Sunday, January 10, 2016

NFL Wild Card Sunday

by JASmius

But enough of the AFC side of things, and on to the only game of the weekend that matters....

Sorry about this graphic, but do you have any idea how difficult it was to find a logo graphic showing us as the visitors and Minnesota as the home team?  Ironic, actually, since, although it may have been years since we ventured to the "land o' lakes," this is our second trip there this season.

Unfortunately, the temperature at kickoff today is going to be some forty degrees colder than it was the last time, which may be the only edge the NFC North champs will have in today's rematch of the 38-7 blasting Seattle laid on the Vikes a month ago.  Indeed, I imagine that the conditions will help ensure a closer game, but not a different result.

The tale of the tape:

POWER RANKING: Seahawks #1, Vikings #4

TOTAL OFFENSE: Seahawks #4, Vikings #29
RUSHING OFFENSE: Seahawks #3, Vikings #4
PASSING OFFENSE: Seahawks #20, Vikings #31

TOTAL DEFENSE: Seahawks #2, Vikings #13
RUSHING DEFENSE: Seahawks #1, Vikings #17
PASSING DEFENSE: Seahawks #2, Vikings #12

Minnesota can't pass (sorry, Teddy Bridgewater fans), and that's against the rest of the league; against the Legion, the second-year single-caller amassed all of 118 passing yards and was sacked four times.

The Vikings certainly can run the ball with league rushing champion Adrian Peterson, but we specialize in stuffing the run, and last time suffocated AP for only eighteen yards on eight carries.

On the other side of the ball, we have the hottest quarterback in the NFL, even at the coldest venue on the continent, and while Marshawn Lynch was a late scratch for this game, we've been running the ball like we always do without him and even his equally awesome designated successor Thomas Rawls.  And did I mention that RW3's historic, record-setting run has come after Lynch went out at midseason?

Mike Zimmer's team has made great strides this season, and they deserve all the credit in the world for dethroning the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.  And they'll have four defensive starters back that didn't play against us the last time.  So it will be a closer contest.

But they're not ready for this.

Of course, if the team that could only manage thirty-eight yards on the ground, let Russell Wilson get sacked another seven times, and got swept at home by the damned Rams in a game that head coach Pete Carroll called "a mess" is the one that shows up this morning, all bets are off.

Minnesota (+5.5)

When a team has been very good for a lot of years, like the current incarnation of the Green Bay Packers, you tend to make almost unconscious mental assumptions about them in games like this.  Or, heck, the last ten weeks of the season leading up to this clash at Fed Ex Field in suburban Maryland.  I mean, this is ostensibly the same team that, but for Brandon Bostick's spectacular brain fart on our onside kick at the end of the NFC Championship Game a year ago, would have represented the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX, the same team that came into this season the almost universal NFC Super Bowl favorite, and the same team that steamrolled out to a 6-0 start, including the first double-digit defeat the 'hawks had suffered in four seasons.

And then came their first loss in Week #8, a 29-10 smackdown by the Broncos at Mile High in which Aaron Rodgers was held to, yes, this is no misprint, seventy-seven yards passing.  That began a three-game losing streak for the Pack, and an overall mediocre 5-6 remainder of the season that saw them notch a lone semi-impressive win in their first NFC North division title battle with Minnesota, a 30-13 win that was a faint echo of their former formidable selves.  The rest was listless muddling through, the miracle comeback at Detroit, and three home losses to the rest of the NFC North, which hadn't happened in, like, forever.

A lot of that is attributable to crippling offensive line injuries and the loss back in the preseason of all-pro receiver Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury, but one would think that having a healthy Aaron Rodgers all season would have enabled the Pack to overcome these problems.  Instead, they've just been listless ever since Denver's #1 defense exposed all those weaknesses.

Can Green Bay snap out of it today?  Let's take a look at the tale of the tape:

POWER RANKING: Redskins #9, Packers #12 (of remaining active teams)

TOTAL OFFENSE: Redskins #17, Packers #23
RUSHING OFFENSE: Packers #12, Redskins #20
PASSING OFFENSE: Redskins #11, Packers #25 (!)

TOTAL DEFENSE: Packers #15, Redskins #28
RUSHING DEFENSE: Packers #21, Redskins #26
PASSING DEFENSE: Packers #6, Redskins #25

The 'Skins' comprehensive defensive suckitude ought to be just the tonic Aaron Rodgers and his offense needs to shake off their season-long malaise.  But the Pack's bowing to the Vikings with the NFC North title on the line after getting drilled by the Cardinals the week before, coupled with the roll quarterback Kirk Cousins has been on over the past four games, persuades me to go with the team that has the Big Mo.

Green Bay (+0)

And now, on to Carolina, and some well-earned revenge.

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