NFC Championship Game Has 'Very Different Vibe' For Seahawks' 12th Man This Year
The Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC championship game. The winner will head to the Super Bowl.
It’s the second year in a row for the Seahawks and their fans to be in this position. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says those two years couldn’t be any more different.What A Difference A Year Makes
Art says there's a noticeably different vibe among Seahawks fans this week, compared to the same time last year. In 2014, the anxiety and dread were palpable as the Seahawks prepared to face their NFC West rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.
“The NFC championship game a year ago was the best game I’ve ever seen — given the stakes, given the rivalry, given the outcome. It was just all very dramatic and wonderful," Art said. "But the fans were dreading this because they knew how good the 49ers were and they just weren’t used to success.
“The fan base here has been so mortally abused by the emotions of all the sports teams here, losing the Sonics and the Mariners not fulfilling their role as a contender until last year. All of that has led into this belief in the fans that Seattle doesn’t belong in the elite."
But last year, says Art, everything changed.
"And now this fan base is cocky! They expect to win," he said.
Green Bay Fans, Quarterback 'Endearing'
There's definitely less of a heated rivalry this year. Art says one of the reasons is the endearing nature of the Green Bay fans and their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
"How do you dislike the Green Bay Packers? They’re a community-owned team, the only one in professional sports. They’re in the smallest market. They’re unfailingly generous and very warm folks."
And, says Art, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who is "probably the most valuable player this season."
"He had a tremendous game Sunday when, with a torn calf, he threw for 300 yards and led the Packers to beat the Cowboys. The whole Packer vibe is just endearing," Art said. "If Seattle wins on Sunday, I think you’re going to see the Seattle fan base picking up the Packers and picking up their cheeseheads and dusting them off and patting them on the head.”
Game: Battle Between Seahawks Defense And Packers O-Line
Art thinks Rodgers' calf injury will eventually be a factor in the game.
“It’s going to come down to the Seahawks defense against the much-improved offensive line of the Packers. Can they protect their wounded warrior? It’s a difficult thing because, over the course of a game, the Seahawks defense has proven that they wear down offenses," he said.
Art thinks the game will be a close one.
"I wouldn’t surprise me to see the Packers ahead at halftime. But I just don’t think Rodgers and that line can keep it up," Art said. "As we’ve seen in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks own the final 12 minutes. And I don’t see that changing. Not at the CLink. Not for the passion, even if it’s different than San Francisco. I see the Seahawks winning 30-23.”