NFL Conference Championship Previews
I usually like starting these NFL columns (just don’t remind me that I haven’t done one all season) with some corny and vague one-liner that somehow encapsulates the story lines for the upcoming games. I won’t bore you with that this time because I’m drawing a complete mental blank and I really just feel like talking about this week’s games. So why am I still rambling on? On to the picks!
Packers @ Seahawks
This is the match-up that everyone has been waiting for since the “Fail Mary” fiasco a few years ago. Both teams were different to today, but the overall structure stays the same. Seattle has a conservative offense coupled with a dominant defence. Green Bay has an explosive offence with some individual stand out defensive players, but they really don’t gel as a unit. If anything, aside from the development of Russell Wilson, Seattle has digressed somewhat whilst Green Bay has become more balanced with a consistent running game led by Eddie Lacey without compromising on their unbelievable passing game. Seattle’s defence has been dominant the past month and a half but they have not faced anywhere near the juggernaut that is the Packers offence, and that’s why this collision course (reminiscent of the “irresistible force vs the “unmoveable object”) makes for such an intriguing match up. I know what the Seattle’s defence is capable of (remember, I predicted the Seahawk’s demolition of the Bronco’s in last year’s super bowl), but Aaron Rodgers does not panic in big games the way Peyton Manning does. Do not expect a repeat performance to happen here.
I mentioned the form for the Seattle defence, but they’ve had a pretty lucky run to the top seed in the NFC. Arizona was completely in the driver’s seat of winning the NFC West and the conference top seed before Carson Palmer went down with a season ending injury. Green Bay, on the other hand, had to scratch and claw their way to win their division after Aaron Rodger’s class “relax” speech. They’ve basically had to win every game for the last 10 weeks, and that includes a huge playoff win against the Cowboys (the team that dominated Seattle in Seattle at the start of the season). The Seahawks, on the other hand, looked a shaky against a team (Carolina) that really shouldn’t have even been in the playoffs. Seattle has home field, Green Bay has form. I don’t think Green Bay will be intimidated by the Seahawk’s home crowd, and overall, they’re a better balanced team, and have all the necessary ingredients on offence to expose the holes in Seattle’s defence, and will come out victorious.
Packers 28, Seahawks 13
Colts @ Patriots
Now get ready for me to completely contradict everything I just said about form with this prediction. The Colts are coming off a franchise and career defining victory, with both Indy and Andrew Luck finally escaping the shadow of Peyton Manning by walking into Mile High and laying the Smackdown on the Broncos in Denver. The Patriots, on the other hand, were lucky to escape with a victory against the Ravens. Based off this, it looks like the Colts have the momentum heading into this game, but let’s look a little deeper. Indy played in a fairly weak division, beat a flawed Cincinnati Bengals team in the first round, before demolishing a fractured Broncos team last week. It’s easy to mistake the Broncos as contenders, but with Manning under centre, they were a flukey 3rd down conversion away from losing to San Diego last year and being 0-3 in the playoffs (combined with the Raven’s win in 2012 and Colt’s last week). They just haven’t performed well at all, and that’s consistent with what happened against Indy. The Patriots overcame a 14 point deficit twice last week against a team that has beaten them in big games numerous times in recent years. If the Ravens lined up against the Broncos, it wouldn’t be close.
The Patriots have a history of limiting explosive quarterbacks and making teams do what they don’t do best offensively. The Colts cannot run the ball to save their lives right now, and yes, Andrew Luck has been great, but against Belichick and this New England secondary, I fully expect him to be contained a lot better than what we’ve seen against the Bengals and Broncos. Now, do I think the Colts can do something similar against the Patriots? No. New England has an equally bad running game, but their short passing game is far superior to what Cincinnati has, and the difference in defensive capabilities means New England should be able to dictate the pace to Indianapolis.
Patriots 24, Colts 3