The never ending torture has finally come to an end: the 2014 NFL season and Green Bay Packers football is upon us.
First up on the Packers’ march to Super Bowl XLIX is a game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. The Seahawks have the loudest stadium in the league and perhaps its most ferocious defense. Combine that with a physical running game with Marshawn Lynch and it’s a stiff challenge for Green Bay to open the regular season.
This would leave many to believe the pressure is squarely on the Packers right?
Au contraire. The heat is squarely on the defending champions.
Think about it. They’re opening at home, a place they lost once all of last season, on national television and a majority of folks (including six of the nine writers here at ALLGBP.com, myself included) are expecting them to win this game. Throw in that past Super Bowl winners are 38-9 in openers the following season and it’s expected that the Seahawks will win this game.
A lot (perhaps too much) has been made about the 2012 game between these two teams that resulted in the infamous “Fail Mary” that hand wrapped a victory to the Seahawks. These are two different teams, especially the Packers. The offensive line is rearranged and they have a little running back by the name of Eddie Lacy. The running game was non-existent in 2012 for Green Bay.
The Packers defense is a different unit as well and on paper is a much better group than they had in 2012. Enter Julius Peppers and Micah Hyde. Seattle doesn’t have the new “elephant” packages Green Bay will be running on tape and it will be up to their offense to adjust to what the Packers are doing on the fly.
Again, the pressure is on Seattle.
You also have to consider what the reaction to each possible outcome to the game would be. Seattle wins? It was expected. No big deal. This was penciled in as a loss by many for the Packers and doesn’t put too much of a damper on their long-term goals, save maybe home field advantage. The Packers win? A major statement about Green Bay would be made and immediately questions would arise about what is wrong with the Seahawks.
The Seahawks have nothing to gain and everything to lose in this game. The opposite holds true for Green Bay and that could mean a much more loose Packers team. When you consider how dangerous a loose Aaron Rodgers is, then Seattle might be in some trouble.
Expectations for the Packers are high, but they’re over the moon for the Seahawks. No team has won back to back Super Bowls since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots and while they usually have some success in the regular season, the defending champions have flamed out in the playoffs the past five seasons (just ask the 2011 Packers).
One more time for emphasis: it’s you versus history, Seattle. No big deal.
Both teams play in tough divisions, but what Green Bay will face in the NFC North is nothing like the beating the Seahawks will take from their NFC West rivals. San Francisco is a physical team and the Cardinals and Rams both should be improved. Both divisions could see all four teams finish at .500 or above, but the sheer physicality and brutal play of teams in the NFC West make every game count for the Seahawks, including those outside the division.
Better win this one, Seattle.
Packers fans are biting their nails over this one and that’s understandable. It’s the first game of the year and it’s on national television against the defending world champions to boot. Throw in the outcome of the last time these two teams played and it’s easy to see why this game carries the nerves of a playoff matchup.
To those fans: relax. The pressure isn’t on the Packers.
It’s on the Seahawks, and that’s why by late tonight the Packers could reign atop the NFL.
At least for one night. Then it’s onto the Jets.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke