Football

NFC Championship Game scouting report: Packers at Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will face off against Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will face off against Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Associated Press

KICKOFF: 2:05 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.

TV/RADIO: Fox (Ch 4), WHB (810 AM).

THE LINE: Seahawks by 7 1/2

KEY INJURIES: Packers — DT Josh Boyd (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (knee), QB Aaron Rodgers (calf), G Josh Sitton (toe), probable. Seahawks — OT Justin Britt (knee), S Jeron Johnson (elbow), questionable. DT Tony McDaniel (shoulder), TE Tony Moeaki (calf), CB Tharold Simon (illness), C Max Unger (ankle), probable.

Passing

EDGE >> PACKERS

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads a dangerous passing attack that ranks eighth in the NFL with an average of 266.3 yards per game. Rodgers is arguably the league’s best quarterback, and is in his prime. A lingering calf injury has limited his mobility — the Packers spent the entire game last week in the pistol formation to limit the amount of moving Rodgers had to do — but he still completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is no slouch — he joins Rodgers in the elite tier of quarterbacks — but the Seahawks butter their bread with the running game.

Rushing

EDGE >> SEAHAWKS

The Seahawks successfully pounded the rock for 207 yards in their dominating 36-16 season-opening victory over the Packers, and there’s no reason to think they won’t try to do so again. Marshawn Lynch is a bowling ball of a running back whose vision, toughness and competitiveness drives the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense. He’s rushed for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. The Packers’ rushing offense isn’t as imposing, but they do rank 11th in the league with 119.8 rushing yards per game behind the hard-charging style of Eddie Lacy, who has rushed 246 times for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns.

Defense

EDGE >> SEAHAWKS

The Seahawks boast the league’s top defense, allowing only 267.1 yards per game. The group is led by Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” secondary, which features three elite players at their respective positions in safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman. But the Seahawks are hard to run on — they ranked third in the NFL in rushing defense and feature run-stopping cogs in defensive end Michael Bennett and linebackers Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin. The Packers, meanwhile, rank 15th in total defense after allowing 346.4 yards per game. Their pass rush is legit — they actually had more sacks than the Seahawks — but their 23rd-ranked run defense will be tested greatly against the Seahawks’ exceptional running game.

Coaching

EDGE >>> SEAHAWKS

Seattle’s Pete Carroll has emerged as one of the league’s premier coaches, and he’s put together a strong staff, too — defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is a coveted head coaching candidate and his predecessor, Gus Bradley, is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. But Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy isn’t far behind Carroll. Like Carroll, he has a Super Bowl title under his belt, and has directed one of the league’s most prolific offenses for several years. However, Carroll’s teams have been more complete, on the whole, than McCarthy’s, and that — plus his development of assistants — gives Carroll the edge.

Intangibles

EDGE >> SEAHAWKS

The Seahawks are going for history. They are trying to become the first team since the 2004 New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and they’ll have a raucous home crowd that doubles as the single-biggest homefield advantage in the league behind them. What’s more, the Seahawks know they can beat the Packers at home — they did it in week one.

Face to face

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle QB Russell Wilson

If the Packers are going to win, Rodgers is probably going to have to carry the load. Don’t put it past him, either. But don’t forget about Wilson, one of the game’s best young quarterbacks. His numbers are good but not eye-popping — he’s completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,475 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions — but he’s dangerous on the run (118 rushes for 849 yards and four touchdowns) and possesses special intangibles, just like Rodgers. Games like these tend to bring the best out of big-game quarterbacks, and there’s no doubt both these guys fit the bill.

Why the Packers will win

Rodgers has only thrown one touchdown pass in his last two games against the Seahawks, which means Seattle either has his number, or he’s due to break out against them. The Seahawks are the better team on paper, but you can’t count out any team that has the league’s best quarterback. He also has a ridiculous cast of targets in receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. If the Packers can get these guys going, it can open up a capable running game and put the Seahawks on their heels.

Why the Seahawks will win

The Seahawks have the statistical edge in every category, and they also have home-field advantage. The only thing that can derail them is overconfidence. Thus far, they’ve managed to successfully overcome the “disease of more” — Pat Riley’s famous theory about why championship teams eventually run off the rails — but they still have to do it for two more games to make history.

Terez A. Paylor’s prediction: Seahawks 31-27

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TerezPaylor.

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