This is a difficult game to predict. Neither fan base is particularly confident, apart from the people who naturally are eternal optimists.
Both teams won a bunch of close games in 2019. Both teams had a bunch of unconvincing performances, too.
Green Bay tends to start fast and peter out. The Seahawks do the opposite.
The Packers scraped to wins against Minnesota (21-16), Detroit (23-22), Kansas City without Patrick Mahomes (31-24), Carolina (24-16), Washington (20-15), Chicago (21-13) and Detroit again (23-20).
The Seahawks toiled against Cincinnati (21-20), Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger for a half (28-26), Cleveland (32-28), Atlanta without Matt Ryan (27-20), Tampa Bay (40-34) and Carolina (30-24).
The Packers were hammered in San Francisco, surprisingly clobbered by the Chargers and lost at home to the Eagles.
The Seahawks lost their last two games, both at home, including an embarrassing loss to Arizona. They were battered by the Rams in LA and lost a home game to the Saints without Drew Brees.
Both teams have superb Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and weaknesses on defense.
They’re very similar. Not in terms of style, personnel, scheme or approach. There are so many comparisons though. So you’d lean towards a close game, decided by a big moment or two.
Yet for some reason it feels like either team could win relatively convincingly, too.
The Packers have played so poorly in certain games. The Lions match in week 17 was stunning. They needed to win to secure a playoff bye. Matt Stafford was out, the Lions were stumbling into the off-season. Detroit led for most of it and should’ve won.
They looked soft in Santa Clara. They looked rubbish against the Chargers.
Yet they run the ball well, use an offensive scheme that has given Seattle fits already this season and they have Aaron Rodgers. They’re at home, the Seahawks usually don’t play well at Lambeau and it won’t be a surprise if the Packers — fresh off a bye week — simply saunter to a comfortable win.
There’s maybe a lesson to be learnt from Green Bay’s aggressive free-agency splurge a year ago that was pass-rush centric.
The Seahawks equally have shown they can go toe-to-toe with the best when they, unlike Green Bay, beat the Niners. It’s that statement win that offers hope. That and the fact Russell Wilson is, seemingly, returning to his best form at the right time.
Seattle beat the Packers a year ago, albeit in Seattle. The Packers are 26th in the league for yards-per-carry and 24th for yards-per-game in the running game. They also don’t defend the deep-ball very well — although they rush the passer well and defend the short/medium passing game with a degree of success.
Considering the Seahawks are built to run the ball and make explosive plays downfield in the passing game, those numbers are encouraging.
Yet, again, they are the road team, they haven’t enjoyed the benefit of a bye week and they haven’t played well at Lambeau. The Packers could win comfortably here led by the two Aaron’s and go to San Francisco in the NFC Championship and suffer another chastening defeat. It wouldn’t be a bad wager.
Last week the blueprint to a Seahawks win felt obvious. Attack Philadelphia’s secondary because they struggle defending deep passes. Wilson, Metcalf and Moore looked like the key and so it proved. The defense also needed to make plays which they struggled to do — but to their credit they limited the Eagles to nine points.
The blueprint this week is different. For starters, the Seahawks need to stay in the game early. The Packers are fast starters. Keeping it tight or gaining an early lead is a good platform. Don’t let the Packers get on top and play with a lead. They’ll be able to attack Seattle’s passing game with pressure. All five of Seattle’s losses in the regular season came after they got stuck chasing the game. They can’t afford to be trailing and chasing on Sunday.
In the 2018 game Seattle trailed 14-3 in the first quarter and answered with a touchdown. It was a vital moment, creating a back-and-forth contest when at the time it was threatening to drift. It won’t be a surprise if there’s a similar moment on Sunday with the Packers scoring points quickly. Will the Seahawks be able to counter and keep up, or will it become one-sided?
The defense is going to have to do whatever it can to limit Aaron Jones. Just assume Aaron Rodgers is going to make some plays. He’s Aaron Rodgers. The key to winning is to not let Jones control the game with the kind of massive day he’s capable of. Seattle will have to do a far better job defending the run than they have done recently.
