The 2015 NFL playoffs are closing in on the Super Bowl, as we have arrived at conference championship Sunday. The day will start at 12:05 p.m. PT when the NFC Championship Game kicks off. The Seattle Seahawks are hosting the Green Bay Packers on FOX, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XLIX. The FOX love for Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson should be something to behold.
The game features a pair of 49ers rivals, although I think most people will find it easy to pick sides. The 49ers and Packers had a nice playoff rivalry in the 90s, and in the last few years, but the Seahawks are the 49ers primary rival at this point. If the 49ers can bounce back in 2015, the rivalry should continue to some extent. If the 49ers struggle, well, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry looks without Harbaugh vs. Carroll.
The big question this week has been the status of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He has been dealing with a calf strain suffered in Week 17. He played last week after missing a day of practice to start the week. He was listed as limited on all three practice reports, and probable on the final injury report. He will play, but one has to wonder if the calf will constrain him to some degree against a strong Seahawks defense.
The Seahawks are a 7.5-point underdog. The Seahawks easily covered the 4.5-point spread in Week 1 when these two met up. Seattle blew out Green Bay 36-16. While the Seahawks struggled a little bit early on, they eventually righted the ship, and are once again rolling. I think the Packers hang close early, but Seattle pulls away late and ends up winning by double digits, potentially 11-14 points.
If Green Bay is going to win this game, it is essential they get Eddie Lacy going. He rushed 12 times for 34 yards in the opener. He faces a Seahawks defense that was No. 2 this season against the run, according to Football Outsiders. Seattle's defensive line is No. 5 in adjusted line yards. Aaron Rodgers is a great QB even without the run game, but given the strength of the Seahawks pass defense, slowing that defense down with a strong ground game will be critical.
On the other side, Seattle is rolling at the right time. They have developed a pretty enviable level of balance that makes it easy to understand why they are a favorite to win it all. Marshawn Lynch had a solid if somewhat low key 2013, but he seemed to return to form to some extent in 2014. A year after averaging 4.2 yards per carry, Lynch averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2014. And of course, Russell Wilson was quite dangerous, both on the ground and through the air. On the other side of the ball, the defense seemed to get off to a slow start, but as they got healthier, it became the feared unit it was last year.
I think the Seahawks defense ends up being too much for the Packers, and Seattle wins 30-17. How do you see it shaking out?
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
When: 12:05 p.m. PT
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Radio: Packers Radio Network, Seahawks Radio Network
Online streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile
Odds: The Seahawks are 7.5-point favorites according to OddsShark
Packers blog: Acme Packing Company
Seahawks blog: Field Gulls