January 18th, 2015- It wasn’t your typical Saturday night on cold and chilling night in the Pacific Northwest. Rather it was a streak ending night as the Seattle Seahawks became the first team to win a playoff game after winning the Super Bowl almost a decade. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Carolina Panther in convincing fashion in the NFC Divisional Playoffs that gave them the right to play the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship and also a birth to Super Bowl 49. In a rematch of the season opener in which the Seahawks manhandled the Packers with a 36-16 win the two teams are considerably different.
RECAP OF DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS: It was a close game for the one half of football but the talent of the Seahawks eventually took over, well Kam Chancellor took over to be exact in a 31-17 rout. In Seattle we all are used to seeing his bone crushing hits, his amazing speed, and his fundamentally sound tackling skills but the rest of the nation got to first hand how valuable he is and also without a question why he is the heart and soul of the number rated defense in the league for second consecutive year. Chancellor sealed the game with a 89 yard pick six when the Panthers were driving for a touchdown that would made it a one possession game. Not to be overlooked was his hurdling act not once but twice over an offensive lineman for an attempt of blocking a Carolina field to end the first half. Not to be ousthined were Seattle’s pedestrian wide receivers. Jermaine Kearse a local standout from University of Washington showed again that the game winning td catch last year in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers was no fluke. Kearse finished the game with 3 catches for 129 yards including a spectacular one handed 63 td catch. “Angry” Doug Baldwin also had a td catch for Seattle’s first score. Who would thought that Luke Willson would be a Panther killer, scoring another td. If you recall he scored the game winning td in regular season meeting. Not to be outdone would be the other Wilson (with one l), Russell Wilson. Wilson was spectacular again in the post season and improved to 4-0 all time in head to head games against Cam Newton. Wilson was unreal on third down going 8-8 with three touchdowns, 199 yards and a QB rating of 149.2.
PACKER PREVIEW: Inevitably every time when both of these two teams meet we will always revert back to the “Fail Mary” game back in 2012 in the final game for replacement officials. Players are different most notably Golden Tate III (formerly known as Golden Tate) who made the infamous catch. However we can also talk about the meeting in the first game of the 2014 season with a Seattle rout. Since then the Seattle went through a tough stretch in which Seattle wasn’t even sure if making the playoffs was an option having falling to 3-3. The team also traded their most dynamic player in Percy Harvin and rumors of Russell Wilson of not “being black enough” surfaced in the locker room. Above everything the Seahawks have dominated and won seven games in a row.
The Packers have had their own issues as well. After their season opening loss at Seattle and falling to 1-2, the train seemed like they were coming off the tracks in Green Bay. Maybe like in Seattle (“in russ we trust”) Green Bay has their own version of “in aaron we trust” when he told everyone to “relax.” Since then Aaron Rodgers has found a big play receiver with their first round pick, Davante Adams. The Packers had to beat the Dallas Cowboys with a controversial call in the divisional game. A couple of things to keep in mind will the health of Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacey. Both are banged up but no doubt will play and will contribute greatly in the Packer’s game plan. The million dollar question is, “Will Aaron Rodgers throw at Richard Sherman?” Throughout the week Rodgers has repeatedly said he will throw at the best corner in the league unlike the first meeting when he avoided Sherman for the whole entire game. It is the ultimate respect but Sherman was noticeably upset with the “lack of action” after the game.
KEYS TO THE GAME: 1) Marshawn Lynch will no bout need to produce more than what he did against the Panthers. Having said that Carolina has one of the top rushing defenses in the league. Even if the Packers shut down the running of game of beast mode it will open up the passing game for Wilson and the receivers. Seattle cannot abandon the run even if Lynch does not have a big day numbers wise he will keep the Packer defense honest. 2) Seattle defense must make Aaron Rodgers move around the pocket. Aaron Rodgers is one of the very few quarterbacks in the league that can hurt you with his legs as well as in the pocket. A bad calf should limit Rodgers’ mobility. Earl Thomas may have said it the best, “I’m not buying into this leg issue. I saw him scramble close to the goal line on the Cowboys, so he’s not fooling me with that . I’m not falling into that.” 3) The Seahawks must contain Julius Peppers. With rookie starting right tackle Justin Britt a game time decision Alvin Bailey could make the start. If Russell Wilson is going to have any success throwing the ball Peppers cannot have constant pressure on Wilson. Peppers is a dual threat as he is excellent on run defense.
INJURIES: Cornerback Byron Maxwell should be back this week after sitting out the divisional playoff with shortness of breath. Right tackle Justin Britt is a game time decision with a knee injury. Safety Jeron Johnson will be a game time decision after suffering a dislocated elbow in the season finale against the St Louis Rams. Center Max Unger (ankle), Defensive Tackle Tony McDaniel, Tight End Tony Moeaki are all probable for the Packer game. Wide Receiver Paul Richardson is out for the season with a torn acl.
ROSTER MOVE: BJ Daniels has been activated from the practice squad.
PREDICTION: SEAHAWKS 24 PACKERS 16