NFC playoff schedule and bracket 2014: New faces, familiar foes

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly and Nick Foles will get their first taste of the postseason, while the Packers and 49ers will face off for the third time in a year.

The Philadelphia Eagles won on Sunday Night Football and the full postseason slate of games was set. Both the NFC East and NFC North were decided in Week 17. And both of those division champions kickoff the NFC postseason as well.

Saints vs. Eagles: Experience vs. inexperience

Saturday, Jan. 4, 8:10 p.m. (NBC)

On a weekend of rematches, the matchup of New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles is one that hasn't occurred since Week 9 of the 2012 regular season and not in the postseason since 2006.

The two teams have been heading in different directions since November, with the Eagles winning seven games in the latter half of their schedule, while the Saints dropped three of their last five to fall into a wild card role. The Eagles also managed to turn around struggles at home where they lost their first four in 2013, but managed to win each of their last four home games.

With all the momentum on their side and home-field advantage, there are plenty of reasons to pick the Eagles, but they don't quite have the same level of experience as the Saints.

Saturday will be Nick Foles' first start in the postseason, it will be the ninth for Drew Brees. It will be game No. 1 for coach Chip Kelly in the NFL playoffs and No. 9 for Sean Payton. How the Eagles react to the big lights will be a huge determining factor that is hard to predict.

The Saints struggled on the road, finishing 3-5 away from the Dome this year. The Eagles haven't lost at home since October.

I can't wait to see: The Saints have a much improved defense and will likely go all out to stop LeSean McCoy, the NFL's rushing champion. That means Nick Foles is going to have to step up in a pressure situation that he's definitely never been put in during his NFL career. With 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions, Foles was fantastic in the regular season and he'll have to keep that up to make the Eagles a Super Bowl contender.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Packers: Part III

Sunday, Jan. 5, 4:40 p.m. (FOX)

The 49ers and Packers met in the first round of the 2012 postseason, and Colin Kaepernick led the home team to a 45-31 victory in a high-scoring shootout with two passing and two rushing touchdowns. The rematch between the two teams highlighted the slate of Week 1 games in 2013, and the 49ers again pulled out a victory in a game that featured a lot of points, holding off the Packers in San Francisco, 34-28.

San Francisco stumbled in stretches during the regular season, allowing the Seahawks to pull away with the NFC West title, but a six-game winning streak has them back on track and ready for a third win against the Packers.

However, neither of their first two wins came at Lambeau Field where the weather will certainly be cooler than it was in the 49ers' two wins in San Francisco over the Packers.

David Fucillo of SB Nation's 49ers blog, Niners Nation, isn't too concerned that the team will be negatively affected by the cold:

It will be a chilly afternoon in Green Bay, with the high expected to be around 18 degrees, with a potential for a few snow showers. It's going to be cold, but the 49ers have handled their business in the cold weather before (see Patriots game last year). It will be a difficult situation, but the 49ers have what it takes to win this game. The Packers are dangerous with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but the 49ers defense will look to take care of business on national television.

I can't wait to see: Aaron Rodgers had to shake off some rust in his return from a collarbone injury, but came back from two interceptions to connect with Randall Cobb on a 48-yard touchdown in the final minute to send the Packers to the postseason. He'll likely need to find even more success against the top-notch 49ers defense on Sunday for Green Bay to have a shot at advancing.

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Cary Edmondson-US Presswire

The Divisional round

Saturday, Jan. 11 - lowest remaining NFC seed at Seahawks, 4:35 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Jan. 12 - highest remaining NFC seed at Panthers, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)

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