Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Take - Divisional Playoffs

Greetings, G-Force.

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,

Talkin' S-Mac.


vargas said...

Has there been a more anticipated take of the year? I don't think so..The build up in my mind for this game hasn't reached these levels for years. Just so anxious to see how our team responds to the off week and having the walrus back in town..

My key to the game is our o-line...Give favre the time and spread a few holes for Grant...Neutralize their speed by our draws and dip-n-dunk passes..This game is ours.. Our defense will be intense and very pissed.. As buzz pointed out to me the other day...Shannon Sharpe directly talked shit to Poppinga.. Hawk will be a madman since the buckeyes lost.. And barnett is as OG as they come.. Bring it Seattle..


A-Star said...

My first Packer playoff season with a winning record!! So nervous and excited!! Can't wait for Saturday to get here...Farve is going to have an explosive game. This is his year for that Superbowl. BRING IT!

TB47 said...

"The Packers look like a team of destiny. This season, Favre regained his youth, the team found a running back and there are more than enough receivers to beat anyone. This game will see a lot of West Coast offense on both sides with short, shallow crossing routes and a hope for yards after the catch. Seven different Packers have caught a touchdown this season, and nine different Seahawks have hit pay dirt. Favre and Hasselbeck should each put up between 35 and 40 passes." HOT!

bleedin green said...

How many days till Saturday? Homegrown returns to the sacred grounds just a couple blocks from Gross St, in what possibly could be his last game as the Seahawk's head coach. What a perfect way for him to end his coaching career in Seattle.

Welcome back Mike!

Talkin' S-Mac said...

It is purely epic for me to log on and see responses before this festive Divisional playoffs. Thanks for the insightful buzzes.

I am growing more and more confident as Game Day nears. Admittedly, I'm an optimistic realist in life, however with respect to Game Day, I strongly feel as though this optimism will turn into reality.

While both teams can score, I feel as though we have more playmakers than they do. I also believe that our defense has a point to prove this weekend. The old adage is "Defense Wins Championships." And while I do not feel as though our defense has to be the Packers strongest asset, I do feel that they must force at least one turnover and they must hold the Seahawks to FG's on their successful possessions. It would not surprise me if both teams move the football into the other teams side of the field at least 6-7 times.

The anticipation is killing me...

vargas said...

So I forgot about Barnett's added motivation for the game.. He is going to be mad pissed about Tatupa and the pro bowl snub.. Not that he needs anymore to get up for this game but if a blitzing barnett is extra pissed when he crushes Hasselbach's thigh..I'll take it..

3 more days....

bleedin green said...

I felt nervous about facing Seattle while watching the end of their divisional playoff game. As game day nears though my confidence is building exponentially. Folks around the media question whether the youngest team in the NFL with so many playoff rookies can be mentally prepared to compete in a game of this magnitude. In watchin this team all year, it seems like they have been able to put aside conventional wisdom and bring a new energy to the game...winning sleeper games, bouncing back from tough losses, birthing a running game out of a seemingly insignificant trade, winning in the season finale while resting players, even getting blown out in the cold. What I see is a confident, young team that believes in itself...what's the value in believing "how can we win with such a young team with so little playoff experience" anyway? Players and coaches seem pretty confident in the locker room interviews posted on packers.com. BTW, Tauscher referenced G-Force at the end of his press conference yesterday.

Talkin' S-Mac said...

Greetings, G-Force.

Big props to Tauscher. He's a WI boy. And he gets it.

I heard an interview with Mark Murphy, the President and CEO-Elect of the Packers. Still, when the name Mark Murphy crosses my mind, I think think of good ol' #37 and his bald head holding down the fort in the Packers secondary. Any way, after listening to Murphy, I left assured that the Packers organization is in good hands. He is impressive and it should be noted that he stated the Packers are in contract negotiations with McCarthy. He said that the extension should happen soon. Epic.

It's great to think that the "Land of Squeaky Cheese, Fried Cheese, and String Cheese" is in good hands for the foreseeable future.

My take on the "other" games this weekend:

J'ville at NE:

I was really hoping Mother Nature would show her face this weekend in Boston. Apparently, she was not listening to my wishes. Highs in the mid 40's. Low's in the high 20's. Perfect January weather for Brady to go to work.

