Key matchup: Packers OLBs Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers vs. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Green Bay’s pass rushers have to be smart and not overpursue, giving Wilson the corner. The third-year QB is most dangerous outside the pocket and when things break down he’s capable of breaking off big plays through the air and on the ground. During the regular season, Wilson had eight runs of at least 20 yards, which was seventh-most in the NFL.
Stat that matters: 9-0. The Seahawks’ record against teams with a Super Bowl-winning QB since they drafted Russell Wilson in 2012. With Wilson under center, Seattle is 2-0 against Peyton Manning, 1-0 vs. Tom Brady, 2-0 vs. Drew Brees, 2-0 vs. Eli Manning and 2-0 vs. Aaron Rodgers.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 17. In the season opener, the Seahawks held Rodgers to 189 yards as the Packers’ QB completely avoided throwing anywhere near Richard Sherman. Rodgers will challenge the flamboyant corner this time around — which might not be good for the Packers. When Sherman gets a pick, Seattle is 9-1 over the past two years.
AFC championship game
Colts at Patriots
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass., 6:40 p.m. Sunday, CBS
Most important player: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski shows up when the Patriots need him most. In six games against teams that made the playoffs this year, including last week’s win over the Ravens, Gronkowski averaged 93.3 yards per game and caught four TDs. New England doesn’t really have that big-play threat on the outside, so it leans heavily on Gronkowski to pick up crucial first downs and score in the red zone.
Key matchup: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Patriots CB Darrelle Revis. Hilton had a breakout year, ranking sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,345), but he was also among the league leaders in drops. He’s got plenty of big-play capability. Revis will be looking to bounce back after a rough game against the Ravens. The shutdown corner was uncharacteristically called for a couple penalties and allowed Steve Smith to catch a TD on him.
Stat that matters: 0. Number of rush attempts by Patriots running backs in the second half of last weekend’s game against the Ravens. In New England’s last meeting with the Colts, a 42-20 win on Nov. 16, Jonas Gray had 37 carries for 201 yards and four TDs.
Prediction: Patriots 35, Colts 21.New England can run on this Colts defense, which is scary for Indy considering the Patriots’ other option is throwing it with Tom Brady. The only chance for the ringless Andrew Luck and the Colts would be in a shootout, and the Ravens tried that last week and lost. It will be Brady going for ring No. 4.
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