Sunday, January 18, 2015

NFC Championship Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Seattle Seahawks

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to play the host Seattle Seahawks for a chance to earn a Super Bowl berth. This is a rematch from week 1, and also serves as a match up of the top two NFC teams this season. If the Packers can beat the Seahawks they can shed the label that they can't compete with the elite teams. You better believe this a label that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have been fighting to shed in the last three years. If the Packers want to pull an upset in Seattle on Sunday they'll have to focus on three major aspects.

1. Feed Eddie Lacy:

After so many weeks of featuring this topic I wish I could state it in a different way, but I can't. The Packers must continue to feed Eddie Lacy if they want to  break the Seahawks defense. Seattle has the number 1 ranked defense, and they could go down as one of the best all-time in NFL history. They shut down running-backs with ease, and try to smother the offense. Most times they are successful in doing this. The Seahawks defense settled in after the first quarter in the week 1 and completely shut down the Packers offense. Lacy couldn't get anything going, and actually suffered a concussion in the third quarter. That was a different Packers offense at the time who didn't have an identity. This Packers team will come more prepared than they did week 1, and Lacy will be the featured player on Sunday.

2. Use Randall Cobb In The Slot:

One thing the Packers didn't do much in the first match up was try to feed the slot receiver. It was such a vanilla passing attack that just featured throwing to the left side and away from Richard Sherman. If the Packers want to move on this defense they should use Jordy Nelson as a decoy on Sherman, and line Cobb up where he's most comfortable in the slot. Davante Adams proved against the Cowboys that he play on the outside. Cobb has proved this season he's a beast in the slot. There was a 3 week stretch where he was scoring touchdowns each game out of the slot in the red-zone. The Packers must employ this on Sunday. Rodgers won't be as mobile, because of the calf injury so quick passes to Cobb would work perfectly.

3. Pressure Russell Wilson:

If there is one thorn in Dom Capers Packers defenses it is mobile quarterbacks. Wilson fits the bill as a mobile quarterback, and has given the Packers problems in the past. Week 1 he didn't run much, but when he did he was successful. At that time Julius Peppers was just getting used to the 3-4 defense, and really didn't know his role. Peppers, Clay Matthews and Mike Neal will need to contain Wilson on Sunday. If they force him to pass I believe the secondary should be able to shut down the passing game. The Seahawks receivers and tight ends are underrated, and hold the power to break a game open. If Wilson is under pressure most of the day he won't be able to get into a rhythm. The defense must not let him get into a rhythm. Marshawn Lynch is sure to have a good game, because he can't be held down. If the Packers get the lead early an shut down Wilson it will take Lynch away.

The Packers are once again on the cusp of greatness. They can't let this opportunity slip away, because as we learned during the Favre years you never know when the next chance will come. On Sunday Aaron Rodgers will put the first stamp on a defining postseason in his career. The Packers will prevail, and reach their second Super Bowl in 5 years.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 20

Seahawks: 17

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NFL Preview: The Green Bay Packers Vs. The Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will host the Dallas Cowboys in what could only be dubbed as 'The Ice Bowl 2.' This divisional playoff matchup will determine which team will participate in the NFC Championship next sunday. The Cowboys haven't been this close to a NFC Championship since the 2009 season, and the Packers haven't been able to get past the divisional round since they won the Super Bowl in 2010. If the Packers want to win on Sunday they will need to focus on three aspects to help them advance to their first NFC championship in 5 years.

1. Feed Eddie Lacy:

During the latter half of the season every one of my posts mentions "Feed Eddie Lacy," and as I've stated this is the reason he was drafted. The game time temperature is supposed to be in the low teens, and that isn't counting with the wind chill. It'll be bitter cold, and a perfect game for Mr. Lacy to shine. Lacy is coming off of an impressive week 17 performance in which he became the first running-back to rush for 100 yards against the Detroit Lions number two ranked defense. Lacy showed the toughness and skill that he possess in that game. Running through defenders, and making them miss with his vaunted spin- move. Hopefully Lacy is just warming up, and he can force the Cowboys defenders to make "business decisions" as he puts it. If the Packers can run the ball successfully against the Cowboys it will allow them to set the tempo of the game, and control the clock. It will also keep Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray off the field.

2. Shut The Run Down/ Pressure Romo:

The Cowboys were the NFL's best rushing team this season. Demarco Murray rushed for over 1,600 yards, and had over 2,000 all-purpose yards. This is bad news for the Packers who have the leagues 22nd ranked rushing defense. Although the Packers rankings are pretty much based on them not being able to stop the run in the first half of the season. Since the bye-week the Packers defense as a unit has greatly improved. It isn't at the level it was during the 2010 Super Bowl run, but it also isn't at the low level it was during the 2012 season. If the defensive line continues to step up with Letroy Guion and Mike Daniels starring, and the middle linebackers can continue to plug holes, then the defense has a great shot at shutting down Murray. Now with shutting down Murray also comes pressuring Romo into making mistakes. Romo has the potential to win a game or blow a game with his arm, and the Packers need to find a way to force the latter. The Cowboy have three top notch receiving talents in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrence Williams. They most certainly won't be able to shut down all 3, but if 2 of them can be held down it'll be possible for the Packers defense to swarm. Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Mike Neal will be tasked with rattling Romo. Those 3 should have no problem getting some kind of pressure on Romo, the defense just has to make it count.

3. Keep Aaron Rodgers Upright:

News broke on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers had a slight tear in his calf, and that he would most certainly not be 100% going into Sunday's matchup. This is nothing new to Packer Nation or really anyone who has monitored the situation for the last two weeks. It was classified as a severe strain which to some capacity is always some kind of tear. This being said it will be up to the Packers offensive line to keep Rodgers upright. Normally Rodgers can beat you with his legs and his arm, but he possesses the ability to beat you with just his arm, if he has the time. Rodgers is an elite QB for this reason. This offensive line has done great for Rodgers this year, and could potentially be his best offensive line in his tenure as starting QB. All of that could be undone with one bad performance on sunday vs the Cowboys. It's up to the offensive line to keep Rodgers straight up, and keep him unpressured. I think they are up to the task, and having a solid run game will help the fact that Rodgers isn't going to be 100%.

Sunday the Packers have a chance to get themselves closer to a Super Bowl. This is one of the better teams they've had since their Super Bowl run, and this team is kind of getting back into "Super Bowl or bust" territory. Rodgers and co. are hungry for another title, and I believe they can get past the Cowboys on Sunday. It'll be a tough battle, but look for the Packers to advance to their second NFC Championship in 5 years.

AJ's Prediction:

Packers: 28

Cowboys 16