Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots. I must say this was not the matchup that I, and millions of fans, expected. I expected (and kind of hoped) to see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady square off for a spot in the Super Bowl for potentially the last time this weekend. Instead we get a whimper-snapper (Andrew Luck) against Brady.
I will say that the Colts have improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball. It turned in stellar efforts vs. Cincinnati and Denver, and the unit appears to be peaking at the right time. If the defense could somehow neutralize Rob Gronkowski and get some pressure on Brady, the Colts have an excellent shot at pulling an upset.
However, that will be much easier said than done. New England has been virtually unstoppable at home, and Brady appears to be on a mission. Gronk is a hard cover in general, and I don’t see Indy shutting that dude down. Darrell Revis and the Patriots’ D will certainly make life a living hell for Luck, especially since Indy has no running game to speak of. Combine those with head coach Bill Bellicheat’s recent good fortunes vs. Luck, the Patriots will not lose to the Colts.
The Colts’ time will come soon – it just won’t be this year… Patriots 27, Colts 19.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks. This will be the game of the day, and thankfully it will be the first game scheduled so we won’t have to wait to watch.
This is a classic matchup between an unstoppable offense vs. an impenetrable defense. Aaron Rodgers – or as Stephen A. Smith calls him, “the BAAAAAAAD man” – is dangerous both in and outside the pocket, and has weapons on the outside. Having Eddie Lacy toting the rock out of the backfield helps take some pressure off Rodgers, making the Packers that more dangerous on offense.
Meanwhile the Seahawks’ D is beyond nasty, it’s downright frightening. That front seven led by Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin will terrify the hell out of opposing offenses.
And if the front seven is not terrifying enough, the secondary or “The Legion of Boom” give QBs and pass catchers nightmares. Richard Sherman is hands-down the best shutdown cornerback in the league, and strong safety Kam Chancellor is a mountain of a man who is not only a ball-hawk but punishes the hell out of unfortunate pass catchers in his vicinity.
To me, this game will come down to how the Packers’ D will do against Seattle’s offense. Russell Wilson is a stud who has proven that he can get the job done. It’s just that he does not have many weapons outside of Mr. “Beast Mode” himself, Marshawn Lynch. If the Packers could somehow neutralize Lynch and prevent Wilson from creating big plays from his legs, I’d like their chances.
However, it is a tall task for the Packers to win in one of the more hostile environments in the NFL. They do not call the fans at CenturyLink Field “the 12th Man” for nothing… Seahawks 24, Packers 20.