NFC Championship Play-off Game

January 18, 2015
Stephen Wundke

 

The Packers travel to Seattle where many a team have wilted. In fact the Seahawks have only lost 2 games out of their last 26 at home. The 12 man effect of the crowd may be overstated by the fact they are an exceptionally good side anyway but no-one looks forward to going to Seattle and this game might just bring back some bad memories from the season opener for Rodgers and friends.

We labelled the Packers a “pretender masquerading as a contender to the NFL throne” after Green Bay’s ugly 36-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 NFL Kickoff.

Aaron Rodgers and friends were overwhelmed from the start, averaging just 3.5 yards per play entering the fourth quarter against the Legion of Boom. A second defeat in Week 3 to theDetroit Lions sent Packers fans into a dark place, until Rodgers — the game’s finest quarterback — cast his spell over Green Bay with one five-letter word: “R-E-L-A-X.”

That said, all is not well.

Rodgers is still fighting a painful calf strain that made him look human for three-plus quarters against the Cowboys. His Packers, meanwhile, haven’t been the same team on the road, putting up 17.2 fewer points per tilt in enemy territory — the largest differential between home and away points per game totals of any team in 2014.

The Packers aren’t the same squad we saw at CenturyLink Field in September, but the Seahawkshave undergone a metamorphosis of their own. Playing their best football of the year, Seattle’s smothering defense against Green Bay’s high-octane air attack has the makings of a January classic.

aaron rodgersUnder pressure

 

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers:

How is the greatest signal-caller of our day under the gun?

Simple. If that calf acts up, we’re in for another dose of Rodgers looking like a shell of himself against the NFL’s most powerful secondary.

“It’s good. No better. It’s doing OK,” Rodgers said Tuesday of the injury, adding: “Any time you move and feel the pain, you’re going to stop doing what you’re doing.”

The Packers game-planned around his limited mobility against Dallas, lining up Rodgers in the pistol or shotgun for every snap outside of Green Bay’s three victory formation kneel-downs to seal the win. For much of the game, we saw a passer who couldn’t plant his feet, leading to Rodgers sailing throws high for three-plus quarters.

Rodgers bounced back against the Cowboys to complete three passes — with two touchdowns — outside the pocket. Watch him drill this ball into the hands of tight end Richard Rodgers off one foot:

If Rodgers can operate the way he did over the final quarter against Dallas, hope remains. The neutralizer, of course, is Seattle’s No. 1 defense, destined to put pressure on Rodgers behind aRichard Sherman-led secondary holding opposing passers to a Total QBR of 53.1 since Week 7 — third lowest in the NFL.

There have been six instances of the same teams meeting in Week 1 and then again in the conference championship. All six times, the team that won in Week 1 also won the conference title game. … Seattle’s defense allowed 159 receptions, 1,587 yards and five touchdowns to wide receivers in 2014 — all totals stood as the lowest in the NFL. … The Seahawks are 16-0 at home since 2012 when scoring 24-plus points. Green Bay’s defense has allowed 24-plus points just once in their last nine games.

russell wilsonHow good are these quarterbacks? Last week, Rodgers and Tony Romo faced off in a playoff matchup of the two highest-rated passers in NFL history (minimum 1,500 attempts). If the attempts minimum is lowered to 1,000, though, Rodgers and Russell Wilson are the two highest-rated signal-callers ever. … Lynch has been outstanding, but don’t forget about Eddie Lacy. His 72.9 yards per game are close to Beast Mode (80.3), while Lacy leads in yards per carry (4.7 to 4.6).

We’ve come a long way since Week 1. Winning in Seattle remains close to impossible, but Green Bay’s offense has the firepower to test this secondary. It will be fascinating to watch wideouts Jordy Nelson andRandall Cobb square off against Sherman and fellow Seattle cornerĀ Byron Maxwell. Packers rookie pass-catcher Davante Adams — who shredded Dallas for 117 yards — looms as a juicy third target if they can throw the ball in the wind.

The clear X-factor remains the health of Rodgers. If he can’t rely on his lower body, Seattle — allowing just 8.0 points per game in their last seven tilts — will clamp down. After the Seahawks overpowered Peyton Manning in February and Rodgers in September, I expect history to repeat itself on Sunday.

Seattle will get through this as they are the best team in the NFC but I expect the Packers defense to turn up today and for that reason I think points will be at a premium in a game where passing will be difficult in the high winds that are forecast. This could be a good old fashioned defensive battle.

 

Our bet – 4 units – less than 44.5 points @ 10/11 with Sportingbet