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NFL Conference Championship Preview

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The NFL is down to their “Final 4” teams. 3 of the 4 quarterbacks remaining have already won a Super Bowl… Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Dominant passing quarterbacks win in the NFL. 3 out of the 4 teams remaining, got outrushed by their opponents last week and won their playoff game. Keep believing in “Ground and Pound” Rex Ryan, that is the reason you got fired from the Jets. (Sorry, I just had to make one more dig at the used car salesman, who is now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills).

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Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks, Sunday on 3:30 FOX- the Seattle Seahawks are looking to become the first team to go to back-to-back Super Bowls in 10 years. The last team to accomplish that goal was the 2003-2004 New England Patriots. Seattle will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship on Sunday. Seattle defeated the Carolina Panthers last week 31-17. They continue to be one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They have won 10 out of 11 games and 7 in a row. In Seattle’s last 4 games they have given up 7, 6, 6, and 17 points. They are peaking at the right time.  Seattle has played 7 playoff teams this year, they are 6-1. In those games, Russell Wilson has 13 total touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. The Seahawks lead the NFL in defense during the season, only giving up 268 yards per game. Seattle is not just a defensive team, over their last three playoff games they have scored 23, 43, and 31 points. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards and Wilson rushed for 849 yards during the regular season.

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys last weekend in Lambeau Field, by the score of 26-21. Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers was basically playing on one leg in the game (Rodgers has had calf and ankle injury for the past few weeks) He was hobbled a bit, but that didn’t seem to affect him, He was 24 for 35 for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. Eddie Lacy had 19 carries for 109 yards and the Packers has 7 players with at least 1 reception in the game. Davante Adams led all receivers with 7 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.

If Rodgers was 100% healthy I would like the Packers to win this game. Dallas didn’t put a ton of pressure on Rodgers and he was able to make plays. Seattle’s defense is a totally different animal than what the Cowboys had on the field last weekend. They will put pressure on Rodgers early and make him move around in the pocket with his bad calf. If they sense he can’t move laterally, it will be like a wounded Wildebeest around a pack of Lions. They will pounce on Rodgers for 60 minutes. The Packers and Lacy must establish a running game right from the start. In Seattle’s four losses this season, teams have averaged 32 rushes and 139 yards per game. In their first meeting of the season, Rodgers didn’t throw to defensive back Richards Sherman’s side of the field once. They cannot do this the second time around. You can’t beat Seattle playing one side of the field. I look for Rodgers to throw at Sherman right off the bat, just to keep their defense honest. Rodgers will be the MVP of the NFL this year and if they were playing at home I would like the Packers to win this game. But with Rodgers being about 70% and Seattle playing at home, I will take the Seahawks.  Seattle wins this game 30-23.

 

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots, Sunday on CBS 6:40- Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are playing in their 9th AFC Championship game. If they win this game against the Colts, they will be playing in their 6th Super Bowl with the Patriots. Last week against the Ravens, Brady became the all-time leader in the post-season for touchdown passes. The previous record was held by Joe Montana (45 touchdown passes), Brady now has 46. In Week 11, the Patriots defeated the Colts 42-20. Patriots’ running back, Jonas Gray rushed the ball 37 times for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. 32 of Gray’s 37 rushes came with 6 offensive lineman in the game for the Patriots. They played “smash mouth “football and the Colts couldn’t stop it. Belichick continues to be the master of game planning and in game adjustments. Last week against the Ravens the Patriots didn’t call one running play for their running backs in the second half. Andrew Luck continues to be the heir apparent to Brady and Manning. In his first 5 playoff games, Luck has the most passing yards of any quarterback in the history of the NFL. Kurt Warner held the previous record with 1,644 passing yards in 5 games. (Luck has 1,648). Unfortunately for Luck, he has not had great success against the Patriots. In 3 games against New England, he has 3 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions.

This game breaks down pretty easily. Can Luck continue to carry the Colts and lead them to a Super Bowl appearance? The Colts don’t have a great running game, Trent Richardson led the team in rushing yards with 519 on the season. (Richardson was a healthy scratch last week and didn’t even play). They don’t have great receivers either. The Colts led the NFL in dropped passes. Their offensive line has struggled during the year. They have had 12 starting offensive lineman play in their first 14 games. Luck has been hit more times than any quarterback this season (74 times). The strength of the Colts defense is their defensive backs. They don’t rush the quarterback particular well. They finished 26th in the league with 41 sacks. The Colts have played much better in the post-season only giving up 23 points in 2 games.

This is the best Patriot team top to bottom that Belichick has had since they last won the Super Bowl. I think they will be too much for the Colts. If Luck wins this game, he will own the division for the next 8-10 years because their roster will get better in the years to come. Andrew’s Luck runs out this week.  I like the Patriots to win this game 37-23.

Monte Perez ~ @montetjwitter ~ The Sports Whisperer

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