Seattle @ Chicago
Jay Cutler, playoff quarterback
The monkey that spent last week on Aaron Rodgers
' back last week just arrived in Chicago. This will be Jay Cutler
's first playoff start and anything seems possible from an implosion to pure brilliance.
Long time Cutler-ophiles like me have been looking forward to this day a while. With Michael Vick
out of the playoffs, Cutler is the most exciting signal caller left. He can wow you with an impossible throw one minute and make a ridiculous decision the next.
All of Cutler's interceptions in 2009 made everyone forget how talented Cutler was. They reminded everyone how immature he still was. Now a 27-year-old fifth veteran, it's time for Cutler to grow up. Can Seattle's magic travel?
The Seahawks played their best two games all season the last two weeks. It's no surprise they were both played at Qwest Field, home to perhaps the best crowd in the NFL.
Pete Carroll's motley crew only won two road games in 2010, but one of them was in Chicago. The key to pulling off another upset will be the guys up front. Matt Hasselbeck
showed that he can still deliver when he's given protection.
Hasselbeck wasn't sacked one time on 40 drop backs against the Bears last time. The Bears are too disciplined to give up the big play like New Orleans, so the Seahawks offense will have to work harder to score points.
Seattle already proved a lot of people like me wrong the last two weeks. They could really make a statement if they don't turn into pumpkins away from home. Packers @ Falcons
Turner must turn it up
The Falcons are not a complex offense. As Jon Gruden would say, "They will ROCK you." Or at least try to.
Running back Michael Turner
is the key to this game for Atlanta. He averaged fewer than 3.4 yards-per-carry in his last three regular season games, perhaps showing signs of wear and tear after leading the league in carries for a second time in three years.
The only weak spot of the excellent Packers defense is that their rush defense can wear down. That suits Atlanta perfectly; Turner rushed for 110 yards and a score in Week 13 against Green Bay.
The Falcons will be content to shorten the game with fewer possessions, and count on the Packers to make a crucial mistake. For that strategy to work, Turner needs to be at his bludgeoning best. The Packers must play smarter
I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl the last two years, and won't back down now. They have truly started to grow up, but need to play even better in Atlanta than they did against the Eagles.
The Falcons will count on the Packers to beat themselves. It happened the first time the two teams played when Aaron Rodgers
fumbled on the goal line. Rodgers also fumbled twice against the Eagles and Green Bay had a special teams turnover.
While the players need to avoid mistakes, the Packers coaches should be more aggressive. Mike McCarthy lamely didn't go for points at the end of the first half against the Eagles. A different mindset is needed in Atlanta.
The Falcons won't crush you with talent, so this game should be tight. The Falcons also won't beat themselves. In a game likely to have limited possessions, the Packers need to seize the moment. They won't be handed anything.