3. What is the biggest strategic difference in the NFC compared to the AFC? Unlike the AFC, a conference that had only one division winner with a 1,000-yard halfback, the NFC continues to stress the run. The Seahawks pound it with Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers pound it with Frank Gore. Even though DeAngelo Williams had a subpar, 843-yard season, the Panthers stress the run. Seattle, San Francisco and Carolina are three of the top four teams in football in run percentage. Even the Packers are more of a running team than in the past thanks to the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy. That strategy goes against the overall league trend, but it is effective. The Seahawks won 13 games this season, while the Panthers and 49ers each won 12. Leaguewide, there were only 93 100-yard rushing games by backs, compared to 121 last year and 129 in 2011. That's a 23 percent drop-off from last season. Not one back averaged 20 carries per game, but the winning teams in the NFC -- for the most part -- had the successful running backs.
4. What's the biggest headache for defensive coordinators? No doubt, it's the combination of the read-option and the running quarterbacks. Newton had 585 rushing yards on 111 carries and six touchdowns. Wilson had 596 yards on 96 carries. Kaepernick had 524 yards on 92 carries. Even though he missed eight games with a fractured collarbone, Rodgers can break a long run, particularly when he sees man coverage and his first couple of reads in the progression are coverage.
5. It is considered a quarterback's league, but what is the value of coaching? Coaching is huge in the NFC. Some of the highest-paid coaches made the playoffs. Sean Payton of the Saints makes $8 million a year. Pete Carroll of the Seahawks makes $6.5 million. Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers is on a five-year, $25 million contract, and he's already turned down a more lucrative extension. Mike McCarthy of the Packers makes around $5 million a year. The only bargains are Carolina's Ron Rivera and Philadelphia's Chip Kelly, who are on their first head-coaching contracts around $2.8 million a year. In the NFC, the top teams got what they paid for. Carroll has made the Seahawks the deepest team in football. Harbaugh took the talent that was built by Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary and turned it into a Super Bowl contender for the third straight year. The return of Payton, suspended in 2012 because of the bounty scandal, brought the Saints back to the playoffs.
6. What are the playoff records of the quarterbacks? The only NFC quarterbacks without a playoff win are Newton and Foles, who are making their postseason debuts. Rodgers is 5-3 and has a Super Bowl ring. Brees is the most seasoned with a 5-4 record, including a Super Bowl victory, but he hasn't won a road game. Kaepernick is 2-1. Wilson is 1-1.