The Seahawks once again handled the NFC West with little trouble, churning out another season of double-digit wins without ever really seeming to hit their best stride. On offense, Russell Wilson never seemed 100 percent behind a patchwork offensive line, while the running game struggled to find an identity in their first season without Marshawn Lynch. The defense stumbled down the stretch once star safety Earl Thomas was lost for the season. After an easy win in the wild card round over Detroit, Seattle was blasted out of the playoffs by Atlanta.
“Run The Table” became a kind of legendary catch phrase in Green Bay in 2016. It was uttered by Aaron Rodgers when the Packers were mired in a 4-6 funk and referred to the team practically needing to win out to make the playoffs. They did just that, not only making the playoffs but rallying to win the NFC North. Rodgers was the impetus, hurling 40 TD’s against just seven interceptions. It seemed like the momentum might carry through the playoffs after a big divisional round win over the Giants, but, like the Seahawks, they were no match for the red-hot Falcons in the NFC championship game.
Can We Block Somebody Please? – Only one quarterback in the NFL was sacked more than the 41 times that Wilson was dumped a year ago. And things might not get much better this year, not after rising left tackle George Fant was lost for the season in a preseason game. The Packers can cause some problems with pass rushers like Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Wilson can’t have the comeback season many expect unless he’s upright.
Strength Against Strength – The Packers offense is loaded for another run at the Super Bowl. Rodgers is Rodgers, the game’s best playmaker at the quarterback position who always gives them a chance. Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson are bookend 1,000-yard receivers, joined this season by Martellus Bennett at tight end. The Seahawks get Thomas back healthy to join star defenders like Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett. Something has to give when the Packers have the ball.
Controlling the Ball – The best way to stop a great quarterback is to keep him off the field, which means both teams running games need to be at their best. The Seahawks added former Packer Eddie Lacy to the backfield, and he might be needed right off the bat with Thomas Rawls banged up. His replacement in Green Bay, Ty Montgomery, will be needed to take the sting out of the Seahawks intense pass rush.
Matchup to Watch
Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane – Just a year removed from an ACL injury, Nelson had a brilliant season a year ago with 1,257 yards and 14 TDs. Because he lines up on the left side of the field, he’ll likely avoid Richard Sherman and face off with Lane much of the night. Lane is only a starter because DeShawn Shead is still out with injury, so this could be the mismatch that Rodgers targets all game long.
Fantasy football tip
WR Paul Richardson – Richardson quietly has moved into the starting lineup for the Seahawks, He has the kind of long-ball ability that Wilson hasn’t had at his disposal much during his time with Seattle. This is the kind of matchup where someone unexpected makes something big happen, and Richardson certainly fits that bill.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31-21 Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks offensive line issues could be the one area of glaring weakness on either one of these two teams. That, and the friendly Lambeau Field environment give the Pack the edge.
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