NFL Championship Sunday Preview (and NFL Superlatives)

Before I get into spilling my opinions on this weekends games, let’s do some superlatives…

Most likely to purchase a censored rap CD with money he earned from starting a lemonade stand: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson thought J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive was the best album of the year, probably.

Most likely to lead his troops to victory against Stonewall Jackson’s cavalry due to his leadership despite the odds being stacked against him: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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Most likely to go tell his family he’s vacationing in Colorado so he can “see the Rocky Mountains”, but in reality is going there because, well, you know: Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

If Flash played in the NBA, he’d get a contract extension, not a suspension.

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Most likely to listen to Jack White while chain-smoking reds: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

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Most likely to try and fix a faulty television by slamming his head into it: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

Vontaze, when the NFL started the “Heads Up” campaign they didn’t literally mean tackle with your head.

Most likely to act like a complete piece of shit but get away with it because he’s white: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers

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Most likely to appear in a pop-up ad on PornHub: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

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Most likely to tuck a polo shirt into his jeans: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

The committee (me) also voted Manning most likely to buy a pair of New Balance sneakers and most likely to pay for birdseed with a Home Depot gift card.

Most likely to get recognized for his greatness 10 years after the fact (aka the Blade Runner award): Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Blade Runner: 2nd best movie of the 80’s (after Raging Bull)….Tony Romo: 2nd best Cowboys QB ever (after Roger Staubach)

Most likely to buy a fake ID that says he’s 17: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Most likely to fix his own water heater instead of hiring outside help despite not knowing how to fix a water heatera tie between Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers and JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans

They’re both such “hard-working”, “blue-collar”, “tough-as-nails”, “gritty” players.

That’s all I got. Let’s look at Sunday’s games.

Packers at Seahawks

In case you haven’t heard, Aaron Rodgers’ leg kind of hurts. But even as a gimp, Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL and he is finally getting help from his line and defense. He’s also having sex with Olivia Munn. This fact cannot be overlooked. But in all seriousness, Rodgers is playing the best football of his career while being surrounded by the best supporting cast of his career.

Here’s an underrated aspect; the Packer line has the 5th best run blocking grade (via Football Outsiders) at the 2nd level in the NFL. Given the fact that Eddie Lacy almost never goes down on initial contact, that is HUGE for this team. They also rank 13th in adjusted sack rate, which is great for a unit that is widely considered to be one of the teams weaknesses.

Combine their offenses ability to hit you in the mouth with having the best QB in the NFL and a stable of weapons (the truly elite Jordy Nelson, the almost elite Randall Cobb, the emerging DaVante Adams, and the surprisingly dependable TE Richard Rodgers)……and you have the NFL’s most efficient attack.

The Packers are certainly meeting their match in a Seattle defense that is ranked #1 in essentially every valuable metric for the second year in a row. In fact, if you adjust DVOA for schedule, the Seahawks defense this year is even better than their Super Bowl winning unit from last season. They ranked 2nd against the pass and 3rd against the run. If you throw away the numbers and just look at the roster, they have elite players on every level of their defense. Richard Sherman remains one of the two or three best corners in the league, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form what is (statistically speaking) the best safety duo of ALL TIME, Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright give them a couple of the few true do-it-all ‘backers in the league. And Michael Bennett is one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL. This unit is a MACHINE.

Offensively, Seattle continues to get it done despite a WR core that is considered weak by most and an offensive line that struggles to protect Russell Wilson. This is because the interior of their offensive line wins at the point of the attack on nearly every snap. Their interior should help them: A) run Marshawn Lynch, who is pound-for-pound the best inside rusher in the NFL, hard up the middle against a fragile Packers interior…and B) create plenty of space for Wilson, BY FAR the league’s most efficient rushing QB, to run for first downs. If Seattle can get one or two “splash” plays out of their WR’s in any given game, it makes their offense just as unstoppable as the Green Bay unit. WR Jermaine Kearse continues to come on late, and Russell Wilson does not make mistakes. The Hawks have a much better offense than people realize.

With all of this considered, I think the home team pulls out a close one. Aaron Rodgers could easily light it up to the point where none of this matters, but Seattle is going to control the point of attack on both ends and the clock.

Seattle 31, Green Bay 24

Colts at Patriots

The Colts have been, beyond just Andrew Luck, a very impressive team thus far in the postseason. Despite suffering injuries to three starters on their offensive line, they’ve had no problem holding up against the Bengals (a “meh” pass rush) and the Broncos (a very good pass rush). They’ve also opened up holes of off the left guard for Boom Herron, who’s efficient running has FINALLY given this team a two-dimensional attack.

Andrew Luck is sort of a decent football player in case you haven’t noticed. He has this ability, unlike any QB I’ve ever seen, to power the ball into any spot but put careful touch and arc on it. This helps his #1 WR T.Y. Hilton, a burner who sometimes struggles with his hands, to be one of the most dynamic weapons in the league. Add in a coach who understands when to take the risks and an underrated defense that does an exceptional job in coverage and you have a pretty good team.

But, the Patriots are more than a decent football team. They continue to form pockets for Tom Brady and push forward in the run game no matter how many injuries they suffer up front. Julian Edelman has developed into a more dynamic weapon out wide than Wes Welker ever was. Brandon LaFell manages to make a play down the field every now and then while also shadowing as the best blocking WR in the league. Danny Amendola has ACTUALLY BEEN NOT TERRIBLE over the last month. Oh, and then there’s Gronk, the most dominant offensive weapon in football.

Defensively, it all comes down to whether or not the Pats can get to the QB. Darrelle Revis struggled last week but he’s actually had one of his more dominant seasons. The secondary is deep and New England features two of the best linebackers in the NFL in Dont’a Hightower and Jaime Collins. It’s on Chandler Jones, the only pass rusher on the team who can actually draw a double team, to win his individual battles early in the game.

I don’t necessarily think this game’s going to be a blowout, especially if the Colts can run early. But Indy’s only shot is if they can keep Andrew Luck on his feet all game and let him throw for 400 yards. Realistically, I just don’t see that happening. Chandler Jones, Jaime Collins, and the Gronk factor should be enough to carry the Pats to the Super Bowl.

Patriots 30, Colts 20

 

 

 

 

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