Thursday, January 10, 2008

Packers favored by 8

We're just two days away from the Divisional playoff game between the Packers and Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The early weather forecast has temps in the upper 20s, with a chance of scattered flurries. So, not bad for mid-January. But, when it comes to weather this time of year in the upper Midwest, that can change pretty quickly, too. Game day conditions could be quite different. And winds can and do affect the ball down inside the stadium bowl. One would hope that kicker Mason Crosby gets out of the indoor practice facility during the next day or two and kicks inside Lambeau to get a better feel for the field and the winds. While you'd hate to see this game come down to a field goal, it certainly isn't out of the question.

But, oddsmakers now have the point spread up to 8 points in favor of the Pack. That's a lot for a regular NFL game, let alone a playoff game. You can be sure the Walrus, er, Coach Holmgren, will have his Seahawks players whipped into a frenzy with the "no respect" aspect of this. It's a veteran team, with more than a few players who were on the squad for the overtime loss the last time these two teams met in the playoffs...and which, by the way, was so wonderfully summarized by that photo of Al Harris' interception posted by happyguy...can never get enough of that one.

This time around, though, one would expect Holmgren and QB Matt Hasselbeck to try to exploit Atari Bigby, Tramon Williams and those DBs whose names don't end in Harris or Woodson. How well that ultimately works -- and perhaps, which way the game goes -- might be dictated by whether or not the refs decide to decide (not a redundancy) the game with ticky-tack pass interference penalties early on. If that happens, that will take the Pack out of its aggressive bump-and-run coverage approach and open things up for the Seahawks receivers. Holmgren has four good receivers, and he will spread things out early and test the Pack's young DBs. If he doesn't get the reception he may get the penalty call. Either way, it takes the Pack away from it's game, and could allow the Seahawks to go downfield quickly on penalty yards.

The best scenario, of course, is for the Pack to come out on fire, both offensively and defensively. On "D," the Pack has to get pressure on Hasselbeck. Aaron Kampman and KGB must be on top of their games. In the middle, Ryan Picket and the other run stuffers must keep Shaun Alexander in check. The linebacking corps has to support the line and watch for the screen passes which are sure to come. The DBs have to play smart. As for the offense, Brett has to get off to a quick start and good rhythm. The line has to protect against a fast Seahawks front 7, while still opening holes for Ryan Grant, who could have a big day. The Packers receiving corps could also have a banner day if Brett gets the protection he needs.

And while we're talking about Packers receivers, let's not forget the Koren Robinson angle. Don't you think he'd like to break off a big kick return or pop for a TD against his old team? You bet.

So...this is the early take on things. More to come before the game.

But in the meantime, you can vote in the poll posted in the righthand column under the store link. If you're a Packers fan, you already believe the Pack will win; the only question is, by how many points? And that's the poll question. So, have your say. Will the game be close? Or a blowout? My prediction will be posted the day of the game.