After missing the playoffs last season, the Seattle Seahawks have surprised some pundits by reaching the postseason 12 months later and they will be desperate to extend their stay by overcoming the Dallas Cowboys in their Wild Card Playoff on Sunday afternoon.
The Seahawks struggled early this season and were 4-5 after 10 weeks. Behind a renewed focus on their running game, the Seahawks won six of their final seven including a 38-31 thriller at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16.
The Cowboys also experienced a sluggish beginning to the season going 3-5 before winning seven of their last eight games and the NFC East division. The strong form coincided with the acquisition of former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, who soon became quarterback Dak Prescott's favourite target.
Seattle had the most rushing yards during the regular season (2560) while Dallas were ranked tenth (1963) primarily due to rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott (1434 yards). Both teams are also in the top half for rushing yards allowed, so the quarterback duel between Prescott and Seattle's Russell Wilson is pivotal.
Prescott (22 touchdown passes; eight interceptions this season) has played better since the arrival of Cooper, but Wilson has engineered terrific playoff victories in his career, been to the Super Bowl twice and enjoyed a stronger season (35 touchdown passes; seven interceptions) than his Cowboys counterpart.
Due to Wilson's edge over Prescott, the Seahawks appeal as slight outsiders.
The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have snuck into the playoffs and they will continue their title defence against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Monday morning.
With starting quarterback Carson Wentz out with a back injury and the Eagles 6-7, postseason hopes appeared forlorn. However, Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles replaced Wentz and stirring victories away to the Los Angeles Rams and at home to the Houston Texans helped to secure the last playoff spot in the NFC. Foles has been terrific in his three starts throwing six touchdown passes to just three interceptions.
For the first time in eight years, the Chicago Bears are in the playoffs after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North division crown. Behind outstanding linebacker Khalil Mack, Chicago has the third-best ranked defence which includes allowing the least amount of rushing yards (1280) and points per game (17.7) while obtaining the most interceptions (27) and the third-most sacks (50).
The biggest question mark for the Bears is second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Against non-playoff teams this season, Trubisky has looked good (19 touchdown passes; five interceptions). However, he has struggled against playoff teams (five touchdown passes; seven interceptions) and those games were at home.
The Eagles only suffered one double-digit loss this season, so they will be confident of keeping this contest close and if the Bears trail early, Trubisky could feel the pressure at home to win the game with his arm rather than relying on the defence.