I can count on one hand the number of people who expect the Green Bay Packers to win today’s NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. Have the Packers ever felt like this hopeless of an underdog during the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers era?
As a Packers fan, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to behave as an underdog. Usually, my pregame worries consist of whether the Packers will win by three touchdowns or five.
Do I accept defeat and find something else to do besides watch the game this afternoon? Do I get all angry at the rest of the world for picking against the Packers? Do I inhale a bunch of performance-enhancing substances like half the Seahawks roster is probably doing right now?
Maybe I should change the name of this post to “5 things to do instead of watching the Seahawks beat the Packers by 94 points.” That’s what’s going to happen, right? All the experts are telling me that’s what’s going to happen, so it must be true.
I just don’t know what to handle this. The Packers are playing the big, bad Seahawks on the road. They’re going to get slaughtered. And it’s all going to happen in front of the 12th man, aka a stadium full of zealots who weren’t even aware their city had a professional football team until two years ago.
Hmmmm…..maybe I’ll just watch the game. It’s a Sunday. It’s cold outside. I’ve got nothing better to do. Who knows what could happen, right?
Perhaps Rodgers, the league’s best quarterback, might actually complete a few passes here and there. Maybe Eddie Lacy, a damn fine running back, will run forward instead of backward behind an improved offensive line. Maybe Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the NFL’s best receiving duo, will catch a few of those passes Rodgers will throw.
Oh, and don’t forget about the Packers on defense. Have you heard of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers? Maybe they’ll make a few tackles and sacks and stuff. What about the Packers underrated secondary? Surely, they’ll be able to knock down at least a few passes thrown by Russell Wilson to a bunch of receivers I’ve never heard of.
If all that stuff happens, maybe, just maybe, the Packers might win? I mean, the Packers did win 12 games this season. That’s gotta count for something, right?
If you’re like me, and you’re going to actually watch this game instead of just assuming Seattle will roll and doing something else, here are 5 reasons why the Packers will pull it off:
The narrative all week has been that the Packers of today are much different than the Packers who got clobbered in Seattle in week one. That narrative is very true. The offensive line is better. The defense is better. Receiving options beyond Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are better. Eddie Lacy is better. Letroy Guion is better. Brad Jones is…whoops…never mind. Anyway, it’s one thing to be a different team since week one, it’s another to be a better team. The Packers are both.
For some reason, Mike McCarthy played scared and stayed as far away from Richard Sherman as possible in week one. This allowed the Seachickens talented safeties to shift their coverage over to one side of the field and hone in even tighter on Nelson and Cobb. I’m guessing McCarthy won’t re-create that failed strategy this time around. I’m also guessing that the Packers defense won’t try and re-create their failed “quad” defense (essentially, a 4-3) from week one. Look for a lot of “NASCAR” looks with five linebackers and the usual mix of base, nickel and dime.
The Packers aren’t the only team that’s different. The Seachickens no longer have Percy Harvin, which means no more jet sweeps where Harvin easily gets around the edge and zings by whichever hapless Packers defender tries to tackle him in space. And no more having to corral Harvin on kick returns. Yes, the Seachickens have done just fine since dumping Harvin, but I bet they wouldn’t mind having him this Sunday.
Different Clay Matthews
The Packers have sort of turned Matthews into a Caucasian, long-haired, front-seven version of Charles Woodson. Like a mean and nasty Energizer bunny, Matthews is wound up, placed on certain sections of the field and told to make sh*t happen. The Packers didn’t have that in week one. Matthews kept running into a wall rushing from the outside while Marshawn Lynch and the Seachickens offense feasted on the likes of Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk inside. Matthews makes plays all over the field now and helps cover for the Packers’ deficiency at inside linebacker.
Different right tackle
Injuries happen. You have to fight through them and overcome. Besides B.J. Raji going down early and Rodgers injuring his calf late, the Packers have had their healthiest season in a long time. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga exited the week one game with an injury, leaving Derek Sherrod to step in his spot. The results were an absolute disaster. Of course, a similar injury could occur today (and Bulaga hasn’t exactly been reliable the few times he’s played at Seattle), but if the Packers get through this game healthy like they have most games this season, the Seachickens won’t have a swinging door at right tackle to exploit like they did in week one.
There are all kinds of differences from week one when these two teams kicked off the season. But there’s one factor that could render all those differences moot:
The Packers can handle Lynch. They can handle the loud stadium and the stupid 12th man. They won’t be afraid of Richard Sherman this time around and they can handle the Seachickens talented defense. Russell Wilson, however, he’s tough to handle. If the Seahawks win, it’ll be because Wilson is so damn good. Throwing, running, operating inside the pocket or outside, Wilson can do it all. And he won’t commit silly turnovers. The Packers will have their hands full with Wilson today. If they can beat him, it’ll be the defenses biggest achievement under Dom Capers.
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .