Championship Sunday provides a pair of rematches from the regular season:
» Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks, 3:05 p.m. ET, FOX: The 'Hawks opened up their title defense by steamrolling the Pack 36-16 in the NFL Kickoff Game. With the 12's at full throttle in CenturyLink Field, Russell Wilson notched two touchdown passes and Marshawn Lynch added two rushing scores. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers only managed 189 passing yards to go along with a TD and an interception.
» Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS: In Week 11, the Pats stormed Lucas Oil Stadium and ran wild on the home team in a 42-20 win. Jonas Gray introduced himself to the NFL world with a stunning performance, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns and then landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Of course, Gray has been largely inexistent since. SI jinx?)
Looking ahead to this weekend, which road team is more likely to exact revenge for its regular-season defeat?
- Gil Brandt @Gil_Brandt
The Packers will look -- and play -- much better than they did in Week 1
I was fortunate enough to be at the season-opener in Seattle, and while the outcome of that game suggests trouble ahead for Green Bay, it must be said that the Packers had some bad breaks. They lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga early in the second quarter, leaving Derek Sherrod -- who has since been waived by the team -- playing a major role on the offensive line. Bulaga's absence put the unit at a significant disadvantage against Seattle pass rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin; two of Aaron Rodgers' three sacks came after Bulaga left, including one by Avril and a strip-sack by Bennett that resulted in a safety.
On Sunday, the Packers will have their best line in place -- including rookie center Corey Linsley, who should perform that much better now that he's got 17 games (including the playoffs) under his belt. Also, I don't expect Rodgers to avoid cornerback Richard Sherman again, which should help open things up for the offense. Finally, I see the Packers using versatile receiver Randall Cobb in some interesting ways, perhaps creating mismatches by having him come out of the backfield, as they did against the Cowboys last week.
Of course, this time around, Rodgers is dealing with a calf injury, which is a big obstacle to overcome. He'll have to have a perfect, turnover-free afternoon if the Packers are to pull off a playoff win at CenturyLink Field. Still, the fact that he'll be one more week away from the initial injury offers some hope.
- Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks
Andrew Luck can lead Indy to the Super Bowl -- if the D can accomplish one thing
The Indianapolis Colts have the best chance of winning on the road this weekend. Chuck Pagano's squad is peaking at the right time behind the spectacular play of Andrew Luck and a gritty defense that's improved significantly down the stretch. The suffocating coverage of Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, in particular, has helped the defense play a more aggressive style in the postseason. While the run defense remains a question mark, based on the Patriots' success on the ground in the last two games against Indy, I believe the Colts solve the riddle this time around and take the game into the fourth quarter, where Luck can seal the deal.
- Charley Casserly @CharleyCasserly
Green Bay has the personnel to do damage against Seattle's vaunted defense
I don't think either road team will win on Sunday, but the team with the best chance is the Green Bay Packers. Seattle is not a high-scoring team. If you can keep Russell Wilson contained on the perimeter, you can limit the Seahawks' offense. Green Bay must use the running game to move the ball on Seattle's defense -- and the Packers have the potential to do just that with Eddie Lacy in the backfield.
- Marc Sessler @MarcSesslerNFL
Andrew Luck's about to truly make his mark (with a little help from his friend, T.Y. Hilton)
Sacked just once in the playoffs, Indy's brilliant young passer has used his pristine mobility to escape would-be tacklers and keep plays alive. Reggie Wayne's play has tailed off a cliff, but the reemergence of Hakeem Nicks down the stretch has helped a passing game that unleashed a league-high 11 touchdown throws of 20-plus yards through the air. That had plenty to do with T.Y. Hilton, whom everyone wants to write off against New England's secondary. Bank on it: He goes for 100-plus yards with a late-game touchdown for the win.
People will gaze back upon this victory when we tell the tale of Luck's ascension to the throne above all other AFC quarterbacks.