Nothing to Lose?

Review~ Green Bay and their QB played a very clean, efficient game and Rodgers was extremely clutch on 3rd down.  Looking at the Team Stats from the game, it shows it’d be a close game with the edge going to Seattle.  However, since neither team had a turnover – (a fumble that should’ve gone to Sullivan on Seattle’s first drive), and Kevin King dropped an easy pick—the key then goes to 3rd down efficiency.  Green Bay converted 9-of-14 (64%) third downs while limiting Seattle to 3-of-9 (33%).  Rodgers connected with Jimmy Graham three times, all converting a huge 3rd down- the last to seal the game and move the Packers to Championship Sunday.

As I stated last week, Seattle was missing a legitimate starting Halfback, and old-and-slow Marshawn Lynch proved to be just that.  While he had 2 touchdowns, both came from goal line situations, otherwise he was a non-factor and it was all on Russell Wilson to win the game, which proved to be too much as he was sacked on a the Packers’ defense’s biggest 3rd down of the game.  Carroll’s decision to punt risked his offense not getting the ball back, which was foolish as Rodgers had gone 7-of-12 on 3rd downs in the game, up to that point.  Also, the Packers had scored touchdowns on half of their possessions in the game, punting on the other 4.  Meaning, best case scenario, the Seahawks would be to get the ball back around their 22 yard line, with about 1:45 left and a timeout or two, and needing a touchdown.  This shows how important building a lead is, because it demands damn near perfection from the losing team to come all the way back and win.  While many think the 2014 title game was reminiscent of this one, I (in attendance) never once thought the Packers would let this slip away—Wilson doesn’t win in Lambeau.  Yes he was great in the 2nd half, however for as awesome as he was then, he was that “pedestrian” in the 1st half.  He missed open targets and overthrew Malik Turner (#17) on the first play of their 3rd drive which should’ve resulted in the King interception, so on and so forth.

In the end, the Packers were the better team for the entirety of the game, and it showed.  Now can the Packers go to Santa Clara, California and build a lead to make the better team (San Francisco) play perfect to come back?

Preview~ a rematch of the ass-kicking that took place in Week 12 on Sunday night, November 24th.  It was the Packers’ first game coming off the BYE, and they were quite healthy going into a banged up San Fran team.  Every Packer fan likely has trouble scrubbing that from their memory, as they should.  The 9ers were the most complete team in the NFC all season, and even went into Baltimore and gave them a tough test (losing 20-17 on a FG as time expired).

The realist in you should be worried about where the Packers can gain an advantage to potentially upset the vaunted 49ers.  Let’s take a look at how these teams matchup:

  Pass Rush Total Points Give-Take Pt. Diff.
GB-O 233.3 (17) 112.2 (15) 345.5 (18) 23.5 (15) 13 (2) 63 (9)
SF-D 169.3 (1) 112.6 (17) 281.8 (2) 19.4 (8) 27 (6) 169 (3)
GB-D 232.6 (14) 120.1 (23) 352.6 (18) 19.6 (9) 25 (T-7)  
SF-O 237.0 (13) 144.1 (2) 381.1 (4) 29.9 (2) 23 (T-19)  

As you can see, the Packers really only have 2 areas of advantage: Rush O vs SF’s rush D and the Turnover differential.  The Packers were +12 (tied-3rd) where San Francisco finished +4 (tied-10th).  That’s where Green Bay will need to take advantage if they plan to pull this game out.  If Green Bay can “steal” 2 possessions and score touchdowns on each, creating a 14-28 point swing that would put them in the driver’s seat.  However, getting the lead/scoring 1st should be the priority for the Packers.  Let’s make Jimmy Garoppolo play from behind and somehow if you’re able to jump out to a 10-0 or 14-3 lead, that should allow Pettine to put his defense in a great position to control the game and dictate what Shanahan does on offense.

