Reaching consecutive Super Bowls has proven to be extremely difficult in recent years, but the Seattle Seahawks (12-4) have a chance to do just that on Sunday. The defending champs will host the 2015 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers (12-4), as they continue their quest to win a second straight title.
After losing three of their first six games to start the season, Seattle has looked just as good as last year’s team that won the first championship in franchise history. Including their divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks have won 10 of their last 11 games. The No.1 seed's last eight wins have all come by double digits.
Mike McCarthy's squad knows just how difficult it will be for them to visit Seattle and leave with a victory. The two teams opened the 2014 NFL season with a matchup on Sept. 4 at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks dominated the eventual No.2 seed, winning 36-16. Russell Wilson threw for two scores and no interceptions, while Aaron Rodgers was limited to just 189 passing yards.
Following a disappointing season opener, Rodgers went on to have an MVP-caliber season. The quarterback finished 2014 with 4,381 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 112.2 passer rating.
Unfortunately for the Packers, they won’t have their best player at 100 percent. Rodgers suffered a strained calf muscle in Week 17, and the injury will hamper the quarterback for the remainder of the postseason. He was clearly limited against the Dallas Cowboys in Green Bay’s second-round playoff game, but Rodgers still managed to complete 68.6 percent of his passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Playing at home against Dallas, however, will be much different than playing at Seattle. Rodgers has had much less success away from Lambeau Field, and it’s extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks to play well against the Seahawks, especially at CenturyLink Field.
Rodgers put up good numbers on the road, but they don’t compare to the 28 touchdowns and no interceptions that he’s thrown in nine home games. On the road, the veteran has thrown 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions, leading Green Bay to a 4-4 record. The Packers have the No.1 scoring offense in football, but they average just 21 points per game on the road. Nineteen teams scored more than 21 points per game in the regular season.
Seattle has lost just two home games in the last three years, and that dominance continued in the postseason, with a 14-point win over the Panthers. No matter where the game might be held, though, the Packers would have a difficult time scoring on Pete Carroll's defense. Carolina’s 17 points was the most Seattle allowed since Week 11, and five of their last six regular-season opponents were held to seven points or less.
The vaunted “Legion of Boom” has given quarterbacks nightmares all season long, allowing just 185.6 passing yards per game, prior to the playoffs. Cam Newton threw for 246 yards, but he was intercepted twice, including once by Richard Sherman, who continues to play like the best cornerback in football. Rodgers didn’t throw at Sherman once in the season opener, and the Pro Bowler has helped the defense allow just four passing touchdowns, while totaling nine interceptions, during the team's seven-game winning streak.
Wilson hasn’t put up passing numbers close to that of Rodgers, throwing for just 20 touchdowns in the regular season. However, the quarterback has played his best in big games, posting a 149.2 passer rating against the Panthers, completing 68.2 percent of his passes for three scores and no interceptions. In his previous five postseason games, Wilson totaled six touchdown passes and just one pick, averaging a passer rating just under 102.0.
The Seahawks have the league’s No.1 rushing offense, led by Wilson, who totaled 849 yards on the ground on 7.2 yards per carry in the regular season. Marshawn Lynch and his 1,306 rushing yards could also have a big day on Sunday, considering the Packers rank 23rd, allowing 119.9 rushing yards per game. Green Bay let Dallas run for 145 yards in their playoff game.
The Packers’ running game has been good of late, with the team rushing for at least 110 yards in every game since they had a bye in Week 9. The Seahawks rank third, allowing just 81.5 rushing yards per game, but they surrendered over 100 rushing yards in each of their four defeats. In their only home loss this season, Seattle gave up 162 rushing yards to Dallas.
Prediction: Seattle. The Seahawks defense is just too stingy, and a hobbled Rodgers lacks the mobility to create plays.