@TSFSports NFL Conference Championship Picks: Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks will not be denied
(Joe Nicholson/USA Today)
When the Seattle Seahawks traded wide receiver Percy Harvin on October 18th, there were whispers about the imminent implosion of the Super Bowl champions — who fell to 3-3 after a loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 7.
Culpability was aimed at quarterback Russell Wilson. Critics pointed at everything from Wilson’s volatile relationship with Harvin to the Super Bowl quarterback being “Black enough” for the Seahawks locker room. Wilson answered everyone with a resounding run of his own, leading the Seahawks to a 10-1 record since the Rams loss, including last week’s destruction of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional round.
Sunday January 18, 2015: Games beginning at 3:05 and 6:40 pm
Green Bay Packers (12-4) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4) – The Seattle Seahawks return to the NFC Championship on the heels of a dominant defensive performance against the Carolina Panthers. Against the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks face a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who isn’t as mobile as Cam Newton, but moves just enough to tilt the scales. The Seahawks aren’t counting on the bum leg of Rodgers to slow him down — safety Earl Thomas refuses to believe it’s as bad as Rodgers says. The key is to get a push up front and allow ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to secure the edges. The Seahawks secondary must limit the run after the catch yardage of Randal Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Third receiver Davonte Adams could be a difference maker if Rodgers gets rolling.
Something went off in Russell Wilson at the halfway point of the season. He’s has taken the initiative as a passer and in some cases as a ball carrier out of the backfield. At any rate, his play has made this Seahawks difficult to defend. Marshawn Lynch continues to do his best talking on the field where one of those classic jail break rushes is inevitable. Doug Baldwin and Jerome Kearse aren’t household names, but the flexibility of this offense makes them as dangerous as Wilson or Lynch. Tight end Luke Wilson is as reliable as anyone when Wilson rolls the pocket.
We’ll find out early on if Rodgers working from the shotgun formation is a good idea. The last thing the Seahawks defense needs is Rodgers with ample time on his hands. Running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks can expect plenty of touches as Rodgers will take his shots at Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell. I don’t expect Rodgers to challenge safeties Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas on deep routes especially if he’s getting positive results underneath. At the tight end spot, Richard Rodgers will have to earn his yards dealing with Bobby Wagner.
Letroy Guion is the most important player in the Packers defense. Guion has done an excellent job since replacing the injured B.J. Raji earlier this season. The Packers cannot be fooled when it comes to formations that may show run and are pass and vice versa. Russell Wilson can lull you to sleep with hand-offs and before you know it he’s 30 yards downfield. Julius Peppers has the length and speed to disrupt things in he Seahawks backfield. Clay Matthews will be busy spying on Wilson and butting heads with Lynch. The young, but aggressive Packers secondary should have some success against receivers, but may be at a disadvantage if Wilson leaves the pocket.
Prediction: In Week 1, the Seahawks defeated the Packers 36-16, you can bet on a more competitive, physical game. The Packers need to play the perfect game against a defense which is looking to create turnovers. Seattle has to control a Packers pass rush looking to get Wilson before leaving the pocket becomes an option. Last week for the Seahawks it was Cam Chancellor, this week Earl Thomas shines.
Seahawks 27 – Packers 20
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at New England Patriots (12-4) – Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are in line for another playoff stunner as he seeks to knock off the New England Patriots after going on the road and defeating the Denver Broncos a week earlier. The Colts have to be mindful of the Patriots formations and personnel as the running backs should tip the defense off. If LeGarrette Blount is in the game, chances are it’s a run, if it’s Shane Vereen, think pass. The play of Cory Redding and Arthur Jones is vital up front. Linebackers Bjoern Werner and D’Qwell Jackson are key in coverage and are capable of getting after Tom Brady. In order to get to Brady the Colts are going to need exceptional coverage across the board most notably from Laron Landry and Vontae Davis. Rob Gronkowski is a no-brainer, it’s the play of Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell which could create problems.
Trent Richardson has done his teammates a great disservice in not even making the trip to Foxboro, the acquisition of Richardson was a disaster and it’s a miracle the Colts have gotten this far without much of a running game. Dan Herron has been exceptional under the circumstances as a rusher and receiver. Luck will be challenged in the secondary by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The suddenly dangerous Donte Moncreif gives the Colts offense another deep threat to go along with T.Y. Hilton. Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne must become targets as the Patriots will look to take Hilton out of the game plan. Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener will get their share of looks from Luck.
The plan is simple for the Patriots defense, take away the run and dare Luck to beat you with his arm against their secondary. Vince Wilfork is the anchor of what is probably Bill Belichick’s best defense in about a decade. Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Akeem Ayers are key up front while Devin McCourty gives Browner and Revis help over the top. Luck is prone to an interception or two and this opportunistic defense knows it.
Tom Brady knows his chances of getting back to the Super Bowl are running out. Brady is still capable of doing his thing, but he has a defense which is able of taking the game out of his hands. He has a three-headed backfield with Blount, Vereen and Jonas Gray — who scored four touchdowns in their Week 11 blowout of the Colts. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are a given. After last week’s score, Danny Amendola is another body the Colts have to account for as well as the possibility of a trick play. Of course when all else fails, there’s Rob Gronkowski.
Prediction: All signs point to a Patriots victory, experience, home field and a victory in their previous meeting. Andrew Luck is 1-0 in revenge games this post-season after he showed the Broncos the door after losing to them in Week 1. T.Y. Hilton might have to make his mark in the return game because the Patriots game plan will be designed to limit his touches as a receiver. Andrew Luck is as driven as anyone and like Russell Wilson, I believe his time has come. The game is going to come down to special teams and my money is on Hilton to set it up and former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri to knock it through.
Colts 30 – Patriots 28