Greetings, my readers. We are nearly at the end of the NFL 2014-15 season. When the Super Bowl arrives on February 1st, it will be a long off season. There will be 31 teams trying to figure out how to win the Super Bowl, while one team is happy. Of course, they’ll have off-season work to stay on top. That being said, as Sunday, January 18, 2015 is Championship Sunday, we will find out which two teams will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in Arizona.
Let’s discuss the four teams, and how they got to this point. I will start first with the NFC Teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, as they’re playing first. Both of these teams got byes. The Packers were the 2 seed, and the defending champion Seahawks were the 1 seed.
In the Packers’ divisional round game against the Dallas Cowboys, despite being hobbled by a severe calf injury, QB Aaron Rodgers was phenomenal. RB Eddie Lacey did a great job gashing holes through that Cowboys defense. The Packers defense did a good job in slowing down the Cowboys and their run game.
The Seahawks ran roughshod over the Carolina Panthers. I realize that the Panthers were not all that great to begin with, due to their regular season record (wait until the NFL expands the playoffs field to 14) , they were awesome. Kam Chancellor was a man amongst boys. He was all over the place. What an amazing job he did. DB Richard Sherman did a great job. QB Russell Wilson is awesome. I was marveled at how he manipulated the pocket.
The Panthers did put up some sort of a fight. I just think they were over matched. QB Cam Newton needs to develop more patience in the pocket. The Panthers need playmakers for whom Newton to have a rapport. It was very obvious in the game that WR Kelvin Benjamin was not going to cut it.
Now, let’s discuss how the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts got to this point. The New England Patriots earned the 1 seed, therefore skipped the Wild Card round. The Indianapolis Colts earned the 4 seed, and had to play the Bengals at home. In my “2015 Divisional Playoff Prediction” blog for this site, I had already shared my thoughts on that game, so I won’t be redundant.
In the Patriots divisional round against the #6 seed Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots stumbled out of the gate, so to speak, both on offense and defense. In fact, due to the Ravens and their defensive line, the Patriots only ran the ball 14 times. Anyway, down two touchdowns at two points in the game, QB legend Tom Brady brought the team back both times, and threw the winning TD to Brandon LeFell.
The Patriots defense didn’t have its act together in the first part of the game. The second half of the game, the defense was a lot better, with DB Devin McCourty intercepting Ravens QB Joe Flacco. With the Ravens down 35-31, Flacco threw a killer endzone pick. At the end, with 14 seconds to go, the Ravens had one last shot to win, but it fell short when Flacco’s Hail Mary attempt was knocked out of the endzone by Devin McCourty.
The Ravens had their shot to win this game. They were touted as New England’s biggest threat. All week, the Ravens, and their staff were acting like big bullies. In press conferences, DT Terrell Suggs wouldn’t even say Tom Brady’s name. I mean, John Harbaugh was crying about how the Patriots didn’t know what tough was.
Well, in the beginning, the big bad Ravens had their way with Brady and the Ravens. The Patriots could not run the ball. The Patriots gave up running the ball. The Ravens QB Joe Flacco and the offense were in full command of the game. The second half of the game started, and the Patriots shook off their bye week rust, and fought back. Yes, about that 4 man offensive line play, Coach John Harbaugh does need to read the playbook. Besides, your team gave up not one, but two two touchdown leads. Sounds like the case of the backyard bully getting what he deserves.
The Indianapolis Colts came into Denver, and played a great game, and defeated the Denver Broncos. They slowed down the running game, and rendered RB C.J Anderson mostly ineffective. They stopped him on a crucial 4th down play late in the game. I was very impressed with Vontae Davis and the Colts’ secondary. They did a great job going against Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas. Even though he threw 2 Ints, QB Andrew Luck played a great game. He and T.Y. Hilton have a great chemistry. I also think the offensive line protected Luck well, so he could get the ball to his other targets.