One thing is for sure - both Jack Del Rio and Bill Belichick will have there teams prepared. I would love to see J'ville control the clock. Pound away at the aging Patriot defense. Ball control football. Turnover free. But, I just don't see it happening. The Jags will keep it close for 2.5 quarters. Garrard engineers a TD drive in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-13. It looks as though the Jags have a chance until Brady finds Moss on a crucial 3rd down pass.

Offensively, New England is too much for the tough Jacksonville defense.

New England 34. Jacksonville 16.

San Diego at Indy:

It cannot be forgotten that two years ago, the blue print on how to beat the Colts was delivered by the Chargers. The 3-4 of the Chargers had the Colts dazed and confused. The Steelers mimicked this style in the playoffs and they were also successful. It has also been well documented that Peyton's worst professional performance came against the Chargers earlier this year when he threw 6 interceptions.

Merriman and Phillips are a tough combo. Luis Castillo is a MAN on the Chargers D-Line. Jamal Williams is also a MAN at nose tackle. The Colts have to be able to contain the defensive front or once again, this could be a long day for the Colts.

Admittedly, the Colts are arguably my least favorite team in the NFL. Yes, they are on par with the Bears and Vikings. I would cherish the opportunity to pick against them, but I can't do it.

The Colts are too tough offensively. They have weapons and they are getting Harrison back. The Chargers keep it close, but a late Philip Rivers turnover ends LT's hopes for a Super Bowl ring.

Indy 30. SD 20.

NYG at Dallas:

G-Force, I am ecstatic for this game. The notion of once again returning to Lambeau makes me giddy.

This will be a fantastic game. For the first time in NFL history, the Giants and Cowboys meet in the playoffs. Utterly amazing. It could be a classic.

NY tries to attack with just 4 on the defensive line. And the Cowboys respond with a spectacular offensive line.

I'm not trying to be vague, but this game will be decided at the line of scrimmage. If the Cowboys can pound away with Marion Barber III, this game could get ugly. NYG has to control the run and keep Romo in the pocket. He has murdered the Giants when he's been on the run this year.

On the flip side, can the Giants protect Eli? If you put pressure on Eli, he is prone to make mistakes. Greg Ellis, D-Ware, & Co. are fabulous pass rushers who combine speed and power.

Ultimately, I think the Giants have the most overrated defense in football. The Giants played four games against strong offensive football teams:
1.) at Dallas - they gave up 45 points.
2.) Green Bay - they gave up 35 points.
3.) Dallas - they gave up 31 points.
4.) New England - they gave up 38 points.

Yes, this Sunday, once again, New York will find themselves in a shootout. And I'm betting on Romo over Eli.

Dallas 34. Giants 27.

So, G-Force, there you have it. The four best teams in the NFL all advance to the Final 4. The way it should be. Each year - one home team loses in the Divisional Playoffs, but this year I do not see it.

Brett's coming back!

2 more sleeps,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Talkin' S-Mac said...

Brother Chad! Bringing the noise in "Bleeding Green" form. Epic to read your take. In total agreement with you. As Game Day approaches, it victory continues to seem more and more real.

Go Pack Go! Go Pack Go! Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac said...

Brother Vargas, Good point about Barnett. Added fire. You know the LB's are going to be feeling the desire to showcase their game this weekend. All week - the talk has been Kerney and the LB's of the Seahawks. Time for AJ and Nickie to force some turnovers...

Talkin' S-Mac said...

A* & Lindsay,

Bringing the heat with Packer excitement. G-Force spirit alive and well...and yes, Star, Favre is going to be explosive!

bleedin green said...

2 hours from kickoff and I'm pacing with anticipation. Feelin' like there is no stopping the Green Bay Packers and G-Force today. Also feeling like the Packers win today decisively and my hope is we finish the day injury-free. Wouldn't be surprised if the NFC Championship Game travels through Lambeau Field next week. Seems like a bunch of similarities with 1995 vibin but this year we get a hometown NFC Championship.

Got a 12-pack of beer chilled, some fresh WI cheese, and a burning desire for kickoff. Buzzin with excitement.

G-Force rocks the house!