This weekly column highlights news from around the league, developing stories, and what you can expect in the upcoming week for the Packers and the rest of the NFL.
As usual, the Divisional round provided a great weekend of football. The Packers and Patriots survived a couple of tight contests, while the Colts and Seahawks were in control of their games. Now we’re on to the conference championships in Seattle and New England.
Before I get into the play of the week, I have to give my opinion on the Dez Bryant call. By the rules of the NFL, the refs absolutely got this one right. He has to maintain possession all the way through, and he didn’t. As soon as the ball hit the ground, it came out, so it was not a catch. By the rules of common sense, he clearly caught that ball, and was down by contact before the ground knocked the ball out of his hands. This is a terrible rule that the NFL should have changed after taking away Calvin Johnson’s game-winning catch against the Bears in 2010.
Play of the Week
Now, let’s move to a more positive note, the play of the week. This week, it’s brought to you by Aaron Rodgers for his game-winning touchdown throw to Richard Rodgers.
Rodgers was able to avoid pressure from defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, roll to his left and fire a rocket into double coverage to his rookie tight end, all with an injured calf muscle that had been limiting his mobility all day. It was a great play from a great quarterback.
Looking to the Conference Championships
With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Colts and Packers visit the Patriots and Seahawks, respectively.
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
The Colts struggled a bit out of the gate last week, falling behind 7-0, but tied it up early in the second quarter, and took the lead seven minutes later. They never trailed after that, completely controlling the final three quarters of the game. They did, however, have some trouble in key areas. Their running game only managed 99 yards, they lost the turnover battle thanks to Luck’s two interceptions, and they were penalized 10 times for 67 yards. These are all things they’ll need to improve if they want to beat the Patriots in Foxborough.
The Patriots are balanced and explosive on both sides of the ball. Their offense can hurt you with throws down the middle to Rob Gronkowski, or deep with Brandon LaFell, and from time to time, they can hurt you with their run game. The defense can get to the quarterback and beat receivers with single coverage. They’ll have to do both of those things to slow down Luck and the Colts.
Prediction: The Patriots match up too well against the Colts for me to pick against them. They have more balance and more experience. Tom Brady will advance to his sixth Super Bowl. Colts 27 – Patriots 38
Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks
The Packers are up against it this week. They’re visiting a tough environment in Seattle, home to one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Offensively, they have to deal with a decent pass rush and the best secondary in the league. Defensively, they have to deal with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, the type of mobile quarterback that has given Dom Capers fits in the past. They have to keep Wilson in the pocket, make their tackles when Lynch comes running downhill, and establish the run game, so the safeties can’t spend all their time double-covering Cobb and Nelson. It’s a tough task, but it’s not impossible.
The Seahawks led the league in rushing, along with pass defense and overall defense. Marshawn Lynch is a nightmare to tackle, and the Packers defenders have a bad habit of missing tackles. If Lynch is able to pick up extra yardage off of broken tackles, it could be a long day for the Packers’ defense. The Seahawks’ one weakness is in the passing game, where Russell Wilson is often forced to escape the pocket in order to extend plays to make it work.
Prediction: These are two very different teams than the ones that kicked off the NFL season in week one, both teams are stronger than they were that week. But the results will be similar. The Packers will make it a closer game, but will struggle against that defense. Packers 20 – Seahawks 24