This has been one of, if not the, most parodied seasons in recent memory for the NFL, so it’s only fitting that the Packers found a way to have an opportunity to “steal” a ring.  Not only would that go a ways into cementing Rodgers’ legacy (while I thought he’d have 3 by the time he’s done after initially seeing him start a whole season in 2008, I also said after 2014 he’d never win another), when looking into each season and how things transpire- careers are judged at overall accomplishments and not how the accomplishments were attained…but that’s another topic for the offseason (man I’m really mounting those up this playoff run).

In the end, while I wouldn’t be shocked if the Packers pulled this out, and I do think 90% (maybe more) are dictated by the play of the QB, Rodgers typically sucks in NFC title games.  We also have no clue about Jimmy G and his Big Game situations.  He was quite fortunate to have his 1st playoff appearance come against Kirk Cousins – who’s notorious for choking in big games – and for it to come at home after a bye.  This should be a much more even matchup, and possibly even back-and-forth, but in the end, I think the 49ers have too much of an advantage at other areas and QB-play is close to even…at least heading into this.  If Rodgers kills it like he did on 3rd down in the Divisional game in the Championship game, there’s no doubt the Packers will be moving on.

Packers 21
49ers 27

Season: 11-6
Overall: 54-31

Should there be Fear?

Rankings~ Redemption? Not really.  Winning this game will not make up for the epic choke job in the 2014 NFC title game, however, it could be part of the healing process if this turns to back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Let’s take a look at the rankings and how these teams match-up.

  Pass Rush Total Points
Seattle O 236.9 (14) 137.5 (4) 374.4 (8) 25.3 (9)
Green Bay D 232.6 (14) 120.1 (23) 352.6 (18) 19.6 (9)
Green Bay O 233.3 (17) 112.2 (15) 345.5 (18) 23.5 (15)
Seattle D 263.9 (27) 117.7 (22) 381.6 (26) 24.9 (22)

Match-up~ I’ve highlighted the advantages for each team in their matchups, with the rankings in parenthesis.  As you can see, Seattle has the advantage on offense in the run game, which translates to total offense, in yards.  However, there’s more to it than that—the Seahawks are now featuring their 4th, 5th, and 6th string running backs: Marshawn Lynch (#24); Travis Homer (#25); Robert Turbin (#34).  So the Packers technically have the upper-hand there now.

The Packers’ Offense seemingly has the advantage in every category vs. Seattle.  The Seahawks are also giving up more points/game than the Packers averaged this season, which bodes well as the postseason is typically lower-scoring so points are harder to come by.

The other rankings, which are very important, are Turnovers and Point Differential.  Combine all of these rankings and it gives you a great idea as to true strength of a team.  Each of these teams finished the season +12 in turnovers (T-3rd), however the odd thing was Seattle only scored 7 more points than they gave up this season, which is difficult to do when you finish 11-5.  Meaning when they lose, they got had—and when they win, it’s typically close.

QB Match-up~ while Russell Wilson has been in the conversation for MVP this season, deservedly so, a QB’s job is to win.  Hence why they’re judged on Super Bowl wins (as they should be), and Wilson has done a decent job, but the dynamic of Seattle has switched from a suffocating defense to a solid QB with a bunch of weapons at the skill positions.  The Packers have focused on their defense, and while it may seem they’ve neglected the offense, they did spend (terribly overspent) $ on Jimmy Graham, and brought in RG Billy Turner (#77), with all the money allocated to Rodgers, put it on him to make everyone else better.  Which he’s done for most of the season, hence 13-3.  Rodgers, at home, is a tough out, and while only 3-2 in Lambeau in the playoffs, the advantage MUST side with him and the Packers here.

Rodgers vs. Wilson: 3-4.  With each W coming by the home team.  This makes complete sense as the Packers outplayed the Seahawks in 2 of those game in Seattle (9/24/2012- Fail Mary & 1/18/2015- NFC Title Game).

All of these rankings, turnovers, point differential, QB matchup…who wins?  I began the week somewhat nervous and skeptical—however, all I could think about is the absolute worst-case scenario of hosting the Vikings in an NFC Title game and losing…that’d be the worst!  Am I thinking ahead?  Yep, as we all should!

Seahawks 13
Packers 27

Season: 10-6
Overall: 53-31