The NFC Championship game is upon us! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Packers fan and anyone who knows me well knows that I am an analytical cat. My rational tendencies can be my worst enemy at times, but laying out all of the possibilities of a situation, in sports or otherwise, brings me comfort and allows me to think more creatively about said situation.
Compared to last week when I was a nervous wreck for 6+ days, I have been feeling strangely fine this whole week leading up to the game today.
I think this is because the Packers have now reached my expectations as a team this year and if they win today, they will have exceeded them (a packers.com reader voiced these same thoughts perfectly in an Ask Vic column this week).
I thought at the beginning of this season that we would have to go through Seattle in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. I also thought that it would ultimately come down to an Aaron Rodgers-led offense having to overcome a ferocious Seattle defense and CenturyLink Field’s 12th Man. I didn’t feel good about the Packers chances of advancing to the Super Bowl under those circumstances in September and, up until yesterday, I felt abject about beating the Seahawks on the road with a peg-legged Rodgers.
But things have changed in the last 48 hours. I stopped caring about the national pundits’ opinions and started listening to my heart (and countless Packers podcasts). After carefully weighing every angle of the match up, I think we have a puncher’s chance.
We could be a few hours away from a Super Bowl, so let’s have fun with it! Here are the themes on my mind going into this afternoon’s game, brought to you by the Talking Heads.
Some Good Points…
- The Packers offensive line has improved drastically since we played the Seachickens, I mean Seahawks, in week one. Remember how it was Linsley’s first NFL game (in the loudest NFL stadium) and Sherrod played in place of Bulaga? Our O-line is now one of the strongest units in the league and I feel good about their ability to protect #12 in the pocket.
- The Seahawks defense has faced a laundry list of low caliber quarterbacks the last several months. If you’re a Packers fan, you’ve seen the list by now. Their defense played well against Cam Newton last week, but he has practically no offensive weapons to aid him. Long story short, the Seattle defense is a force to be reckoned with but has not been tested regularly since October.
- No Percy Harvin this time around. The mercurial WR had a handful of big plays and a combined 100 yards rushing and receiving in week one. He was traded in October and was not replaced with a weapon approaching his potency. Lynch is now the only stand out talent for Wilson to utilize.
- Julius Peppers vs. Justin Britt. I like this match-up for Green Bay. Peppers could be in for some birthday sacks. Hey Britt: don’t take another step, don’t blame it on yourself! (Couldn’t resist the Phish reference;)
- The Law of Averages suggests that a). the Packers are due for a game changing interception and b). one of the home teams/favorites this weekend will lose.
…Some Bad Points
- The status of Rodgers and his golden thigh is concerning to say the least. He’s only had a week to recover from the Cowboys game. He looked fantastic in the second half last Sunday, but the Packers can’t afford a slow start or sub-par half against Seattle. The Seahawks are 4th in pass defense when the QB stays in the pocket versus 12th when the QB leaves the pocket. Rodgers will definitely be staying the pocket today. Uh oh.
- The coaching match up favors Seattle greatly. My friends and family know that, historically, I have lacked confidence in Mike McCarthy. He’s made strides in the right direction in terms of offensive play calling, but I’ll take Pete Carroll over Mike McCarthy any day when it comes to in-game strategy. Did I mention, as a Notre Dame fan and person with ethical principles, I despise Slippery Pete? I just vomited in my mouth a little.
- Green Bay’s recent defensive history versus athletic, out-of-the-pocket QB threats is bleak. Capers just can’t seem to figure out how the scheme against these offenses. While our defense has been much improved this year compared to years past, I will remain skeptical of this progress until we stop a Russell Wilson or Cam Newton-type in a big game.
- Marshawn Lynch is a beast. The Packers’ run defense showed improvement since Clay Matthews was moved to the inside, but I’m still unconvinced we’ll be able to stop Marshawn for 4 quarters.
But it all works out, I’m just a little freaked out.
The Packers will win if:
- Eddie Lacy out rushes Marshawn Lynch and
- They score a defensive or special teams touchdown and
- They do not allow a defensive or special teams touchdown and
- They hold Russell Wilson to fewer than 45 yards rushing and
- Aaron Rodgers puts together a signature performance
The Seachickens will win if:
- Aaron Rodgers sits out more than one offensive series or
- The Packers have more than one turnover or
- Marshawn Lynch runs for more than 120 yards or
- Seattle scores one or more defensive or special teams touchdown
Prediction: Packers 27, Seahawks 23
Think of Glendale….Super Bowl City!