the season at home, pricking their aura of invincibility inside the Georgia Dome.

The Bears, meanwhile, have a tough-as-nail defence led by Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers but they also have Cutler as their quarterback and as he proved in Green Bay, you never know whats going on between his ears.

Cutler can look great but he is also erratic and too often tries to force the ball in tight situations leading to interceptions.

So the Falcons and the Bears, as the top two seeds, are far from bulletproof.

It may be going against all odds but dont be surprised that in three weeks time, the NFC championship is played in New Orleans with the Saints playing host to the Packers.

It would be fitting.

Its been that kind of year.

mike.rutsey@sunmedia.ca


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