Seattle Seahawks +7.5, 42.5 O/U at Green Bay Packers -7.5, Lambeau Field, 4.30pm EST Saturday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com
In case you needed reminding there’s a bit of history between the combatants in this one. No, I’m not talking about the Seahawks and Packers but about Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre. Doubtless, whatever the result there will be some warm wishes and fond farewells after it’s over because it is probably the last time we’ll see Favre in the playoffs as a player if the Packers lose, and even more likely the last time he will stand across from his old coach and mentor, Holmgren. But then, didn’t we say that last year about Favre? Wasn’t that supposed to be his swan-song? Maybe somebody needs to tell Brett he’s too old for this caper. But with a completion percentage above 66%, over 4000 yards through the air and 28 touchdowns (and only 15 interceptions) already on the season it’s pretty hard to argue that Brett’s too old for anything. Statistically, a case could be made for this being his best ever season. Sure, he threw more TD’s in his great years between 1994 and 1997 but 7.8 yards per completion this year tops his average in all those years.
There’s some irony in the fact he will face off against Matt Hasselback,
the back up quarterback at Green Bay in 1999 and 2000 who went on to take
up the starting position under Holmgren at Seattle in 2001. Statistically,
this has also been one of Matt’s best years, if not his best. In a nutshell,
these guys know each other very well. Even the Green Bay Head Coach, Mike
McCarthy fits into the history. He was the quarterback coach in 1999 at
Green Bay with both Favre and Hasselback under his care.
This will be a great game, if for no other reason than we will get to see all of the guile and wit of some of the game’s great competitors. When it’s all done there will be friendship and admiration and all that other good stuff, but there’ll be no soft playing when the starting whistle blows and none of the guys previously mentioned would have it any other way.
Green Bay had the bye last week and the chance to watch the Seahawks risk life and limb in the pursuit of a chance to play in this divisional match up. The value of that week’s rest cannot be underestimated. But Seattle came out of the wildcard round relatively unscathed and will be fully prepared for what awaits them. Deion Branch was iffy for the Seahawks but he practiced most recently and it appears he will play.
If not for the emergence of Ryan Grant for Green Bay this could well have been purely an aerial battle offensively. Seattle has been pass heavy all season and Green Bay was headed that way before Grant added some highly effective variation. That extra flexibility for Green Bay might just be the difference in this one. But we could get caught up in offensive discussion and miss just how good these two defenses are. Patrick Kearney’s recruitment from Atlanta had paid immediate dividends for Seattle. He would often attract a double team from the offensive line trying to protect their quarterback leading the way for Seattle’s athletic linebackers to make plays against the rush and force added pressure on passing downs. That was never more prevalent than in Seattle’s victory over the Redskins last week. They consistently found their way to Clinton Portis early, often tackling him from the backside. They held Washington scoreless until the fourth quarter and forced two late pick sixes to blow out the final margin as a result of game long pressure on Redskin’s quarterback, Todd Collins.
Implied pressure cannot be underestimated, even if it doesn’t actually result in recordable stats. Sometimes it’s the implied pressure that causes a quarterback to do things that make you say to yourself in hindsight “what was he thinking!” Seattle will want to create that scenario against Favre. For all his years of experience and greatness he is still the same Brett Favre who has the potential to make the worst decisions at the worst possible times. Seattle will be counting on their ability to make him remember why many of us thought he was past it two seasons ago.
Green Bay has a young and highly gifted defense of their own. Ironically, most has been made of their cornerbacks, Harris and Woodson, two of their older rostered players at 33 and 31 respectively. Personally, I like the linebacker lineup of Hawk, Barnett and Poppinga. That trio has the potential to bring other players into the game, such is their athleticism and play making ability. Collectively, they force teams to make adjustments and depart from a more comfortable approach. That implied pressure makes the defensive backs look good because it forces teams to play away from them.
Many have suggested this could be a shootout because of the relative strengths of the two quarterbacks and the offensive weapons at their disposal. I am not so sure. It could well be high scoring but not for typical reasons. I can see alot of implied pressure on the quarterbacks in this one and whoever can hold their nerve the better will emerge victorious. Seattle has a tremendous pass rush and Favre has always been a little susceptible to that. Green Bay may try to establish the run and play action to relieve some of that pressure but will have to beat one of the fastest and most athletic linebacking trios to make that a reality.
I don’t see much in this one. Seattle went out of the playoffs last season on the road to Chicago in overtime. They won’t mind the cold, they won’t mind the venue and they’ll fancy their chances of making Favre force his passes into coverage. This could be close all day and I like Seattle to keep it inside the bookie line of 7.5 points. They have a defense capable of shutting down an offense and an offense capable of scoring points.
The Snake’s Bite: Seattle hasn’t been taken seriously as yet and the line on this one is bigger than it should be as a result. They have the players and the brains trust to make this tough for Favre and his boys. Take Seattle with the 7.5 point start. They are one dimensional offensively, but that dimension is solid enough.