By: S. Davis
If there’s a need to be motivated to take the field this week then retire. If you’re a football fan and cannot find the excitement for the NFL version of the Final Four…then make other plans for Sunday.
Green Bay @ Seattle
How limited will Aaron Rodgers be once the game starts?
If the Seahawks lose this game will their chance at a dominant run be over before it began?
I think – similarly to last week – Rodgers will play his way into the flow of the game. You recall last week that he came out favoring his torn calf and moved like he had one leg once the pocket collapsed around him. He didn’t move fluidly – and watching from home it was easy to see that he wanted to run and display movement in the pocket. There was no way he trusted the leg to physically react to the needs of his brain.
As the second half began and defenders closed distance he started making plays from several launching points, playing into a groove. The legs did just enough to enable the brain (and arm) to defeat the Dallas Cowboys. When it mattered he was able to summon the rest of his body to compensate for his torn calf.
If the Seahawks don’t win a consecutive Super Bowl, their future will not look as bright. They will not implode and morph into the Oakland Raiders but they will take a slight step back. They will contend and probably make the postseason over the next 3-5 years but they have to win titles when they can because EVENTUALLY the tab is about to be dropped for the bill named Russell Wilson.
Seattle has been able to build such a strong roster by drafting late and developing a core group of players, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, while controlling them on low-wage rookie deals. Russell Wilson is one of those players – and he has outperformed his current contract. He makes less than one million in salary which is the primary factor that enabled his front-office to build around him. The luxury of cap room will evaporate because his next contract will make him one of the highest paid players in the NFL. Time is not on their side so the urge to stack wins remains paramount. The tab is on the table, ‘hawks.
It’s difficult to determine where this game will be decided. One thing that’s clear: Green Bay cannot allow Richard Sherman to take away the right side of the field – and expect to be playing in two weeks. Sherman is too good to be picked on but there isn’t a single defensive back, in the history of time, that’s immune to getting beat a few times a game. Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson had to defend; the Packers need to ensure that Sherman actually has to cover receivers, turn and run – and move his hips. A few key completions will enable the Packers to use their playbook to its fullest extent…and attack the entire field of play.
I get the love for the Seahawks but you have to view tighter when examining their critical swing to end the regular season. They feasted on a buffet of quarterbacks, in succession, that included: Drew Stanton, Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Kaepernick, Ryan Lindley and Shaun Hill.
Seattle won those six games by a combined, 134-39. Outside of a clearly regressing Kaepernick – and I think that’s a kind assessment – there was not an elite player at the position as their defense “turned things around.” I do not doubt their ability to close the door on the Packers but the ledger of quarterbacks they faced that coincided with their resurgence shouldn’t be ignored.
My pick: I’ll probably feel like a fool for this but…Green Bay over Seattle, 27-26. No one’s invincible!
Indianapolis @ New England
This game feels nostalgic…with a new character playing the part of Tom Brady’s foil.
I’m interested in seeing how Chuck Pagano will prepare his team against whatever Bill Belichick will showcase this week. Most teams have an identity and then change it after a loss or two, but Belichick is the only coach that will shift from week-to-week in order to tie the opponent in knots, he’s game-specific. There isn’t another coach that even attempts something like that. As complete a coach as any – across all sports – he is renowned as a defensive genius who is also regarded as an offensive savant as well.
Memo: Hey coaches? It is possible to learn all sides of the ball while also coaching and having a philosophy that’s able to evolve. (I’ll refrain from dropping names here.)
Will Andrew Luck find a way to lead the Colts into the Super Bowl?
If he does it will take a gargantuan effort because they don’t even try to run after a few token carries by their running back of the week. (It won’t be Trent Richardson, which is baffling in that he might really be done…already. As of this posting he is a game-time decision for the AFC Championship which is never a ringing endorsement for a 24-year old running back that was drafted in 2012 with the third overall pick.) Update: Richardson stayed in Indianapolis while his team traveled to Massachusetts. Wow.
How Luck uses Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen will be paramount to keeping pace with the Patriots as they struggle covering tight ends along the seams and middle of the field. I’m betting that T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne will be occupied so Luck should lean on Allen and Fleener (a combined 1,169 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season) to move the ball.
My pick: Patriots over Colts, 33-23. The Colts have no offensive balance to speak of…and this is the wrong time of year to be predictable.
Last week: 3-1
Regular Season: 174-82