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Rookies take center stage in NFL playoffs

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks (Credit: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks (Getty Images))

Rookie QBs duel for Redskins, Sea hawks

At this time last year, the Redskins' Robert Griffin III and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson were only days removed from quarterbacking Baylor and Wisconsin, respectively, to college bowl games. Now, they'll square off in the opening round of the NFL playoffs as Seattle meets Washington at FedEx Field on Sunday.

They sure haven't played like rookies. Each threw for more than 3,100 yards while completing more than 64% of their passes. The dual threats also accounted for at least 27 of their team's touchdowns, while averaging more than 5 yards per carry.

More importantly, their teams got better with them under center. The NFC East champion Redskins (10-6) won five more games this year than last, while Seattle (11-5) earned four more victories than it did in 2011. Sure, adding the first-year passers was not the only move each team made, but it was the most important factor in their turnarounds.

The Seahawks can surely thank their top-notch defense for making Wilson's job easier. The unit is bolstered by its secondary, with Richard Sherman emerging this year as one of the NFL's best shutdown cornerbacks.

Washington's defense doesn't have as much to boast about. Only four teams allowed more yards this season. Put simply, the team has gotten by on the strength of its high-octane offense, and especially it's running game. Griffin's 815 rushing yards are impressive, but rookie running back Alfred Morris' 1,613 yards on the ground were second-best in the NFL.

Wilson isn't Seattle's only offensive threat. Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch tallied 1,590 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns. He's a veteran of big games.

The Redskins are capable of outscoring any team on any given Sunday, but Seattle's defense should hold Washington in check enough for Wilson and Lynch to lead Seattle into the next round.

Peterson, Vikings to attack Pack for 2nd straight week

The Packers and Vikings have faced off twice already this season, the most recent contest being last weekend's 37-34 Vikings victory in Minnesota. They'll match up a third time Saturday night in chilly Green Bay, where the Packers topped the Vikings 23-14 five weeks ago.

Aaron Rodgers, who leads the NFC North champion Packers' potent passing attack, threw for 4,295 yards and 39 TDs but was also the league's most-sacked quarterback (51). The Vikings' Jared Allen and Everson Griffin accounted for six of them.

Green Bay (11-5) must be most concerned with Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota running back tallied 409 of his 2,097 yards in the two meetings against Green Bay.

The Vikings (10-6) have won four in a row, but expect the Packers to be the ones heading to San Francisco next week, and a rematch of their Week 1 loss.

Luck, Colts look to beat odds with playoff win

The Colts weren't supposed to be in the playoffs. Not this year, anyway. Teams simply don't go from worst in the NFL to contenders in one year's time.

That the Colts are here is a testament to how great Andrew Luck, the 2012 top overall draft pick, has been this year for Indianapolis, which went 11-5 after a dismal 2-14 record in 2011. The Colts face the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Wild Card game on Sunday.

Here's a short list of Luck's rookie records: Most passing yards in a game (433), most passing yards in a season (4,374), most 300-yard passing games (6), most wins (11), most game-winning drives (7) and most fourth-quarter comebacks (6).

Fortunately for the Ravens, Luck isn't perfect. He completed just 54.1% of his passes, his 76.5 passer rating ranks 26th in the league, he absorbed 41 sacks and only two quarterbacks threw more interceptions than his 18. Also, Luck is just about all the Colts offense has in its arsenal.

Most years, the Ravens defense wouldn't have much to fear on any team. But this Baltimore squad earned the AFC North title thanks to a hot start and the best offense the city has seen since the Colts resided in Maryland. The defense ranked 17th in the league this year in yards allowed, and opponents averaged 21.5 points per game.

More troubling for Baltimore (10-6) is the manner in which they finished the regular season. They lost four of their final five games - although they rested many of their starters in a Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Still, the Colts defense was far worse, especially against the run. Baltimore running back Ray Rice shouldn't have much trouble carving up Indianapolis. That should make all the difference against a team that overachieved all season.

New year, same game for Texans, Bengals

The Colts weren't supposed to be in the playoffs. Not this year, anyway. Teams simply don't go from worst in the NFL to contenders in one year's time.

That the Colts are here is a testament to how great Andrew Luck, the 2012 top overall draft pick, has been this year for Indianapolis, which went 11-5 after a dismal 2-14 record in 2011. The Colts face the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Wild Card game on Sunday.

Here's a short list of Luck's rookie records: Most passing yards in a game (433), most passing yards in a season (4,374), most 300-yard passing games (6), most wins (11), most game-winning drives (7) and most fourth-quarter comebacks (6).

Fortunately for the Ravens, Luck isn't perfect. He completed just 54.1% of his passes, his 76.5 passer rating ranks 26th in the league, he absorbed 41 sacks and only two quarterbacks threw more interceptions than his 18. Also, Luck is just about all the Colts offense has in its arsenal.

Most years, the Ravens defense wouldn't have much to fear on any team. But this Baltimore squad earned the AFC North title thanks to a hot start and the best offense the city has seen since the Colts resided in Maryland. The defense ranked 17th in the league this year in yards allowed, and opponents averaged 21.5 points per game.

More troubling for Baltimore (10-6) is the manner in which they finished the regular season. They lost four of their final five games - although they rested many of their starters in a Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Still, the Colts defense was far worse, especially against the run. Baltimore running back Ray Rice shouldn't have much trouble carving up Indianapolis. That should make all the difference against a team that overachieved all season.

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