As for Denver, it was hard to se the great Peyton Manning playing like that. He had to have been in a lot of pain . However, if you have paid any attention, he’s been playing like that for awhile, even before the December 14th Chargers game (where the quad injury reportedly occurred). Since that Week 10 Rams game, Peyton hasn’t looked right. I hope he makes the best decision for him and his family. Anyway, as for the rest of the team, they surely didn’t help Manning out. Pass rusher DeMarcus Ware did not show up. Has Ware EVER shown up in big games? Aqib Talib got burnt all day long. Some of the Denver play calling was odd.
Now that I’ve discussed how the final four teams got to this point, here are my predictions for Championship Sunday.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks
Network : FOX
Kickoff : 3:30PM, EST
Stadium : CenturyLink Field
Winner represents the NFC in Super Bowl 49.
What Seattle must do:
In order to win against Green Bay is to prevent the Packers from running the ball. The Seahawks’ losses this season have been to teams who have been successful at running the ball. I noticed that in the Chargers game (Seahawks allowed 101 yards rushing.). I also saw that in the Dallas Cowboys loss (allowed 126 yards ). The run defense will need to keep Eddie Lacey in check. Seahawks will have to commit to the run, and the offensive line will need to protect QB Russell Wilson.
What Green Bay must do:
Due to the crowd noise, Aaron Rodgers will be using a silent count, and will be limited physically, but he’s very smart. I’m sure he will try to get the ball out quickly. I also think that RB Eddie Lacey will be running between the guards. Rodgers and Coach McCarthy must come up with a better game plan against that brilliant Seattle secondary (Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor , Bobby Wagner ) than the last time the two teams met on the opening day of the 2014-15 NFL Season.
Prediction : This game is going to be a tough one. It is going to be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers can go into Seattle and advance to his second Super Bowl of his awesome career. Can the Seahawks win, and go back to the Super Bowl with a chance to repeat? We can only watch and see.
Winner : In my “2014-15 NFL Season Preview ” blog, I had picked the Green Bay Packers to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 49. Well, I am sorry, but I believe in my integrity, so I am sticking with Green Bay. Winner : Green Bay 34-30.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots
Kickoff : 6:40PM, EST
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
Winner represents the AFC in Super Bowl 49.
What New England must do:
The New England Patriots have beaten these Andrew Luck-led Colts in 3 previous meetings by double digits. The Patriots can not be overconfident, and take the Colts lightly. I still remember the 2011 Divisional Round game against the New York Jets, where Jets QB Mark Sanchez (after just beating Manning and the Colts the week prior) lead a 28-21 upset over the Patriots in Foxborough. The Patriots had defeated that same Jets team 45-3 earlier that season. Trust me, the Patriots don’t want to see that again (Joe Flacco also pulled the defeating P.Manning-Brady double in 2012.). This rematch is for a trip to the Super Bowl. This Patriot team needs to be focused.
The injury to watch is center Brian Stork. The offensive line has been up and down all year. The offensive line must have a great day, and protect Brady. If the offensive line does its job, Brady will have a great day. TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon LeFell, WR Julian Edelman, and others should be able to get open. As the Colts have a porous run defense, I would think that the Patriots will run the ball, as they need to have a balanced attack.
The Patriots defense needs to play better than last week, especially on the running plays. The Patriots secondary needs to do better with guys like Fleener, etc. The Patriots special teams have been awesome. They need to step up their game. Special teams play could very well decide the outcome.
What Indianapolis must do:
On defense, the Colts defense have to try to get a pass rush on Brady. Their secondary have to figure out how to stop TE Rob Gronkowski. If the Patriots offense decide to run the ball, the Colts porous run defense better figure out how to stop it. The highlight for the Colts, other than the offense, is their special teams. I would suspect that they would try a trick play as well.
Prediction : As much as certain people in the sports media want to take shots at the Patriots, and especially at Tom Brady, I think this team is going to be a tough team for the Colts to beat. Coach Bill Belichick will have this team ready. The team is tough, not only physically, but mentally. I am sure that Coach Chuck Pagano will have something up his sleeve, but the Patriots will be ready. The game won’t be an easy one, but I think that the Patriots will prevail.
Winner : Patriots 30-20