3:05 PM ET, January 18, 2015
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA
The Seattle Seahawks opened the season with a home rout of Green Bay.
A little more than four months later, it's the visiting Packers who stand in the way of the Seahawks becoming the first team in 10 seasons to reach the Super Bowl in back-to-back years.
Riding an eight-game home playoff winning streak, the Seahawks go up against an ailing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Sunday's NFC championship game.
With the "12th Man" in full force and its first Super Bowl winning banner hanging from the top of CenturyLink Field, Seattle rolled to a 36-16 win over Green Bay on Sept. 4. That highly anticipated showdown proved to be one-sided, but also an appetizer for perhaps a more competitive rematch with higher stakes.
"It's going to be one of those for the ages," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. "You look forward to that."
Looking to become the first team since New England from the 2003 and '04 seasons to reach consecutive Super Bowls, the Seahawks (13-4) enjoyed another impressive playoff performance in Saturday's 31-17 divisional-round win over Carolina. A winner in seven straight and 10 of 11, Seattle has reason to feel cautiously optimistic about the next step.
"It's exciting but the job is not done. There is still a lot more to do," said Wilson, who improved to 5-1 in the postseason after throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
The Seahawks won't get too far ahead of themselves considering the Packers have won 12 of 14 to reach their first NFC title game since winning the Super Bowl during the 2010 season. They also have Rodgers, who playing with an injured calf still appears to be better than most healthy NFL quarterbacks.
Rodgers, whose 105.3 career playoff passer rating is second only to Wilson's 109.6, admirably played through the discomfort last Sunday to throw for 316 yards and three TDs in a 26-21 win over Dallas.
Aided by a bevy of receiving options, a stronger runner in Eddie Lacy and a stout defense that's allowed more than 21 points once in nine games, the Packers are a more complete and confident team than the one that visited Seattle in September.
"This team from Week 1 has grown a lot, so we're definitely looking forward to it," said tight end Andrew Quarless, who had four catches for 31 yards and a TD versus Dallas.
Though the Packers (13-4) have improved, Sunday's task is still quite daunting.
Prior to facing Carolina, the Seahawks, winners of 25 of 27 at home, owned a 134-39 scoring advantage over the final six regular season games. They outscored those opponents 45-0 in the fourth quarter and added 17 more points Saturday before Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin caught a 15-yard TD pass with 2:34 left to play.
The 362 yards the Panthers totaled marked the first time in eight games Seattle yielded more than 298.
"Guys are playing selfless. There aren't any egos, there aren't any agendas, and guys just want to do whatever it takes to win," said brash Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, whom the Packers didn't throw toward in the opener.
In the September meeting, Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 189 yards with a TD, an INT and was sacked three times, including one that resulted in a fumble and a safety for the Seahawks. Green Bay's 255 total yards were its second-lowest of the season and the same for Rodgers' 81.5 passer rating.
Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 83 yards, but hardly drew Sherman in coverage.
The Packers said they won't necessarily avoid Sherman this weekend.
"I don't think anybody's intimidated. I mean he's a great player," Quarless said. "Their secondary is definitely a great secondary. You've got to give them their respect. But you know the whole 'Legion of Boom' -- we'll see."
Quarless can think that because Rodgers has grown confident with receivers other than Nelson and Randall Cobb, who combined for 189 receptions, 2,806 yards and 25 TDs during the regular season. Rookie receiver Davante Adams caught 38 passes during the season and seven for 117 yards and a TD against Dallas. Fellow first-year tight end Richard Rodgers caught a 13-yard pass for the go-ahead fourth-quarter score Sunday thanks in part to an overturned call of a Dez Bryant fourth-down reception on the next series.
"I don't think it's that much different except their guys are coming through," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "They've grown with their season and they're at the top of their game."
Lacy was held to a season-low 34 yards against the Seahawks, but went on to gain 1,139, and 101 on 19 attempts versus Dallas.
Seattle allowed 132 rushing yards to the Panthers, but hasn't yielded a 100 to a single rusher since Jamaal Charles' 159 in a 24-20 loss at Kansas City on Nov. 16, its last defeat.
Wilson has thrown 12 TDs with two INTs in eight games, including last week, while completing 64.2 percent of his passes and a 107.2 rating. Five of his 15 completions against the Panthers went for more than 25 yards and 199 came on third down where he went 8 of 8.
Wilson's 73.9 postseason completion percentage on third down is the best in the NFL since 1991, when STATS began recording the data.
"Sometimes I think I'm made for these situations," said Wilson, who was 19 of 28 for 191 yards with two TDs against the Packers in September. "I just try to be prepared for us. When you're prepared, you're never scared."
With three catches for a career-high 129 yards and a TD last week, teammate Jermaine Kearse has nine receptions for 238 and three touchdowns in his last three playoff contests.
Marshawn Lynch was held to 59 yards on 14 carries by Carolina, but ran for 110 and two TDs against the Packers in the opener.
Green Bay allowed an average of 86.4 rushing yards and 3.6 per carry over the final eight regular season games but yielded 123 and a TD on 25 attempts to NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray last Sunday.
"It's going to be a good matchup and we're excited about it," Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang said. "It's going to be a tough one, we understand that, but we'll be ready for the challenge."
