The Past: Need I really go on about the Fail Mary game? Luckily while the referees officiating that game are doing nothing other than working softball tournaments, the Packers do deserve some of the blame for getting into a situation where a ref determined the outcome of the game. First, the Packers had a pretty rough night in pass protection, most notably Bryan Bulaga, who was then considered one of the up and rising offensive tackles was completely manhandled by Bruce Irvin and had to exit the game with an injury which ultimately lead to the Bulaga’s first trip to the IR. Add to that the pummeling that Aaron Rodgers received, a total of 8 sacks and a loss of 39 yards. The Packers defense actually did a fairly decent job, restricting Marshawn Lynch to “only” 98 yards on 25 attempts and kept Russell Wilson in check with 10/21 passes for only 130 yards. So really at the end of the day, it was surprisingly the Packers passing offense that failed to really get going; Aaron Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown on 39 attempts (26 completed) and a net of 184 yards through the air.
Since then, the Packers have gone through the gauntlet, with injury after injury, most notably a broken collarbone for Aaron Rodgers; the only bright side is that with all the injuries, the Packers rediscovered the offense called the running game, headed by rookie of the year Eddie Lacy. The Seattle Seahawks on the other hand have done a little better, winning it all in Super Bowl XLVIII after completely dismantling the high flying Broncos passing game under Peyton Manning.
The Present: It’s pretty hard to predict how either team will fare in during the 2014-2015 season considering its opening night and both teams are 0-0. The Seattle Seahawks will be looking to repeat their dominance but have to worry about some of the new changes to penalties, which some have attributed to curtail the Seahawks aggressive defensive style; I would argue that the new rule changes aren’t targeting only the Seahawks, but is just the natural progression of the game of professional football, which has been stricter and stricter on defenses as more concussion lawsuits come the NFL way. On offense, Marshawn Lynch is still one of the primer running backs in the NFL, but with so much wear on his treads, even the Seahawks are predicting him falling off a cliff, as evidenced by their drafting of Christine Michael in last year draft. Another development to keep an eye on is quarterback Russell Wilson, who was more of a game manager with scrambling ability during the first couple years of his tenure, the Seahawks are obviously looking to see if he can be the face of a franchise before signing him to a big contract.
The Packers on the other hand play the unfamiliar role of the underdog without much expectation to actually win the game. The Packers must accept that their traditional pass first offense likely isn’t going to be all that successful against the Seahawks defense, which almost seem to specialize in terrorizing aggressive passing games and kept all of its defensive stars from a year ago. More importantly, Eddie Lacy must have a great game in order to give the Packers a chance at winning the game; if Lacy can keep the defense honest and keep the Packers offense in reasonable down and distances, Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack can be more efficient and take advantage of an over-aggressive defense as opposed to having to push the ball down the field on every attempt. On defense, the Packers have shown an improvement in run defense in the preseason and hope to see that translate that to the football field; if they can contain Marshawn Lynch to similar numbers as their previous match and again force the game into Russell Wilson’s hands, they have a great shot at keeping the points down for Seattle.
The Future: The Seattle Seahawks are economically have a short and closing Super Bowl window; after signing Richard Sherman to the most expensive contract in NFL history for a cornerback and will have to pay for KJ Wright, Cliff Avril, Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane and most importantly Russell Wilson. In terms of Wilson, as a 3rd round pick Wilson has no leverage under his rookie contract and is one of the main reasons why the Seahawks can field such a talented defensive team while remaining salary cap compliant; however by the end of his rookie deal, Wilson will be an unrestricted free agent and will be looking to recoup all of his lost earnings and as all NFL teams will do, the Seahawks will pay pretty much whatever Russell wants. Add to that the obscene contracts that have been signed by quarterbacks will less hardware than Wilson and you could easily see Wilson commanding way more than Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton, realistically somewhere just below Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
The second issue for the Seahawks is the transition of team identity from Marshawn Lynch to presumably either Russell Wilson or the defense. Lynch has been the focal point of the team since he was traded from Buffalo but all parties involved are fully aware that its the end of the line for Lynch; not only is Lynch aware of this by holding a mini-holdout during the offseason but the Seahawks were also aware, basically not caving in to Lynch’s demands, only giving him a meager bonus of $1.5 million this year. In a perfect world it’s like that the Seahawks hope Wilson’s game improves to the point where he can carry the team (on the flip side this would make it more expensive to keep him), but Wilson may simply not be that player; In reality Wilson might be more of a Alex Smith with a slightly higher upside; a player that won’t lose a game for you but may not be able to win you many either.
The Seahawks, much like the Packers probably aren’t relying all too heavily on their rookies so it remains to be seen how much the Seahawks rookies actually play, but with trading their first round pick and overall low draft value by picking 32nd in every round it’s unlikely that the Seahawks will get much from the rookies, especially early on.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.