A hobbled Aaron Rodgers vs. the Seahawks’ defense.
That’s the best guess of most national media and major newspapers as they try to predict the outcome of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.
Oddsmakers have set the line at about 7.5 points in Seattle’s favor, and many of the predictions are landing close to that mark, with some forecasting an even bigger Seattle victory. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ injured calf and the Seahawks’ fast, physical defense are the reasons most cite for making the reigning Super Bowl champions heavy favorites to advance to the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
The home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field, where the game is scheduled Sunday at 12:05 p.m. (FOX, Channel 13) is also a big factor in Seattle’s favor. The Seahawks, who easily beat Green Bay in the NFL opener on Sept. 4, are on a roll after winning six straight games behind a dominating defense and an improving offense.
Not everyone thinks Seattle will win, however. I found several who picked the Packers in an upset.
Here are some of the early predictions by national media and major newspapers. Look for updates over the weekend.
Four of four pick the Seahawks,
Jerry Brewer: Seahawks 27, Packers 19 – Aaron Rodgers is a special player, even on one leg, but the Seahawks are too good and balanced to lose the NFC title game at home.
Bob Condotta: Seahawks 27, Packers 20 – Green Bay will present a much tougher challenge than in the opener, Aaron Rodgers’ gimpy calf and all. But the Seahawks simply have too much going for them — a defense at the top of its game, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and home-field advantage.
Jayson Jenks: Seahawks 24, Packers 14 – The Seahawks’ defense has feasted on elite quarterbacks the last two years — Peyton Manning twice, Drew Brees twice and Aaron Rodgers earlier this season — and they’ll do so again against Rodgers this time around.
Larry Stone: Seahawks 35, Packers 28 – The Seahawks are too close to another Super Bowl appearance to let it slip away —playing at home. I expect Aaron Rodgers, sore calf and all, to have an excellent game, but Seattle will make enough big plays, on both sides of the ball, to pull this one out.
Marc Sessler: Seahawks 33, Packers 20 – 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. …
How 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). … 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 and Randall Cobb square off against Sherman and fellow Seattle corner Byron Maxwell. Packers rookie pass-catcher Davante Adams — who shredded Dallas for 117 yards — looms as a juicy third target.
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.
John Breech: Seahawks 30, Packers 20 – I’ve never seen Jaws II, but I think it’s about a shark who can smell blood in the water. I’m only bringing that up because that’s basically going to be the Seahawks defense when Aaron Rodgers walks into CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
A healthy Rodgers going up against the Seahawks defense in Week 1 was barely a fair fight, and a gimpy Rodgers going up against the Seahawks defense could get ugly.
Even when he was a 100 percent healthy this season, Rodgers struggled when the Packers went up against an opponent with a good defense. Rodgers’ three worst games of 2014 came against defenses that ranked in the top-four in the NFL (Seahawks in Week 1, Lions in Week 3 and Bills in Week 15). In those three games, Rodgers threw a combined three interceptions, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is for him because he only threw five all season.
Part of what makes Rodgers so good is his ability to escape the pocket and make a big play, an ability he didn’t have against Dallas. If Rodgers is still immobile by the time Sunday rolls around, it’s hard to see the Packers offense finding much success.
The best way to take pressure off Rodgers would be to get Eddie Lacy going, but that’s going to be nearly impossible against a Seahawks defense that ranked third against the run in 2014.
Speaking of getting the run going, don’t be surprised to see Beast Mode go Beast Mode against a Packers defense that gave up 4.9 yards per carry to DeMarco Murray in the divisional round. The Seahawks ground game is actually better than what the Packers saw against the Cowboys and that’s mainly because Russell Wilson is always a threat to run.
Can the Packers win this game? They can, but they’re going to have to put up points to do it. Against Seattle, 28 seems to be the magic number.
Since 2012, the Seahawks are 0-6 in the regular season or playoffs when an opponent scores 28 or more points. The problem is that I don’t think an injured Rodgers can lead the Packers to 28 or more points.
Fourteen of 16 pick the Seahawks.
Sean Tomlinson: Beating the Seahawks in Seattle during the playoffs—where they’ve won three straight postseason games while giving up an average of 16.3 points—already requires health and near perfection. The Packers can pull off one of those things offensively, but the former is an issue with a one-legged and nearly immobile quarterback. A healthy Aaron Rodgers posted only 5.7 yards per pass attempt back in Week 1, down significantly from his season average of 8.4. If the league’s third-rank run defense during the regular season contains Eddie Lacy again, Rodgers will have to be wearing a cape for the Packers to win in Seattle.
Ty Schalter: It’s hard to see anyone defeating the Seahawks with the way they’re playing, but Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are an interesting matchup. Much like the Dallas Cowboys, the only team to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, the Packers have plenty of size and speed at receiver, a lights-out quarterback, a physical offensive line and a workhorse running back. The Packers should be able to test the Seahawks vertically—and still move the chains underneath.
Five of six pick the Seahawks.
Katie Sharp: Sunday’s schedule kicks off with the defending champs hosting the Packers in a rematch of the 2014 season opener. Green Bay is hoping for a better ending this weekend than the 20-point blowout it suffered more than five months ago, but springing the upset won’t be easy in Seattle. The Seahawks have won eight straight home playoff games and are 25-2 at CenturyLink Field over the last three seasons. Green Bay has also struggled on the road this season, going 4-4 while being outscored by 17 points in those eight games.
