The Great NFL Pigskin Pick 'Em: Championship Sunday
Championship Sunday has arrived, NFL fans. Rejoice! Today offers a glimpse into the past, present and future of the NFL as probably the best four quarterbacks in the league face off. Often times this day is more exciting than the Super Bowl itself and the possibility for a pair of “all-time” games and perhaps an iconic moment or two is very good.
So will we see a spiraling Tom Brady pray answered in the back of the end zone by the out stretched hands of Rob Gronkowski? Will Aaron Rodgers march the Packers 98 yards down field against the league’s stingiest defense for a late touchdown drive to secure the road upset? Will history really repeat itself and see Andrew Luck out duel the master and long-time Colts tormenter Brady in a high-scoring thriller? Or is it here that Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom puts their stamp on football history and begins a legacy of toughness that harkens back to the days of the old NFL?
Let’s find out.
Playoff Record: 7-1
- Packers: If they think they’re going to waltz into what is sure to be an absolutely raucous venue and run their offense like they normally would, they’re crazy. They already know this, however. In fact, I’m sure everyone in America knows this, whether or not they’re even a football fan. The noise and the way the Seahawks defend the pass is going to force the Packers to use their two young running backs a lot. A lot of Eddie Lacy and a lot of James Starks. Look for them to each carry the ball a lot and catch a few passes each out of the backfield. If they find success there, then I would expect to see Rodgers try to pick on anyone that isn’t Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor.
- Seahawks: This is a pretty simple formula for a Seahawks victory: make Rodgers uncomfortable. The Packers quarterback has mobility issues which severely limits his ability to run and extend plays outside the pocket. If the Legion of Boom contains Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davnte Adams, it will be a nightmarish day for the Packers’ offense.
- X-Factor: Clay Matthews. If Wilson is wearing a white number 52 jersey all day long, the Packers might pull out the upset.
- Colts: This whole game rests on the arm and legs of Luck. How he goes, so the Colts go. There is only one way for them to win this game and that’s to put everything in the hands of the gifted third-year signal caller. While the offense has great complementary weapons, there isn’t a player that radically changes the opponent’s defensive scheme. Defensively, the Colts are simply trying to hold the line until Luck gets back out on the field. They’ll need to do a lot more than that if they want to win.
- Patriots: This sounds bizarre, but as long as Brady takes care of the football and doesn’t make mistakes, which he doesn’t seem to do come the postseason, the Patriots should be able to methodically score and keep Luck off the field. Not that Brady is a game-manager, obviously, but he doesn’t have to take it upon himself do anything extra to top what is a very average defense. On the other side of the ball, shutting down TY Hilton is the first order of business and if that is done successfully, the remaining threats for the Colts are inside route runners and tight ends. The Colts need explosive plays, not dink-and-dunk passes and short runs.
- X-Factor: Reggie Wayne. Can he turn in one last great performance?
Final verdict: Regardless of who plays in the Super Bowl, I think we’ll look back years from now and call today the the moment the torch was unofficially passed from the likes of Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees down to the next generation of Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks. We’re watching the sun set on one of the greatest periods of quarterback play since the 1980s. I’ve been pretty good with my picks thus far but I think I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here when I say the present is going to clash with the past. The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who is in the prime of his career and the archetype for the “mobile” quarterback, will go on to meet the New England Patriots and Tom Brady, the ideal quarterback for every previous era of the NFL.
The showdown between the two best quarterbacks under 27 will have to wait another year. Rest assured they will be fixtures on Championship and Super Bowl Sunday for the next decade or so. Who will battle them remains to be seen but while the end of an era is rapidly approaching, the dawn of a new NFL is coming and the future looks very bright.