The funny thing is that both teams are thinking exactly the same things. No I'm not in the locker room, but I've been in my share as both a player and a coach. I've sat there and visualized myself being the difference maker. Often times you hear or see commercials about little boys fulfilling their dreams as they make that incredible catch or that unbelievable run, breaking 10 tackles as they become the hero of the game. That's what I will be looking for as I watch the game and let me tell you why:
I know the coaches have done a great job preparing the players on what to expect. The defensive linemen have watched the film on tendencies and situational plays so I believe they will be prepared, but who will make that play? Will it be Ryan Pickett? Just how well will he play coming back from injury? Or could it be Justin Harrell, and will he surprise us and stand tall to justify his pick? Or could Cullen Jenkins make his presence felt?
The reason for the aforementioned guys is because Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila won't be sneaking up on anyone. Mike Holmgren and his offensive staff have been working on ways to neutralize them. Now in the secondary everyone that knows about the Packers defense knows that Charles Woodson and Al Harris are solid, so I would expect Holmgren to attack the safeties either with four receiver sets or isolating a tight end on Brady Poppinga. So will Brady be the guy that really steps up, or will it be Atari Bigby or Nick Collins intercepting one of Matt Hasselbeck's passes, or will they be the one to make the big hit, causing a turnover to change the course of the game?
On offense will it be Ruvell Martin that makes that great catch that puts the game out of reach? Or for those that like what Brandon Jackson brings to the table, do you think he could be the guy? This is what the playoffs are about. They are about the unexpected happening because coaches can't coach against the unexpected. They can prepare against offenses and defenses or get ready for blitz but they can't defend against the unknown. The unknown is who will rise to the occasion and do something special. Could it be Koren Robinson on a kickoff return, or Will Blackmon, or Tramon Williams on a punt return? Could they have that game of their lives, or what about Bubba Franks? He could be the forgotten tight end and prove to the world that he still can make plays.
That's what happening as the game gets closer. The players are trying to stay calm and act like all they have to do it simply play the way they have been all year long, but trust me that's easier said than done. That's because the stakes are higher and the weak have been eliminated. The playoffs aren't about money; it's about the will to want to be the best because guys aren't getting their salaries. There are no incentives, except that thing that you put around your finger. They are busting their butts to say they are part of something special.
I know everyone, including myself, all week has been talking about match-ups because they are huge, and that's how I think. In this game there are many, ranging from Packers receivers verses Seahawks defensive backs. Who will win that battle? Of course you have the question of who will win the battle of the trenches, especially when they are mirror images of each other. Holmgren won't let Kampman get to Hasselbeck at the start of the game because he wants him to be comfortable. I'm sure McCarthy will have the same approach when it comes to Patrick Kerney; he doesn't want Kerney to get to Favre.
I've talked about the coaching match-up earlier so you probably understand how I feel. As good as Mike McCarthy is we must understand he isn't Mike Holmgren and hasn't done what Mike has but that doesn't mean he won't in time. No disrespect intended!!!! Most of you might think I am leaning toward the Seahawks, but I am not because as much of an edge that I might give to Holmgren I give that same edge to the Packers because I believe that they have better players and playmakers. Don't get me wrong, coaching is very important, but this game is about the coaches making the adjustments. Ultimately the players have to carry out the assignment.
That's why I believe strongly that is game will come down to who will become the X FACTOR and whose play will determine the direction of the game!!!!
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.