My early read is that Green Bay is having a special season. Their passing game is consistently potent, their defense is very similar to ours (including being especially potent at home), and they are getting points from all parts of their team including special teams and defense.
They gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league. That is a key part of their mojo. We can hope their offensive line injury issues cause a hickup.
I think the Packers are a better team than the Hawks. The difference is even more dramatic when they are at home and we are on the road. It will take our best effort of the season, and a nearly flawless performance to move to the next round.
The good news is that the pressure will be squarely on the Packers, and if we have any interest in winning the Super Bowl, we're going to have to beat teams even better than the Packers, so let's get warmed up this week.
As always, throughout the week I'll be looking for the key items that could turn the game one way or the other:
- The Hawks have scored 24+ points in 10 of 11 games. The Packers are 2-3 when allowing that many points in a game.
- The Packers have only scored under 20 points four times all year (3-1 in those games). Luckily, the Hawks have only scored under 20 points three times all year (0-3 in those games). Can you see how important our offense will be?
- In the last five games, the teams have an identical 3-2 record
- Would you believe the Packers have averaged 30 yards *more* rushing during losses?
- They also allow over a yard-per-carry *more* during wins. Odd
- They start quickly, scoring first in 11 of 16 games. Unfortunately, they are 4-1 in the games they don't score first. The Hawks are 3-4 this season when they don't score first.
- We might actually be better off stopping their passing game than the running game. They average almost two yards less per attempt and nearly 50 fewer passing yards when they lose.
- Similarly, they allow almost 2.5 yards more per attempt during losses. This game could definitely be decided by whose passing offense betters the opposing pass defense.
- They are feeling very good about their running game where they have averaged over 5 YPC in 5 of the last 6 games, and have been closer to 6 YPC in four of those games.
- Their rushing defense has sprung a few leaks, though, allowing two of their top three rushing totals of the season in the last three games. They have also allowed over 100 yards rushing in 5 of their last 7, after allowing only two teams to eclipse that mark in their first 9 games.
I think extreme weather conditions may actually level the playing field a bit.
Oh, and if I hear one more time that Hasselbeck choked when he threw that pick in overtime last time we played GB in the playoffs, I'm gonna hit someone. That INT was ALL on Alex Bannister who did not run the right route. Hass audibled because the Packers were blitzing and Banniser was supposed to run a quick hitch. He didn't, and the rest was history.
Okay, more later.