Welcome to the best sports weekend of the year. The NFL's 8 best teams prepare for battle on the same weekend. I'm biased, but I argue that this year's Divisional games are the best match-ups in my lifetime. Seattle at Green Bay showcases Holmgren's return to Lambeau. Arch rivals, the Giants and Cowboys meet for the first time in the playoffs. J'ville and their mighty defense travel to NE to take on the undefeated Patriots. And then San Diego - who 2 years ago developed the blue print on how to beat the Colts - visit Indianapolis. To me, this is mighty exciting.
I am stoked to see the Lambeau crowd on TV this weekend. G-Force will be rocking. G-Force will be ready to welcome Holmgren back to the most hallowed theater in all of sports. Holmgren, the man that has a street named after him in Green Bay. Holmgren, the man who brought Titletown back to Green Bay. Holmgren, the man who developed the only 3-time MVP in the history of the NFL. Holmgren, the man who would not deny a departure as he prepared his team for a repeat Super Bowl. Yeah, that Holmgren. That man. That guy is coming back to Green Bay.
Offensively, the '07 Seahawks are a generic version of the '07 Packers. Matt Hasselbeck does his best impersonation of Brett Favre. Ryan Grant reminds me of the Shaun Alexander of 2001-2003. The Seahawks WR's are dangerous, but they are not the weapons that the Packers possess. Finally, Donald Lee is playing at the level that Marcus Pollard did in 2002-2003.
The Seahawks defense provides a significant test to the Packers offense. Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp bring motors with an endless supply of fuel. Both thrive on rushing the QB. Before last year's NFL Draft, I talked about wanting the Packers to consider Brandon Mebane out of California. I suggested that the Packers should draft him in the 2nd round. The Seahawks drafted him in the third round and today, he's a starter on the Seahawks D-Line. Rocky Bernard has developed into a solid run stopping DT.
At LB, Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupa, and Julian Peterson have developed into one of the best Linebacker groups in the NFL. Leroy Hill is a tremendous football player. He's fast. He's powerful. He finds the football and he's grabbing ball as he's making the tackle. This year - he forced 3 fumbles. Tatupa is a Pro Bowler who has developed into a game changing LB. Julian Peterson is one of the most versatile defenders in all of football. I am enamored with his game. The Packers must spread the Seahawks out and keep their LB's off the field.
However, I feel that the Seahawks DB's are as overrated as any in the NFL. I've always been a fan of Marcus Trufant, but I've also believed that you could set him up. Early in the game, you've got to force Trufant to creep towards the line of scrimmage. I want to see Trufant in bump-and-run coverage. The Packers must attack him early with 3-step drop passes. With that being said, Trufant did have 7 interceptions this year. I also think that you can attack Kelly Jennings. In fact, I hope the Packers turn Jennings into their whipping post. He's undersized. He'll grab you. And he'll miss tackles. Jordan Babineaux makes plays normally puts himself in position to make the play. Deon Grant does the same. But, the Seahawks lack depth in the defensive backfield. If we spread them out, they cannot cover us. Josh Wilson and Brian Russell cannot compete with the Packers WR's.
Once again, on the first possession of the game, I'd come out with 4 WR's to force the Seahawks to play with only 1 or 2 LB's. Grant as the single back. Favre under center. Grant on the draw. Right at the interior of the Seahawks defense. I'd challenge Mebane and Bernard with my guards and I'd try to get Wells on top of Tatupa at the 2nd line of defense. If the Packers can establish the run on our first possession, it could force the Seahawks to put more LB's on the field. We can force mismatches.
The Packers pick away with Grant. 4, 5, 7 yards at a crack. The Seahawks have no choice but to put more beef on defensive side of the field. But, at that point, Favre goes to work. He finds a well rested Donald Driver for 11 yards. Jennings on the skinny post for 8. Jones on the curl in front of Trufant for 6. The quick hitter to Koren for 7 yards. Poking away at the Seahawks defense, the Packers find the end zone.
Holmgren, the ultimate game planner, responds. In my mind, Holmgren is the best coach I've ever witnessed when it comes to taking advantage of a defense's weakness. If Poppinga is on the field, Holmgren will put him in space. Otherwise, Holmgren will attack Ras-A-tari via the pass. Holmgren will come after T-man, Willie B., J-Bush, Frank Walker - whoever it is playing the third CB position - he will be tested! Early and often. Hasselbeck will be instructed to repeatedly go after the Packers 3rd CB.
Deion Branch is banged up, but will play. I would not be surprised if our 3rd CB is covering him. I would put Chuckie on either Burleson or Engram, whoever is in the slot. For the most part, D.J. Hackett will be playing on the outside. He could be matched up with Rasta Al. Frankly, of the playmakers on the Seahawks offense, Hackett scares me the most.
We'll see the Seahawks come out in 3 and 4 WR sets. We'll see a limited amount of Shaun Alexander. Thankfully, I don't foresee Seattle's offensive front pushing the injured D-Line of the Packers around. They may try to run the ball early, but I think that our D-Line will have success.
Holmgren turns to the pass. The Packers apply good pressure to Hasselbeck, but he avoids the pressure and slides the ball to Burleson and Engram to keep the chains moving. The Packers defense bends, but it does not break.
The Seahwaks come with immense pressure. Blitzing Favre to attempt to take him out of rhythm. The Packers reply with the screen pass. As of late, the Packers have not been able to successfully run the screen play. This week - it's Grant in the open field and he's picking up big chunks of yardage against the over-pursuing Seattle defense.
Seattle hangs tight in what becomes a feisty battle. But, in the 3rd Quarter, it's Favre opening his bag of tricks. McCarthy gives Favre a drive. It's Favre chance to show that pupil is outperforming teacher. Favre, out of shotgun, works his magic. The flip to Morency picks up a big third down. Favre, dissecting the defense, finds Donald Lee in the back of the end zone for a 10-point lead. And Mac says, "I don't want to work. I just want to bang on the drums all day."
The G-Force elevates. Rises in unison. Gloves pounding together. 24 degrees. You can see the nervousness in Hasselbeck's eyes. A-to-the-K rounds the corner and forces an incompletion. KGB applying pressure as well. The camera flashes towards the ecstatic Lambeau faithful. You can see a cloud of breath floating through the stands. The G-Force is shouting their beliefs. And the Packers defense forces the turnover as Chuckie jumps in front of a pass.
In "Championship Drive" style, the Packers put the "dagger" into the Seahawks as Favre engineers another TD drive. We're going to the NFC Championship, baby!
Green Bay 34. Seattle 23.
Bring it, G-Force. Bring it! We've had two weeks to prepare. We enjoyed our weekend. Harness in the good energy. Block out the bad. It's been a very good season thus far, but a win this week makes it a great season.
For the rest of my Divisional Playoff predictions, check back with me as they will be released either Wednesday or Thursday night.
Off Yur Ass and On Yur Feet,