The Packers will have seen Seattle’s running game against San Francisco and Philadelphia and, presumably, will be giving it zero respect. They know the key for Seattle is Russell Wilson. Therefore they’ll probably drop bodies into coverage and will try to contain Wilson in the pocket with discipline off the edge. They’ll dare Seattle to run by offering it as a tempting option.
They also might not attack and blitz with the pass rush early. Their plan is probably to contain and flood coverage.
This will make things difficult for Wilson. He will not see a lot open at the second level. He will naturally look to escape, extend and create. If Green Bay is properly disciplined, he could simply scramble into pressure.
Play-action can take the edge off this and it’d be wise to use a lot of it in this game — if for no other reason than to get Wilson into a deep drop, extend the field and create more open space underneath. Plus there’s more time for someone to uncover. One thing’s pretty certain — Green Bay isn’t going to let D.K. Metcalf run downfield and beat them after last week. Metcalf is Seattle’s best weapon on slants and crossers and might need to be used slightly differently in this game.
To Seahawks twitter’s angst, they also probably need to take the invitation to attack the running game. If Green Bay is going to set out to take away the explosive pass plays and contain, it does create big opportunities in the running game. The Packers statistically are also not a good run-defense unit. If it’s a weakness you have to try and exploit it.
As mentioned, the Packers will probably dare the Seahawks to run. The Seahawks will have to prove they can, at least to a certain extent. Anyone who doesn’t like this needs to realise one point. A year ago some of you complained Seattle played into Dallas’ hands by running into a defensive wall determined to take away the running game. If the Packers are determined to take away the deep pass and contain Wilson’s scrambling in this game, wouldn’t aiming to throw into thick coverage over and over again be making the same mistake?
Yes — Wilson is the key. It’s not as simple as writing ‘let Russ cook’ on twitter though. Green Bay has spent the last seven days specifically preparing a plan to limit Wilson. Heck, they probably spent two weeks doing it knowing they could end up facing Seattle. You don’t think Matt LaFleur rang his buddy Sean McVay for a few tips on how to contain Wilson and hammer the Seahawks the way the Rams did recently?
As much as they needed to attack Dallas in the right areas a year ago, the same will be the case against Green Bay. To some extent, that will mean attacking a usually porous run defense that is inviting itself to be exploited.
If you can run productively and force Green Bay to adjust — that simply opens up fantastic opportunities downfield for Wilson if they switch their coverage away from whatever they spent the week planning. There is absolutely no way they’ll do what the Eagles did and leave the downfield passing game open and play lights out to stop the run and attack the O-line. That would be nuts.
In 2018 the Seahawks beat Green Bay on a night where Russell Wilson was efficiently 21/31 for 225 yards and they ran for 173 yards at 4.9 YPC. Aaron Jones finished with 11 carries for 40 yards. Green Bay ran for 48 yards in total.
So overall if they can avoid an early deficit, if they can limit Aaron Jones, if they can exploit the areas where Green Bay are likely to be weaker on defense — they have a shot. Admittedly there’s a lot of ‘if’s’ there but that’s why the Seahawks are currently a four-point underdog.
If Minnesota finds a way to beat San Francisco on Saturday, it’ll be a game contested for the right to host the NFC Championship game. That’d be something.
Seahawks fans haven’t had to endure annually crushing playoff defeats like Saints fans over the last few years. However, we’ve suffered the single most devastating Super Bowl defeat in history. It’d be nice to extend this season beyond the weekend. Maybe, you could even argue, we deserve a break.
Yet it’s also at this time that you remember the following…
Drew Brees isn’t winning a Super Bowl this year. He’s only won one.
Aaron Rodgers is chasing the Super Bowl. He’s only won one so far.
The Seahawks have no divine right to win more than one. Hopefully they will. But sometimes you simply have to cherish the fact that we lived through the first and have watched playoff football in eight of the last ten years.
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