Disclaimer: There are a few players in the league who I dislike so much that I actively root against their entire team. Richard Sherman is one of those players. He's a very good player, well coached, who plays one position on a really good defence, and he has the luxury of playing with two of the best safeties in the league. Nothing wrong with that. But he talks. And talks. A cog, even a really important one, shouldn't act like it's the whole machine. Sherman is a cog.
It's funny to me how everyone so eagerly and easily hopped back on the Seattle bandwagon. I mean, there they were, having a so-so season, running second in their own division, when things turned around for them suddenly. As with any successful team in the NFL, fortune had a hand in the turnaround: they got some key players back from injuries; the team they were chasing, the Arizona Cardinals, succumbed to blow after blow on the injury front, including to their first and second-string QBs; and, after a Week 11 loss in Kansas City, Seattle ripped off six straight wins against the following QBs: Drew Stanton, Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Kaepernick, Ryan Lindley, and Shaun Hill. Now, after earning a first round bye and home field advantage almost by default, and beating the lucky-to-even-be-there Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks find themselves one win away from being back in the big game. And the reckoning that I've been expecting for Seattle when it finally faced a really good QB and offence is in question because of Aaron Rodgers's leg.
Speaking of Rodgers, I learned something new about him last week in the game against Dallas; even with a bum wheel, he's still better than most of the QBs in the NFL. Can he, can the Packers, beat the Seahawks? They'll need to come in with a game plan similar to that which they had against the Cowboys, with Rodgers getting the ball out quickly to Nelson, Cobb, and Adams (and them making plays after they get the ball, like Adams did last week), and for Eddie Lacy to have another solid game running the ball. They'll also need to be able to stop Russell Wilson, who, despite playing behind a suspect line, is a superior playmaker who has an almost preternatural knack for avoiding trouble, extending plays with his legs, and taking off and running when needs be. If the Packers can do just enough on defence to limit the Seahawks, and if Rodgers can work his magic, we'll be half way to the mactchup that the league really wants. Winner: Packers
Colts at Patriots
Let's get one thing out of the way right now; Andrew Luck is amazing. He has all the requisite skills of a top-level QB in abundance, plus he's mobile and freaking huge. Now, having said that, the Colts are lucky to be here. They finished the season looking, at least to me, like they could be one-and-done in the playoffs. But then, they had the good fortune to face a Bengals team without AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham, then played the Broncos in a game where Peyton Manning was so clearly past his expiration date that I thought I could smell a some of his passes. And now they have to face the best team in the NFL (yes, I said it), a team that thumped them by 22 points in week 11. So, what's different? Well, Indy has finally, wisely, cut bait with Trent Richardson, a tentative runner to say the least, who has never looked like he belonged in the NFL. As a result of this addition by subtraction, the Colts' running game has improved somewhat. That's pretty much it. So, we have Andrew Luck, some talented receivers, and a defence long on effort but short on talent, particularly in the secondary. The Pats? Well, you know all about them already. This is about as confident as I get in making a conference finals pick. Winner: Patriots