Championship Sunday Preview
Today is a big day in the NFL. It’s Conference Championship Sunday with the potential for two excellent games. In the early game, the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle for the NFC Championship. That game will be followed by the AFC Championship game in Foxboro between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. After going 3-1 in each of the last two weeks, I had an average day last week with a 2-2 mark against the spread. Hopefully, today will be a little better.
Green Bay (+7.5) at Seattle
Last week I went with the underdog when Carolina played at Seattle. At halftime, things looked good, but then the strong Seattle defense took over and Seattle scored 17 fourth quarter points to win 31-17. I look for a much closer game this week, but Aaron Rodgers's calf injury will definitely play a role. Rodgers is one of the better quarterbacks in football at rolling out and throwing on the move. Last week, he only threw four passes from outside the pocket. With another week to heal, his movement skills will be a little better, but he still will be far from 100%.
Expect Seattle to come at Rodgers with a variety of blitzes to try and make him move. This ultimately could become a huge advantage for the Seahawks. Seattle already has a huge advantage being at home, and with Rodgers having limited movement, the advantage increases. Still, Seattle will be facing perhaps the best offense they have faced all year. If Rodgers has any movement, the Seattle secondary could be in for a long day versus Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and rookie Davante Adams, who has come on strong of late.
Seattle has one of the most balanced attacks in football. While they may not have the big play receiver, all the Seahawks' receivers are very talented. In big games, running back Marshawn Lynch is as good as there is, and no one is more physical. While Rodgers is excellent throwing on the move, Russell Wilson may be even better, and his ability to make plays with his feet is excellent.
While it is extremely difficult for visitors to win in Seattle, I think the 7.5 spread is too much. I figure Seattle will win the game but the spread will be between 3 and 7 points. Take the points.
Indianapolis at New England (-7)
Experience could play a big role in this game. Playing in a conference Championship game is just about an every year occurrence for the New England Patriots. That isn’t the case for Indianapolis and the Colts' players could be a bit tight.
Andrew Luck proved in the last two weeks that he is ready to be a legitimate member of the elite “franchise” quarterback club. As I have written many times, the term is vastly over used, and until now, there were only four legitimate franchise quarterbacks (P.Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Brady). Luck now makes that five, but it could soon be back to four as Peyton Manning's skills are slipping.
New England has to concentrate on stopping Luck as the Colts ground game scares no one. The Patriots secondary struggled last week giving up 292 yards to Joe Flacco. They were able to get two interceptions, but they are going to have to play better to stop Luck.
Last week, Brady was Brady, throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Look for more of the same today. With the Pats experience, Bill Belichick and the game being played in Foxboro, I feel this will be too much for the Colts to overcome. I feel the Patriots will cover, but this may also be the last time we see New England in a championship game for a while as Brady isn’t getting any younger. Take the Pats and look for a New England–Seattle Super Bowl.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe