I was hot heading into Sunday last weekend at 5-1 before I lost by picking both the Packers -6 and the Broncos -7.5. Well, let’s get back on the right path. A very interesting thing about these two games is that they’re rematches of games played earlier in the season and I’m going to pick both teams that got blown out…
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-0); (o/u 44.5)
This is a matchup between the best scoring offense against the best scoring defense and promises to be a much better battle than the Seahawks 36-16 beat down on opening night. Seattle is riding an eight-game home playoff winning streak and looking to become the first team to make it to the Super Bowl in back-to-back years in a decade. Both of these teams are red-hot with the Seahawks winning seven straight and 10 of 11 and the Packers winning 12 of 14.
It’s a matchup between two of the best playoff quarterbacks of all-time as well with ESPN citing that Rodgers 105.3 career playoff passer rating is second only to Wilson’s 109.6.
One major issue for the Packers seems to be Rodgers calf, which so obviously limited him last Sunday. He was still great throwing for 316 yards, but wasn’t able to make the plays with his legs that he usually makes, times when there were openings for Rodgers to roll out or run for the first down ended up with him staying in the pocket and sometimes getting sacked, hurried or just unable to make a play he normally would make.
Gil Brandt tweeted out a very interesting statistic today: “In the 4 games Seattle lost this season; the winning team ran 25 times or more.” In September, the Packers rushed 21 times and only averaged 3.8 per carry on their way to 80 yards. Eddie Lacy started the year very slowly, but that was also due to an offensive line that needed time to come together.
The first time the Packers and Seahawks met, Bruce Irvin made a comment about praying for the fifth round rookie center, Corey Linsley. Since then, Linsley has been great for the Packers, making the All-Rookie team with his teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Linsley admitted that he was rattled by the comment, but ProFootballFocus.com has ranked him as the fifth-best center in the league this year, which means an entirely different offensive line will be walking into Seattle than the one that walked in on opening night. I mean, just imagine the difficulty involved with being a rookie center on opening day, making all the line calls and the pressure of it all, then pile on the fact you’re playing last year’s Super Bowl champs at their place with the 12s behind them. Linsley was so good the rest of the way that he didn’t give up a sack during the entire regular season.
I do think that Rodgers will have a bit more mobility than he did last week and the x-factors for this game will be Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb. Seeing as the Packers will have to run the ball successful to win, Lacy’s going to have to have a big day and I won’t be surprised if they play Starks quite a bit as well. I like Cobb because I see him having more success out of the slot than the guys playing outside.
I think Richard Sherman will be playing his regular left cornerback, which means he won’t primarily matchup against Nelson all day, but rather just try to shut down his side of the field like he did Week 1. If the Packers use the same strategy and put their WR3 to Sherman’s side, then Davante Adams will have a quiet day, but could really make a name for himself if he makes some plays against the best cornerback in the NFL.
Over the last seven games, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents 165-56. The 362 yards the Panthers had were the first time in half a season that the Seahawks gave up more than 298.
As a reminder to the past posts I’ve put up here, the Seahawks are the best running team in the NFL and the Packers gave up just 86.4 yards per game at 3.6 yards per carry the last half of the season. Last week, the Packers beat a Cowboys team that had been red-hot the month of December, a team that beat the Seahawks in Seattle. While the Seahawks have been the hottest team in the NFL, I think that -8 is just too high a number to give a team like the Packers in the NFC Championship. I don’t know if the Packers will have enough to win this game, but I think they have enough to cover. Take the points as I think this will probably be something like a 26-24 win for the Seahawks.
MY PICK: Packers +9
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7 1/2); (o/u 52.5)
A rematch of last year’s divisional matchup between these two teams. Last week, Luck symbolically won against the guy he replaced, now, he tries to dethrone another veteran quarterback.
Luck will be entering his first AFC Conference Championship, while Brady will be in his league record ninth. With a win, Belichick will be breaking a tie with Tom Landry to take sole possession of the NFL record for postseason wins with his 21st. With a win, the Pats will tie the Steelers and Cowboys with their eight Super Bowl appearance. Their last two have been losses to the Giants…just thought I’d slip that in there as a New Yorker before I made myself puke listing Patriots accomplishments.
Unfortunately for Patriots haters, Luck has been beaten badly in his three meetings with Brady losing by 21, 22, and 35. He has a completion percentage of 53.8 and a 67.7 passer rating with six touchdowns to eight picks.
An interesting fact for this game is that the Pats run the ball 56% of the time against Indianapolis, while they only run 41% of the time against everyone else. They are coming off of a game against the Ravens great run defense where they ran the ball for 14 yards on 13 carries, but the Colts rush defense is ranked 18th compared to the 4th ranked Ravens.
Something favoring the Colts is that they’ll have Arthur Jones who didn’t play Week 11, but is a great run defender at defensive end. Meanwhile the Pats will probably be without rookie center Bryan Stork who’s battling a knee injury. Stork’s addition to the lineup helped improve the line because Wendell and Connolly are better guards than centers, which made all three positions see an improvement. His absence could affect the Pats rushing game, but they’ve dominated the Colts so badly the last two times they’ve played that who knows.
Last January, LeGarrette Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns. In November, it was even worse with Jonas Gray running for 201 and ANOTHER four touchdowns. Gronk added four catches for 71 and that incredible touchdown catch and run, which was an added dimension that was absent from last January’s playoff beatdown.
One Colt who has been absent from the last two matchups with the Patriots has been Dwayne Allen, which is also where the Patriots have a weakness. The Pats are the sixth worst team in the NFL against tight ends and the ninth best against number one receivers. The Patriots are the 20th best team against running backs from a fantasy perspective as well.
The way I see the Colts staying in this game is through passing the ball to their tight ends, using Boom Herron like they have in these playoffs, and throwing the Nicks and Moncrief. I still standby the statement I made last week about Nicks showing up in the playoffs because he’s been here AND because he’s playing for a contract.
Coby Fleener was the leading receiver for both sides in November with seven catches for 144 yards and he had six for 74 last January. With Allen back, I see the Colts implementing two tight end sets to create mismatches for the Patriots and exploit that weakness.
Boom Herron didn’t play at RB when they faced the Pats in November and Bradshaw went out early in that game, which really put the Colts at a disadvantage as I think a back like Herron can create problems for the Pats. With Trent Richardson carrying the load in November and staying at home in January, the Colts will defeinitely do better than the 19 yards on 16 carries that they had. Herron has 236 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns this postseason.
With that over at 53.5, I see that hitting as well with two of the top scoring offenses in the NFL. Indy averages 28 per game and New England averages 29 up against two above average defenses who I don’t think will be able to cover up their weaknesses against these high-powered offenses.
An interesting trend that the Linemakers at Sporting News point out is that the Pats are 3-11 in their last 14 playoff games and they note that the Colts are rated about the Pats in their power ratings and their numbers suggest that the game should be a pick ‘em. They state that the line is inflated based on the Pats name. I tend to agree with that. The Colts are also 7-1 since they played New England with their only loss being that Cowboys game that got out of hand in a hurry and snowballed out of control.
I don’t think the Colts win, but I do think they cover. Final: Pats win 30-27.
MY PICK: Colts +7 1/2