Early Preview, Odds, and Prediction – NFC Championship Game

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-7, 46.5 o/u)

The NFC Championship Game in Seattle (Sunday, Jan. 18, at 3:05 p.m. Eastern) features a pair of teams that went 12-4 during the regular season. Both teams were dominant at home, and each looked good (if not great) during the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

With the winner on their way to the Super Bowl, let’s break down the match-up between the Seahawks and Packers.

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay used a balanced offense, led by a superstar quarterback, and a solid pass defense to make up for a weakness stopping the run this year. Including their win on Sunday against Dallas, the Packers have won eight of their last nine games. While Green Bay was unbeaten at home in nine tries, they are just 4-4 on the road and 3-5 against the spread. They did not beat a playoff team this season outside of Wisconsin, and lost road games to mediocre Buffalo and New Orleans.

Over the weekend the Packers earned a trip to Seattle by beating the Cowboys, 26-21 (though they didn’t cover as 6.5-point favorites). Green Bay trailed 21-13 late in the third quarter, but Rodgers led two long touchdown drives to help secure the victory. Dallas thought they had positioned themselves to win the game late in the fourth quarter, but a Tony Romo pass to Dez Bryant inside Green Bay’s five yard line was ruled incomplete after a controversial review.

The Packers out-gained Dallas 425-315, but DeMarco Murray managed 123 yards on the ground for the Cowboys and Green Bay was penalized ten times in the win, continuing two troubling trends from the regular season.

Aaron Rodgers, who is suffering from a calf injury, was noticeably less mobile against Dallas, and may suffer from similar limitations next weekend.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle hosts their second straight NFC Title Game after beating the Niners, 23-17, last year. The team’s title defense did not seem on firm footing when it began the year 3-3. However, after eliminating Carolina on Saturday (31-17) and covering the biggest spread of the Divisional Playoffs (11 points), Seattle has put together seven straight victories and ten wins in the last 11 games.

The Seahawks are 8-1 at home this year and 7-2 against the spread. For a second straight year, the Seahawks have the best defense in the league. Their defense has averaged eight points against per game over the last seven contests in Seattle. The Seahawks also ranked number one stopping the pass this year, and third against the run. On offense, the team boasts the top running game in the league. However, they finished just 27th in the NFL in passing offense.

The Seahawks offense scored only twice during the opening 45 minutes in the Divisional Playoff against Carolina and led by just four (14-10) after three quarters. However, Seattle seized control by capping a 12-play drive with a field goal early in the fourth quarter and then added a touchdown to take a 24-10 advantage with just over ten minutes to go. They also got a defensive score late in the game to seal the deal. Carolina scored a garbage time TD to make the final score 31-17.

Despite having the ball for less than 26 minutes, the Seahawks rushed for 100 yards and quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 268 and three scores. Seattle also forced three turnovers while committing none.

The History:

Sunday’s game will be a rematch of the very first NFL game of the season. Seattle beat Green Bay at CenturyLink Field, 36-16. It was a tight game until the Seahawks scored 19 straight points, including two Marshawn Lynch touchdowns, in the final 40 minutes. The Seahawks managed 398 yards of offense including 207 on the ground, while Rodgers went 23/33 for just 189 yards, one score and one pick.

The Play:

Green Bay are touchdown dogs and the over/under is at 46.5 at the moment. This is the biggest spread the Packers have faced since Rodgers took the reigns, and Seattle has covered seven straight games. The bottom line is that the Seahawks just aren’t giving up a lot of points (they haven’t allowed more than 20 since week 11) and Green Bay is 1-4 when scoring 23 points or less.  Prediction: Much like they did against Carolina, Seattle will control the game on the ground, limit Green Bay’s ability to function on offense (whatever Rodgers’ status), and win 27-17.

(Photo credit: By Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Aaron Rodgers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)

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