- Stop the read option
The Green Bay Packers are in danger of being stuck on the losing end of a West Coast rivalry of late. We all remember the “Fail Mary”. They more recently suffered back to back playoff exits versus the San Francisco 49ers mostly due to their inability to contain scrambling quarterback Collin Kaepernick. They’ve been just as unable to stay in front of Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson. In Week 1, the read option embarrased Dom Capers’ defense. There were times where Clay Matthews, Defensive Player of the Year candidate, didn’t know where the ball was. The reverses using Percy Harvin really hurt as well. At least they won’t have to worry about him this time. (Harvin was traded to the New York Jets midseason.)
The goal for this NFC Championship is to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket and cage “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch. Easier said than done, but things have changed since the season opener. With Clay Matthews playing more in the middle, he’ll need to spy Wilson. That will allow Julius Peppers to attack one-on-one in the trenches. Also, rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has grown since Week 1 and should prove to play much better providing a strong eight man box. If Green Bay can have both Wilson and Lynch accounted for, they’ll have a chance to keep their offense honest.The Packers are 7.5 point underdogs heading into the NFC Championship.
- Protect Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers is still nursing a torn calf and was clearly playing hurt last week in the win over Dallas. The Cowboys blitzed and got to Rodgers. Imagine what the viscous Seahawks can do. The offensive line can’t allow pressure amidst the rowdy “12th Man” at Century Link Field. With A-Rod’s limited mobility, he’ll need time to throw, and the receivers need time to get open. Keeping Rodgers in shotgun formation worked well last week and should help again. But the best protection would be plenty of handoffs to Eddie Lacy. Whoever wins the trenches usually wins the game. If Lacy can run for 100 yards, play action becomes available, thus Rodgers will be healthy and effective.
- Beat Richard Sherman
Aaron Rodgers decided not to throw Richard Sherman’s way at all in Week 1. Essentially, that made it easy to defend the Packers only playing half the field. Sherman is an All-Pro caliber cornerback, but the Packers cannot play afraid to lose. The Packers have the best receiving duo in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. No other wideout tandem in the league combined for more touchdowns (25).Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have combined for nearly 200 total catches and 3,000 receiving yards.
The Packers will have to stay patient, as Seattle plays very disciplined not allowing many big plays. Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted it wasn’t their intention to not throw at Sherman. They placed Nelson on the other side of the field hoping Sherman would follow him. But the Seahawks don’t rotate their coverage. So the best way to attack is to move our targets.
McCarthy and Rodgers will be sure to come up with some creative ways plugging Nelson and Cobb in the slot as well as outside. And a huge difference from the first meeting is having a third reliable receiver in Davante Adams. Adams played his best game of his rookie career last week. He’s gained Rodgers’ trust and will need to continue fighting for the ball on Sunday. If Rodgers can beat Sherman in the passing game, it’ll make the best defense in the league back up.