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|Avg Points Allowed||14.0||11.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Green Bay leads 6-4|
|Sep 4, 2014||GB 16, @SEA 36|
|Sep 24, 2012||GB 12, @SEA 14|
|Dec 27, 2009||GB 48, SEA 10|
|Oct 12, 2008||GB 27, @SEA 17|
|Jan 12, 2008||GB 42, SEA 20|
|Nov 27, 2006||GB 24, @SEA 34|
|Jan 1, 2006||GB 23, SEA 17|
|Jan 4, 2004||GB 33, SEA 27|
|Oct 5, 2003||GB 35, SEA 13|
The single-season scoring champ has won 10 of the 48 previous Super Bowls. Interestingly, half of those instances came in the decade prior to that in the 1990s, but the Packers would be just the 2nd team since 2000 to do it (Saints in 2009).[+]
Single-Season Scoring Leaders to Win Super Bowl - Super Bowl Era (Since 1966)
While Aaron Rodgers was much better at home than on the road during the regular season, his Total QBR of 83.2 in road playoff games is the highest in the NFL since the 2009 postseason.[+]
Aaron Rodgers Playoff Career
Aaron Rodgers was blitzed on a season-low 8.3 percent of his dropbacks against the Seahawks in Week 1. Including the playoffs, Seattle has only sent a blitz on 26.5 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season, which is 22nd in the league. But when the Seahawks do blitz, they're only allowing a Total QBR of 23.3, the second lowest in the NFL.[+]
Aaron Rodgers vs Seahawks Defense - With Blitz This Season (Including Playoffs)
The Seahawks allowed 3.4 yards per rush this season, 2nd-best in the NFL. The teams to beat the Seahawks this season (Chargers, Cowboys, Rams and Chiefs) all committed to the run and found success on the ground.[+]
Seahawks Rush Defense This Season (Inc. Playoffs)
Seahawks Center Max Unger has been in and out of the lineup all season long playing in 7 games and missing 10. In the 7 games he has played, Seattle is scoring 5 more points per game, averaging almost a full extra yard per rush and running backs are gaining MORE than a full yard before contact when he is on the offensive line.[+]
Center of Attention
From Elias: This will be just the second time that a Conference Championship game will feature the NFL's top scoring offense (Packers) vs the top scoring defense (Seahawks). Back in 1980, the Eagles defeated the Cowboys 20-7 in Philadelphia. Dallas led the league in points scored, while Philadelphia allowed the fewest. The last postseason game in any round with such a matchup was Super Bowl XLVIII (Broncos-Seahawks).
According the the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay are currently a 7.5-point underdog to Seattle. If the line stays above 6.5, that would represent the LARGEST UNDERDOG Aaron Rodgers has ever been in 114 career starts including the playoffs.[+]
Largest Underdog Green Bay Has Been
Winds are expected to be strong Sunday in Seattle with some reports of upwards of 20 MPH. Rodgers has not been as effective this season when the wind speed at game-time was in the double-digits.[+]
Aaron Rodgers This Season - By Game-Time Wind Speed (Including Playoffs)
the Seahawks face a tall task in trying to shut down Aaron Rodgers, who presents a much tougher threat than any QB they've faced recently. Since Week 7, the quarterbacks they've faced: Austin Davis, Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Drew Stanton, Colin Kaepernick twice, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Lindley and Shaun Hill. For the season, those quarterbacks had a combined total QBR of 53.1. Since Week 7 only the Texans and Browns have played a weaker set of quarterbacks.[+]
Lowest Combined Season QBR of Opposing Starters - Since Week 7
Russell Wilson will make $44,000 today based on the CBA for playing in the Conference Championship Game. During the regular season, Wilson made $38,966.71 per check over 17 weeks using his base salary of $662,434
Two teams have beat Seattle at HOME under Russell Wilson: Cowboys this season and Cardinals last season. What did those 2 teams have in common... * Time of possession: Seattle had a -15 TOP margin vs DAL and a -14 TOP margin vs ARI, the two worst margins under Russell Wilson. * Awful Wilson: Russell Wilson had his 2 worst QBR games of his career in the 2 losses (22.5 vs DAL & 11.5 vs ARI). * Lack of Drive Distance: In the 2 losses, Seattle had an average drive distance of 17.8 yds (vs DAL) & 15.0 yds (vs ARI), their 2 worst average drive distances under Russell Wilson. * Can't Move Chains: On offense, Seattle had just 10 first downs vs ARI and 9 first downs vs DAL, 2 fewest totals under Russell Wilson.
Mason Crosby: 4 FG ties Packers record for most FG in a postseason game, previously set by Don Chandler, who had 4 against the Raiders in Super Bowl II
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had 1 interception during the regular season (has 2 today). The Packers were the only team in the league without a pick by a safety in 2013 and drafted Clinton-Dix was the 21st overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Via Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook: Here are potential spreads for the Super Bowl depending on match up. Disclaimer from Westage on lines changing after Conference Championship games: "It will really depend how teams look during Conf Championship games and if GB advances how Rodgers calf responds" Seahawks -7 vs Colts Seahawks -3.5 vs Patriots Packers -3.5 vs Colts Patriots -2 vs Packers
Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas battling through injuries Sunday personifies how the Seahawks have battled at home this season. They've outscored their last 6 opponents at home by double-digits in the 2nd half, after playing to a stalemate in 1st half. The difference has been physical play. They outgained their opponents by 235 yards after contact in the 2nd half, compared with 46 yards in the 1st half of these games.[+]
Seahawks Last 6 Home Games (Including Playoffs)
The Seahawks became the first team since the 1982 Jets to win a postseason game in which they turned the ball over 5 times. Teams had lost 45 consecutive postseason games in which they turned the ball over 5 times.
Aaron Rodgers is now 40-2 with a 16+ point lead (2-1 in playoffs). Losses were at Colts in 2012 and at Seahawks on Sunday.
Seahawks are shut out in the 1st half of any home game for the 1st time since Week 9 of 2010 (losing 35-0 to Giants, lost 41-7)
ESPN Stats & Information