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Five matchups to watch: Seahawks vs. Packers

Two very good teams meet in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, but only one will advance to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona on Feb. 1.

A look at the Seahawks' NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, including five matchups that could determine the outcome:

When: Sunday, noon, CenturyLink Field

Records: The Seahawks are 13-4, including a 12-4 mark during the regular season to win the NFC West and clinch the conference's No. 1 seed in the playoffs; the Packers also are 13-4, and also had a 12-4 record during the regular season to win the NFC North and clinch the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Last week: The Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on Saturday night; the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-21 on Sunday.

Streaks: The Seahawks have won seven in a row and 10 of their past 11; the Packers have won three in a row and eight of their past nine.

What's next: The winner of this game advances to Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 to play the winner of Sunday's AFC Championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and Patriots in New England.

TV: FOX (channel 13 in Seattle), with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Erin Andrews (sideline).

Radio: 710 ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, with Steve Raible (play-by-play), Warren Moon (analyst) and Jen Mueller (sideline).

1. Matchup microscope


Seahawks pass rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers:** With all the drama surrounding Rodgers' calf injury the past few weeks it could qualify for an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." Rodgers obviously doesn't have his usual ability to break from the pocket. But, just as obvious, his limited mobility is not stopping him from throwing the ball. He was 24 of 35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns – including the game-winner in the fourth quarter – against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday in the victory that sent the Packers to the NFC title game. He was 17 of 22 for 226 yards and two TDs and ran for a third score in the victory over the Detroit Lions in the regular season that allowed the Packers to win the NFC North. Despite all that, Bennett, Avril and Irvin – as well as the rest of the Seahawks' pass rushers – have to use Rodgers' inability to move as well in the pocket to bring him down, at best; and get him off his spot and force some hurried throws, at least. Bennett (seven), Irvin (6.5) and Avril (five) combined for 18.5 of the Seahawks' 37 sacks during the regular season and Avril and Irvin each sacked the Panthers' Cam Newton in last weekend's playoff opener.

2. One to watch

Packers RB Eddie Lacy vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch: The job of containing these backs who rushed for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns (Lacy) and 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns (Lynch) falls to the opposing defenses, of course. But the back who has the most productive afternoon likely leads his team to a Super Bowl berth. The Seahawks defenders say, despite the presence of Rodgers, that their first priority is stopping the run – and Lacy, who averaged 81.4 yards in the Packers' final 12 regular-season games and added a 101-yard rushing performance against the Cowboys. As for the Packers' defense, Lynch's relentless, determined efforts setup the Seahawks' play-action passing game and also enhance the read-option runs by QB Russell Wilson that have been so productive.

3. Fun to watch


Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Packers LB Clay Matthews:** Wilson's first task in this one is locating Matthews before each snap. The Packers' Pro Bowl 'backer has lined up in the middle as well as outside – on both sides. And he'll also step up as a rush-end. Once the ball is snapped, Wilson's elusiveness that has led to so many explosive plays will be tested by Matthews' unrelenting presence. But as good as Matthews can be on any given snap, it's Wilson's play-after-play efforts that have allowed him to fashion the top passer rating in NFL playoff history (109.6, with Rodgers second at 105.3). Wilson is 5-1 in the postseason, including a four-game winning streak, despite facing some of the best linebackers in the game – the Panthers' Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis last week and the 49ers' Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in the NFC Championship game last season.

4. One tough task

Any Packer who enters the Kam Zone: That's because Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks' All-Pro strong safety, is in a zone. And it can be a scary place. As All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman put it after the victory over the Panthers, "He damages people's souls." Chancellor's soul-damaging efforts in the playoff opener included a 90-yard interception return in the fourth quarter for the touchdown that iced the 31-17 victory and a game-high eight solo tackles – including several of his tempo-setting, momentum-changing hits that are followed by his Bam-Bam fist pound. Sunday, those in Chancellor's sights could include tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers, who had TD receptions last week; Lacy, a runner and receiver; and any other receiver who gets within striking distance. Chancellor has intercepted a pass in three consecutive playoff games, which is one off the playoff record for longest streak in NFL history.

5. Don't overlook


The Packers' wide receivers vs. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman:** As everyone remembers, Rodgers did not throw to Sherman's side of the field in the season opener back in September. And teams have generally shied away from testing Sherman deep all season, which is understandable for a player who has more interceptions (25) than any player in the league since stepping into the lineup midway through his rookie season in 2011. Exhibit A of why you should not try Sherman deep, especially along the sideline, came last Saturday night. He had a better read on Newton's pass than intended receiver Philly Brown to make his first postseason interception. Expect Rodgers to test Sherman in this one, and expect Sherman to be up the task.

Worth noting

The Packers are 2-0 in the postseason series against the Seahawks, with both wins coming at Lambeau Field – 33-27 in overtime in a 2003 wild-card game and 42-20 in a 2007 divisional game. … The Seahawks have an eight-game postseason winning streak at CenturyLink Field. … The Packers' .620 winning percentage in the postseason (31-19) in the best in NFL history, and their 31 victories are No. 3 on the all-time list. … Packers WRs Jordy Nelson (98 for 1,519 and 13 TDs) and Randall Cobb (91 for 1,287 and 12) combined for 189 receptions for 2,806 yards and 25 TDs during the regular season. … The Packers were a league-best plus-14 in turnover differential during the regular season. … Seahawks leading receiver Doug Baldwin has had three consecutive playoff games with 100-plus receiving or a TD – scoring catches last week and in Super Bowl XLVIII and a 106-yard performance in last season's NFC title game. … The Packers had three players with 90-plus tackles – SS Morgan Burnett (125), FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (95) and LB A.J. Hawk (93). … The Seahawks also had three players with 90-plus tackles – LB K.J. Wright (107), MLB Bobby Wagner (104) and FS Earl Thomas (95).

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