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Can the Seahawks stop Aaron Rodgers?

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The Seahawks are favored to win the NFC Championship this weekend. For that to happen, they'll have to contain Aaron Rodgers with a smart pass rush, says retired NFL defensive end Stephen White.

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Sometimes heading into a really big game you can throw out all the numbers because they'll have become close to meaningless. No matter what deficiencies a team may have had during the regular season, they've usually found a way to overcome them if they've made it all the way to the conference championship. Sometimes a strength that a team showed during the regular season also begins to erode to where it is no longer and advantage anymore.

At that point, no matter what the numbers say, you have to go by what you have seen on tape as far as what each team is capable of when you're trying to discern which teams are more likely to come out of this weekend victorious. It becomes a simple matter of matching up one team's weakness against another team's strengths until you find a contrast between the two remarkable enough that it could change the complexion of the game.

After watching the playoffs up to this point, one thing has become increasingly clear to me is that the two conference championship games will both be decided by the essentially the same thing: one team's ability to protect the passer vs. their opponent's ability to get the quarterback on the ground.

Does that mean the battles that decide both games will end up taking place in the trenches?

You're damn right it does.

Let's start with the early game Sunday: the Packers at the Seahawks in the NFC Championship. I could see this matchup materializing about halfway through the season. The only question in my mind at that point was who would end up with home-field advantage and earn the right to host this old school Clash of the Titans. The Seahawks edged into first place in the NFC by the end of the regular season, and because of the way both teams are playing lately, that may be a huge factor in the outcome of the game.

I'm just going to say what I feel like everybody is thinking: it's all going to come down to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and how productive he can be with his calf still ailing. One thing for sure, as we saw last week against the Cowboys, it doesn't matter if Rodgers lines up back there in the shotgun holding a crutch. If the opposing defense does not and or cannot pressure him, he is going to light them up. I don't know what kinda magical awesome sauce the Packers gave Rodgers at halftime last week, but in the second half, the combination of the Cowboys' defensive linemen getting stuck on blocks and Rodgers pushing the ball down the field with pinpoint accuracy made it hard to remember that he was injured at all.

If the Seahawks can't make him uncomfortable in the pocket, it won't make a shitting bit of difference if Rodgers' calf is sore or not. And believe it or not, just telling your pass rushers to "pin their ears back and go" does not qualify has having a viable pass rush plan either. What I also noticed against the Cowboys is that even a hobbled Rodgers has the ability to move up and around in the pocket enough to elude a mediocre pass rush, so the Seahawks had better have their shit together if they want to win this game.

Not only will the Seahawks' pass rushers have to try to win their one-on-one matchups up front, they will also have to do it with a lot of discipline in their rushing lanes so as not to keep Rodgers from to stepping up into the holes. That probably means more coordinated rushes and pass rush games, which for some reason seem to have gone away from at times this season. That's going to be especially true when it comes to rushing to Rodgers' right side, the side where he is most effective when escaping the pocket. The Seahawks simply can not afford to lose contain on him to that side, even in his injured state.

The Seahawks and their vaunted "NASCAR" package of pass rushers need to go full Ricky Bobby on Rodgers' ass this week -- BECAUSE IF YOU AIN'T FIRST, YOU'RE LAST, DAMMIT!

Everybody knows I have a lot of respect for Michael Bennett and the pass rusher he has become over time, but on Sunday that won't matter. I happen to believe Cliff Avril is still one of the best pure speed rushers in the game, but that won't matter either this weekend. Starting SAM linebacker Bruce Irvin, who also gets in on the NASCAR fun as an edge rusher, is one of the best athletes pound for pound in the entire NFL, but nobody is going to give a shit when the ball gets kicked off to the Packers. If those guys and anybody else they stick in there on passing downs end up laying an egg this week, nobody will ever remember all of the other good things they have done this season. It's time for all of those guys to put up or shut up because Rodgers is one quarterback who seems to thrive under pressure.

You see, there are some guys who have to give themselves the kind of nickname that makes you think they are cool under pressure. But then you have rare guys, like Rodgers, who would probably bleed out snow cones if you cut him in the middle of a game. This guy has stared down some of the fiercest defenses in the NFL the last decade, and as far as I can tell, he ain't neva been scared! No sir, none of those Seahawks' pass rushers can't just live off their reputation this week. As long as Rodgers can keep dragging himself back out there, they're going to have to keep getting after his ass all game long as well.

Don't worry about how many sacks the Packers' offense gave up in the regular season, and don't worry about how many sacks the Seahawks' defense came home with in the regular season. Go back and watch them both play last week and ask yourself if you think the Packers' offensive line you saw against the Cowboys can hold up against the Seahawks' defensive line you saw against the Panthers. The answer to that question will tell you who will win this game.

I'm putting the number at three. Three sacks is what its going to take for the Seahawks to win this game and move on to the Super Bowl. Conversely, holding them to two sacks or less is exactly what it's going to take for the Packers to do the same.

It's really as simple as that.