Divisional weekend is upon us. Only a day away it the football and weather gods appear to be aligning to make it a typical January playoff atmosphere with currently 6-10 inches of snow predicted for Saturday. It’s the first Packers playoff game in 3 years and the atmosphere will be electric at Lambeau all weekend.
Forget about past playoff match-ups between these two teams, because they don’t matter. These are different teams than in those games. They are even different teams from last seasons regular season match-up.
This is head coach Matt LaFleur’s first playoff game as a head coach in the NFL. He did state in his press conference this week that the key will be treating it as a normal week. Very true and even kneeled. Every coach in their first playoff game makes mistakes, it just happens, it will be interesting to see how LaFleur comes out of the gate on offense and then how he makes adjustments throughout the game.
This Packers team is better and has veteran players to lead them in playoff of games like this. With that, here are 3 things to watch in this Divisional match-up on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones will both be key to a Packers victory. I don’t think this is a real surprise to anyone. The offense has been at it’s best when Jones is running the ball effectively. He has averaged over 100 yards on the ground in the Packers 13 wins. He will also be counted on in the passing game. With the weather being snowy this weekend a strong run game will be critical to the offenses success. It is time for Rodgers to be Rodgers. The weather will be a factor but Rodgers and his receivers need to be on the same page for this team to make a Super Bowl run.
Containing Russell Wilson
The Packers defense is a championship level defense. They have gotten pressure on the quarterback throughout the season. Seattle’s running game is not just based on their running backs, Wilson is a huge part of that. If the Packers pressure collapses the pocket, they will need to keep him contained as he can easily escape with his legs. In the Wild-Card weekend, it was essentially Wilson and DK Metcalf in Seattle’s victory. Seattle is going to need a more balanced attack and this Packers defense has not given up more than 20 points since the San Francisco game. Keep Wilson contained to the pocket and get him with the pressures will be key to stopping this offense.
The Packers defense has had a knack for generating turnovers throughout the season. It will be time for the Packers free agent signings to take another step and carry this D to victory. The Smith Brothers will need to provide pressure on Wilson all day just like they have done throughout the regular season. Seattle will throw the ball deep and Amos will need to have Lockett and Metcalf covered along with rest of the Packers secondary. This defense has averaged at least one turnover a game, so if they can get a turnover it will be huge to either change momentum or keep it going and give Rodgers and company better field position. On the flip side, the offense is going to have to protect the football. They absolutely can not give Wilson great field position.
The past is in the past and it’s time for LaFleur to make his playoff mark. I am anticipating this being a slopping game, and it will be a close hard fought game. Defense wins championships so I fully expect the defense to lead this one. I am predicting the Packers to advance to the NFC Championship game.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag