Divisional Breakdown by Matt Cauz @mcauz56
Green Bay / Atlanta
Stars: R. White, ATL-WR, A. Rodgers, GB-QB
Dogs D. Driver, GB-WR, M. Ryan, ATL-QB
First off congratulations to the NFL for making the regular season completely meaningless. The Atlanta Falcons, despite owning the NFC's best record have to face the red hot Green Bay Packers. What's the point of busting your ass in the regular season if it doesn't translate to favourable playoff match-ups? They won't say it publicly but every member of the Falcons would rather be facing Seattle than the Pack. The Falcons loss is our gain as we get to see a battle of two of the best young quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
Moving on to the match-ups.
Let's start with the Green Bay Packers. As great a day as James Starks had last week vs. Philadelphia (123 yards) remember Green Bay ranked just 24th in rushing during the regular season, so don't expect a repeat performance for Starks. As for Brandon Jackson, well ask anyone who grabbed Jackson after Ryan Grant's season ending injury and they'll go on for hours about just how useless Jackson was in 2010. Throw in the fact that the Falcons ranked 10th defending the run and the clear choice is to load up on the Packers passing game against a shaky Falcons secondary. Seriously name me one premier defensive back on the Falcons roster ... see I knew you couldn't do it.
Aaron Rodgers & Greg Jennings are your two best bets. Some people may forget about Jennings after registering just one reception last week. However, he saw the second most targets of any Packer and all he did during the year was rack up 1265 yards and 12 touchdowns. Look for Rodgers to throw the ball more than the 27 times he did against Philadelphia.
Defensively Clay Matthews is the obvious choice, and maybe the safest player to Captain in this game. Target the Packers high tacklers as Atlanta will look to run the ball 30 - 40 times. Guys like AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop will get you more points than you may think.
As mentioned above, the Falcons will use Michael Turner early and often to control the pace of the game. Atlanta went easy on Turner's workload in the final two weeks of the season (34 total carries) but in the five games prior he averaged more than 25 carries a game. Some people may be afraid of playing Roddy White considering the talent Green Bay has at CB and the fact that White has not had a 100 yard game since Week 10. I'm going the other way, I expect a Roddy White breakout game. White was the most targeted player in 2010 and I expect Matt Ryan to look his way minimum 12 times. Speaking of Ryan don't expect spectacular numbers.
Defensively I expect the Falcons DBs to making lots of tackles. Avoid Atlanta's LB's but be sure to grab John Abraham who managed to stay healthy and led the team with 13 sacks. For the Falcons to win they're going to need Abraham to spend a great deal of time in the Packers backfield.
Jennings, Greg (Green Bay / Wide Receiver)
Atlanta's secondary doesn't have an answer to Jennings skill set.
Turner, Michael (Atlanta / Running Back)
Good on him for leading the team last week in receiving yards, does anyone really expect him to do that again?
Consider these ...
Moore, William (Atlanta / Safety)
Will get plenty of tackle opportunities and was tied for the team lead in interceptions (five).
Williams, Tramon (Green Bay / Corner Back)
Williams made the game winning interception on Vick and has been playing at a Pro Bowl level all season.
All WR's not named "White" or "Jennings
Don't be the hero who thinks that Jordy Nelson or Michael Jenkins could have a big game! Leave your cape in the closet and make the smart decisions.
1. Michael Turner RB (Atlanta)
2. Aaron Rodgers QB (Green Bay)
3. Greg Jennings WR (Green Bay)
4. Roddy White WR (Atlanta)
5. Clay Matthews LB (Green Bay)
6. Matt Ryan QB (Atlanta)
7. Brent Grimes CB (Atlanta)
8. Tony Gonzalez TE (Atlanta)
9. AJ Hawks LB (Green Bay)
10. Charles Woodson CB (Green Bay)
Seattle / Chicago
Stars: B. Urlacher CHI-LB, D. Hawthrone SEA-LB
Dogs: J. Cutler CHI-QB, M. Lynch SEA-RB
The biggest winner this past weekend was not the Seahawks, Packers, Jets or the Ravens. Nope, no team had a better weekend than the Chicago Bears. The #2 seed gets the 8-9 Seahawks, a match-up where no one believes Seattle has a shot.
Now let's give Seattle some credit. Matt Hasselbeck had one of his best games ever, Marshawn Lynch had arguably the greatest run in NFL history and Brandon Stokely came back from the dead to score a long touchdown. Seriously did anyone know that Stokely was still in the league? I could not have been more shocked by the final result. So do I expect a repeat performance? No of course I don't. I would be a hypocrite to say that I think Seattle has a chance. Now that said, the Jay Cutler effect is always in play. Cutler could easily serve up a four pick performance and give the win to Seattle.
So with that in mind ... load up on Seattle defensive backs! There are plenty of turnovers and big plays to be had.
Of course on the flip side there is a reason Seattle went 7-9 in a mediocre division, they finished 27th in total D.
Mike Williams (Seattle / Wide Receiver)
Ten receptions for 123 yards in Week Six versus Chicago, Williams was a big reason for Seattle's upset win over the Saints with 68 yards and one score. If it wasn't for Michael Vick, Williams would be an easy pick for Comeback Player of the Year Award Winner.
Brian Urlacher (Chicago / Linebacker)
125 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception ... Urlacher experienced a rejuvenation in 2010. Seattle will try to run the ball early, Urlacher will be the reason they don`t try to run the ball late in the game.
Johnny Knox (Chicago / Wide Receiver)
The teams leading receiver and best big play threat, Knox's best day came against Seattle back in that Week Six match-up (5-120 yards).
David Hawthorne (Seattle / Linebacker)
If it looks like "smart" Mike Martz is calling plays than it should be a good day for Hawthorne. Again just a quick reminder, when Martz calls a balanced game plan the Bears usually win and Matt Forte gets plenty of work. When Martz reverts back to his 2001 Super Bowl formula, the running game will be ignored, Earl Bennet will get 13 targets and Jay Cutler will spend much of the game on his back (or trying to make tackles after throwing yet another careless interception). Back to Hawthorne. He put up plenty of double digit tackle games against traditional running teams. So if Forte is getting fed the ball early Hawthorne will see plenty of action.
Marshawn Lynch & John Carlson (Seattle / RB & TE)
I loved that run by Lynch, I can watch that over and over again. But how many times will you see a guy break eight tackles on his way to a 67 yard touchdown? Especially against a defence as stout as the Bears? You think Peppers, Urlacher or Briggs gets embarrassed by Lynch? Take away that run and Lynch had 18 carries for 64 yards. Not exactly world beater numbers.
As for John Carlson, well many of us got sucked into Pete Carrolls' lies in the pre-season that Carlson would be a big part of the passing game. Than the regular season started. After Week Three, Carlson had only one game where he managed to top 40 yards receiving. I can't believe Pete Carroll would ever lie about anything ... oh wait never mind.
Matt Forte (Chicago / Running Back)
He is about as boom or bust as it gets with the Bears. He is as likely to get just 11 touches for 51 yards (His totals against Seattle in the regular season) as he is to top 150 total yards (four times in 2010).
Really I just wanted to use this space to dissuade you from putting the Captain label on Forte. Running Backs are usually a safe option but I just don't trust Martz or the Bears offensive line. As mentioned above, keep a close eye on the Bears offensive trends and be ready to pick him up or drop him at a moments notice.
1. Brian Urlacher LB (Chicago)
2. David Hawthorne LB (Seattle)
3. Mike Williams WR (Seattle)
4. Matt Hasselbeck QB (Chicago)
5. Julius Peppers DE (Chiago)
6. Lofa Tatupu LB (Seattle)
7. Jay Cutler QB (Chicago)
8. Matt Forte RB (Chicago)
9. Johnny Knox WR (Chicgao)
10. Earl Thomas S (Seattle)