The Green Bay Packers have won eight straight games, and Aaron Rodgers, with 22 touchdowns and one interception, has played about as well as possible during that stretch.
But Takeo Spikes does not like the Packers’ chances against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship this Sunday.
“I think they are a bad match-up,” Spikes said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “When you look at the personnel and you look at the amount of guys that are healthy compared to what’s not healthy on the other side of the football for Green Bay – that’s going to hurt. Green Bay, they’re also not healthy in the secondary. Matt Ryan, he’s going to add the pressure. He understands how he can disperse the ball down the field and make plays. And then (there’s) the two-headed monster in the backfield. You look at Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, these guys are very talented, but their running styles are so different. As a defensive player, you have to be mindful of that.”
Spikes, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, believes Atlanta will win.
“My gut is telling me Atlanta, and the reason why it’s telling me Atlanta is the injuries,” he said. “The Atlanta Falcons offense (is) one of the best offenses in the history of the game when it comes to points scored. So when you have an offense rolling like that, even if they have a down day, they’re going to score in the 20s. So overall, personnel-wise, I think they have the better team because of health.”
In the AFC Championship, meanwhile, the Steelers will play the Patriots in Foxboro. Pittsburgh’s defense has gotten better throughout the season, but the Steelers can’t expect the same stagey that worked against Alex Smith to work against Tom Brady. Pittsburgh repeatedly left its linebackers out to dry in Kansas City, but Smith couldn’t take advantage of it – not enough, anyway.
“I understand it’s the foundation and base of what you do, but Lawrence Timmons, he needs to stay in the box because that’s what he does so well,” Spikes said. “Then get creative on the back end by allowing your safeties and bringing in the nickel corner to come in and get some flexibility like that.”
With their 18-16 win over Kansas City, Pittsburgh became the first team in the NFL history to allow two touchdowns, not score any and still win the game.
“That’s huge,” Spikes said. “That’s a testament to how mentally tough that football team (is). I know how hard it is to win in Kansas City. For them to go and do that, I’m not even worried about Big Ben. His play over the past few weeks has been enough for them to win. I look for the best of Ben Roethlisberger this week when they go to Foxboro.”
Spikes expects the Patriots to double-team Antonio Brown and force Roethlisberger to find other options.
“(Brown is) the guy who will kill you instantly,” Spikes said. “They’re going to double team. It’s no secret. One of the guys who I see who could possibly have a big game is Sammie Coates. He’s been very, very quiet. Some people would say disappointing. But this is his opportunity this week to be able to stretch the field because I don’t know if New England has anybody on the back end to be able to run with him consistently. That’s how fast and how strong he is.”
In the end, though, Spikes believes that the Patriots will play the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Kickoff for the NFC Championship is at 3:05 p.m. ET, with the AFC Championship to follow at 6:40 p.m. ET.