David Steele: Seahawks 29, Packers 24 – The Packers’ defense doesn’t present nearly the same challenge to the Seahawks’ offense. Russell Wilson and Co. always figure out how to get what they need. So, in hindsight, maybe everything in this game does come down to the state of Rodgers’ calf.
Too bad for the Packers.
Gary Myers: Seahawks 27, Packers 17 – Aaron Rodgers will bravely limp around trying to avoid the ’Hawks pass rush, but Legion of Boom defense will be too much.
There is nothing that suggests this will even be a close game, therefore I am ignoring my gut that says it will be. For most of the season, my gut has been oh-so-wrong when it comes to the Seahawks. We know they win at home, and more often than not, they win big. Therefore, logic prevails here. And remember when Aaron Rodgers told his fans to R-E-L-A-X? Well, there won’t be much relaxing going on in the land of the frozen tundra this week. Rodgers won’t be at full strength once again, and that’s just not going to work against this defense. The Packers got bombed in Seattle in September, and it’s going to happen again.
James Simpson II: Seahawks 31, Packers 24 – The enthralling thing about Seattle’s secondary of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Byron Maxwell (when healthy) is that there have been some excellent secondaries throughout NFL history that have excelled at being fast and being able to cover at an elite level but not necessarily great at tackling, hitting, and being physical. And there have been past secondaries that have excelled at being physical, tackling, and hitting but have lacked in cover skills and speed. With this Seattle secondary, they excel at all five phases: They are fast, physical, can hit, can tackle, and can cover all at an elite level, plus they are intimidating as any secondary the game has ever seen.
What secondary in NFL history is that complete? I’m serious. Find one because I can’t.
And this is the secondary that Aaron Rodgers will be throwing against on Sunday. Good Luck Aaron.
In order for the Packers to win this game, controlling time of possession will have to be a key factor for them. The Packers offense will have to have a balanced attack and Rodgers is gonna have to test the Seahawk secondary down field a couple of times to open up the game (Especially Richard Sherman, who Rodgers avoided throwing in his direction in the Packers Week 1 loss to the Seahawks 36-16). In my opinion, this is huge legacy game for Rodgers. He’s probably walking away with his second MVP in a week or two and he’s quickly establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it (I have him in the top 20 all-time right now) and winning important games like this one against the best defensive team in the last decade will only enhance his status.
I just don’t see it happening in this game. Russell Wilson (5-1 playoff record) is another quarterback that is building his resume up quickly and you can make the case he’s been as good as any QB in the playoffs the last three years. He’ll make great decisions and make enough big plays for his team to win like he always does. And I haven’t even mentioned Beast Mode. Seattle’s determined to become the first NFC team to make back-to-back Super Bowls since the Packers did it in 1996-1997 led by Brett Favre.
Yep, I’m feeling the Legion of Boom in this one.
Michael Terrill: Packers 28, Seahawks 27 – The biggest reason why the NFC Championship is going to be incredibly exciting is because it pins the top scoring offense in the league against one of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL. They say defenses win championships, and there definitely is some truth to that. However, I still believe the Packers have the edge in the contest.
Not only does Green Bay have Aaron Rodgers, who is the best player in the game, but they also are loaded with explosive playmakers at several positions. Not to mention, I believe Green Bay’s defense is better than Seattle’s offense, which will be the difference in the NFC Championship.
Seattle will give Green Bay everything they can handle. There is a reason why they are favored by seven and a half points in the matchup. Still, it is being favored by that much that could get in the heads of the Seahawks’ players. There is an expectation, maybe even an assumption they will win. That alone could open the doors for Rodgers to do what he does best, while running back Eddie Lacy pounds the run game.
On the other hand, running back Marshawn Lynch has been devastating in the postseason ever since he arrived in Seattle. His ability to go Beast Mode at any moment has to worry Green Bay, a team that ranked 23rd in run defense. Plus, Russell Wilson has turned into a very dangerous player and Seattle’s defense is about as terrifying as it gets.
No matter the outcome, it is going to be an incredibly close game that will come down to the wire. A combination of Rodgers completing passes at will and a Packers defense that has frustrated offenses down the stretch will be too much for the Seahawks to handle.
Anthony Riccobono: Playing at home against Dallas, however, will be much different than playing at Seattle. Rodgers has had much less success away from Lambeau Field, and it’s extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks to play well against the Seahawks, especially at CenturyLink Field.
Rodgers put up good numbers on the road, but they don’t compare to the 28 touchdowns and no interceptions that he’s thrown in nine home games. On the road, the veteran has thrown 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions, leading Green Bay to a 4-4 record. The Packers have the No.1 scoring offense in football, but they average just 21 points per game on the road. Nineteen teams scored more than 21 points per game in the regular season.
Seattle has lost just two home games in the last three years, and that dominance continued in the postseason, with a 14-point win over the Panthers. No matter where the game might be held, though, the Packers would have a difficult time scoring on Pete Carroll’s defense. Carolina’s 17 points was the most Seattle allowed since Week 11, and five of their last six regular-season opponents were held to seven points or less.
The vaunted “Legion of Boom” has given quarterbacks nightmares all season long, allowing just 185.6 passing yards per game, prior to the playoffs. Cam Newton threw for 246 yards, but he was intercepted twice, including once by Richard Sherman, who continues to play like the best cornerback in football. Rodgers didn’t throw at Sherman once in the season opener, and the Pro Bowler has helped the defense allow just four passing touchdowns, while totaling nine interceptions, during the team’s seven-game winning streak.
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