Green Bay Packers (13-4 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) vs. Seattle Seahawks (13-4 SU, 10-6-1 ATS)
NFC Championship Game
Date and Time: January 18 3:05pm ET
Where: CenturyLink Field
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +7.5/SEA -7.5
Over/Under Total: 47
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It is almost that time. Almost time for the biggest game of them all. But first, we play out the Championship rounds and the NFC Championship features the Green Bay Packers heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Both teams have widely been conceived as the best of the NFC crop for most of the season so this is a fitting way to determine the conference representative in the Superbowl. These teams are about as different as you can get in terms of approach with Green Bay leading the NFL in points scored and Seattle allowing the fewest. The Packers have some of the most recognizable names in the league while the Hawks have a dozen guys you have never heard of. Throw in the 12th man along with Aaron Rodgers iffy calf, and you have quite the matchup.
The curtain had barely closed on the Packers defeat of the Cowboys last week before the online betting sites tabbed Seattle as 7.5 point favorites. That line has held during the early betting, even under heavy public action on Green Bay, a weekly betting darling. It might be one of the squarest bets in the game each week, but it is hard to ignore the leagues best offense getting seven and the hook. Green Bay will have to buck a recent trend as they are just 3-7 against the spread in their last ten on the road against winning teams. Seattle has four ATS wins in their last five playoff games at home and are 5-1 against the spread in their last six playoff games overall.
This is a rematch of sorts as the teams squared off to open this season. The Packers travelled to Seattle in that game as well and wound up on the wrong side of a 36-16 decision. Green Bay played some of its worst football during that early stretch but the Seahawks took it to them and limited Rodgers to 189 yards passing while giving up just 80 yards on the ground. Marshawn Lynch racked up 110 yards and two touchdowns while Russell Wilson added two scores through the air and Seattle cruised to a relatively easy win. There is one more Seattle/Green Bay game of note in recent history. If you remember, the Seahawks stole a 14-12 win in Green Bay during the 2012 season with the help of the replacement refs botching a call that became known as the Fail Mary.
It really doesnt take long to figure out the keys in this one. Can Green Bay move the ball effectively enough in a hostile environment against a stellar defense and can they stop the methodical nature of the Seattle offense. The health of Rodgers is paramount in answering the first question but lets assume he will don the Superman S under his uniform at least one more weekend. I dont see how you can think he wont given his gutty performance last week. The Packers have utilized Eddie Lacy and the run in covering up for Rodgers a bit but Seattle is the best run stopping unit in the league, allowing just 81 yards a game. Lacy didnt have much success in Week 1 and he did miss a series with an asthma-like episode last week so it remains to be seen how effective he will be and if he is ready for a full workload. If the Seahawks stymie the run, it puts Rodgers in serious peril as it was clear last week that he is limited to the point where he cannot escape a collapsing pocket or deliver a deep ball under duress.
When it comes to stopping Seattle at home, the Packers will need to stop the run first and foremost. The Seahawks are the best rushing team in the NFL, averaging 172 yards per game and get a boost there with the effectiveness of Russell Wilson and his scramble game. Wilson rushed for 849 yards and 6 touchdowns on the year and has an uncanny way of breaking a defenses back with key runs. He also keeps passing plays alive by escaping trouble and often finds wide open receivers as the coverage fails. Lynch is the sparkplug however and the 23rd ranked rush defense of the Packers is due for a heavy dose of Marshawn. The skill players are average at best for Seattle but Wilson is equitable with the ball and Green Bay will have to cover every player on the field. There are ten Seahawks with at least one touchdown pass but none have more than four so there is no real focus for the defense. That turns out to be hard to defend for an entire game.
Dallas had Green Bay on the ropes for most of the game last week and they did so with a persistent run game and efficient passing. Tony Romo completed 15-of-19 passes and was devilishly close to completing the one that the Cowboys would have probably turned into an upset win. Seattle has all the elements that Dallas used against the Packers along with a much better defense and the home crowd. Green Bay will need something special to pull an upset this week and that will be a tall order given how well Seattle takes care of the ball and how underwhelming Green Bay is on special teams. This one will really be on A-Rods shoulders (and calf). The complications set in for Seattle if they are behind and are mandated to throw. It doesnt happen often, especially at home but the Hawks passing game is just 28th in the league and too many dropbacks will let Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers zero in on Wilson.
The 7.5 seems like a large number at first glance but the immense home field advantage coupled with the injury concerns of Rodgers makes that number seem just about right. Seattle is rolling on defense after getting some healthy bodies back in the lineup and their secondary is best suited to take on the challenge of covering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. A healthy Rodgers is probably enough to get my vote with the points but I think Seattle is better than they were last year at this point and Green Bay is ripe for the picking. Seattle will stuff the run and scheme to move Rodgers to expose his lack of mobility. Lynch sees plenty of success on the ground and Wilson hits the few key throws that turn into daggers for Green Bays chances. It is a big number but Seattle gets out of this game with a 30-20 win.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Seattle