NFC Playoffs Q&A: Seattle safe?

7. What's missing in the NFC playoffs? Star power at wide receiver. None of the eight selected Pro Bowl wide receivers is represented. A few Pro Bowl alternates are around, such as Jordy Nelson of the Packers, Anquan Boldin of the 49ers and DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. This set of NFC participants proved that teams can do well without top receivers. The Seahawks, for example, earned the No. 1 seed despite losing their No. 1 receiver, Sidney Rice, to injury and getting only one catch from Percy Harvin after signing him to a $61 million contract. Michael Crabtree of the 49ers and Randall Cobb of the Packers missed half the season, but both teams are here. The Packers also survived the departure of Greg Jennings to Minnesota.

8. How have the teams matched up this season? The Packers have a chance to avenge their season-opening loss in San Francisco. This time, they will face the 49ers in Green Bay. If there are any divisional rematches, the Seahawks and 49ers split their games, with the home teams winning. The same goes for the Panthers and Saints. Both Carolina and New Orleans beat the 49ers. Seattle had a road win at the beginning of the season in Carolina and blew out the Saints in Seattle.

9. Which injuries should be watched during the playoffs? The Panthers got a break by clinching a bye and buying an extra week for wide receiver Steve Smith to recover from a sprained PCL in his left knee. Those injuries usually take two to four weeks to heal, so the Panthers have a chance of having him back for their divisional-round game. The bye also could allow halfback Jonathan Stewart (knee) and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf) to play. The Seahawks might not have Harvin (hip) or linebacker K.J. Wright (foot surgery) for their divisional game, and backup tight end Luke Willson has a high-ankle sprain. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane suffered a hip injury Sunday, but he has time to recover. The Saints, Eagles and 49ers are healthy, although 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers was banged up Sunday. He's having an MRI on his hamstring. If he can't play, Eric Wright will get the start. The Packers won't have linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) and had linebacker Brad Jones sit out the season finale with an ankle injury.

10. Who will make it to the NFC Championship Game? The Seahawks and Panthers have the best chances, which puts a lot of pressure on Newton to try to win in Seattle. The Saints have struggled too much on the road to think they can win two games to get to the title game. In fact, if the Saints beat Philadelphia, they would have to play in Seattle, where they were blown out in Week 13. I could see the 49ers beating the Packers.

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