LOS ANGELES: Aaron Rodgers has called on the Green Bay Packers to draw inspiration from a hostile Washington Redskins crowd on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as they attempt to reignite their Super Bowl hopes in a daunting opening playoff battle.
Rodgers and the Packers started the season in scintillating form, romping to victory in their opening six games before a defeat to the Denver Broncos in early November derailed their momentum.
The Packers subsequently lost six of their 10 remaining games, and finished the regular season with a whimper on Sunday when they went down 20-13 to the Minnesota Vikings to surrender the NFC North divisional title.
That loss has left Green Bay needing to do it the hard way if Rodgers is to realise his dream of playing in next month’s Super Bowl at the home of the San Francisco 49ers, his childhood team who famously ignored him in the 2005 draft.
The Packers can take comfort from recent history — in the 2010 season they won the Super Bowl after battling through the playoffs on the road having started as NFC sixth seeds.
Rodgers believes Green Bay can turn the disadvantage of playing away from Lambeau Field into a positive.
“It’s tough, but I think it can galvanize a team when you’re going in a hostile environment,” Rodgers said.
“I know we’re going to have a great crowd that’s going to follow us there. But, those are the fun wins.
“Obviously, we’re spoiled to play in Lambeau, but the feeling you have (after) a road win (in the playoffs) and that flight back is a pretty special feeling that any former player would tell you is right at the top of the football mountain.”
A victory for Green Bay on Sunday would earn them a meeting with either the Carolina Panthers or the Arizona Cardinals, who both have the luxury of a week off.
Seahawks to soar?
Elsewhere in the NFC on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks will look to build on their strong finish to the season when they travel to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Vikings.
The Seahawks demolished Minnesota 38-7 when the two teams met at the same venue last month, restricting Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to just 18 yards as their own offense cut loose.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll has warned his team not to read too much into last month’s defensive masterclass against Peterson.
“We think he’s an incredible football player,” Carroll said. “They know how to give it to him and they’re going to do that. That was a game that just happens once in a while. That was not an indication of anything that’s going to come.”
In the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals face bitter divisional rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers — the third meeting of the two teams this season.
The Bengals won their first encounter with the Steelers but lost their most recent battle 33-20 on December 13.
Steelers icon Ben Roethlisberger meanwhile has told his team to disregard the regular season results as the playoffs get under way on Saturday.
“It’s a new season. It doesn’t matter how great of a regular season you’ve had some of the best regular seasons haven’t done anything in the postseason,” Roethlisberger said.
“Some guys that haven’t done anything in the regular season have been awesome in the postseason.
“That’s kind of my message to everybody. It doesn’t matter what’s happened to date. It’s about what you do going forward.”
A victory for the Steelers would see them advance to a clash with the Denver Broncos on January 17 while the higher-seeded Bengals would go through to a meeting with the New England Patriots with a win.
The Kansas City Chiefs complete this weekend’s wild card lineup with their match against the Houston Texans on Saturday.