Green Bay Packers Enter Seattle a Different Team Than Week One

Seattle has not been kind to the Green Bay Packers in recent years. Or more to the point, the Seattle Seahawks football team and CenturyLink Field have not been kind.

In 2012 with replacement officials calling the game, Seattle QB Russell Wilson heaved a desperation Hail Mary pass as time expired to win the game 14-12. It would become known as the “Fail Mary” game and became the final straw for the league when it came to utilizing replacement officials. The lockout ended three days later.

Earlier this year, the NFL Kickoff Classic on Thursday Night featured the defending champion Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers again. There was little last minute drama this time around. No Fail Mary controversy. The Packers were outscored 19-6 in the second half and were drubbed by Seattle 36-16.

Fast forward to Sunday, January 18, 2015 and the NFC Championship Game. Similar to the two previous games, it will be held in Seattle at CenturyLink Field and against a well-known foe the Green Bay Packers. For those who wager, the Seahawks are now a 7.5 point favorite.

Matt Montgomery of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the odds for a Green Bay victory, based on past results, is cause for concern. “Since 1984, including playoffs and regular season, there have been 257 games (about 8.5 games a season) with point spreads of exactly 7.5”, writes Montgomery. “The results for the underdogs haven’t been good: 57 wins and 200 losses (22.2% winning percentage) with an average margin of loss of 9 points”.

So what’s different today that would change the outcome of this Championship tilt?

Plenty.

Quarterback Play

In the week one match-up the quarterback position was advantage Seahawks.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson attained a passer rating of 110.9 vs. Aaron Rodgers who logged an 81.5 mark. Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 189 yards, was sacked three times and constantly under heavy pressure with a porous offensive line.

Wilson on the other hand was 19 of 29 for 191 yards and only sacked once. He was not under constant pressure as was Rodgers. The elusive Wilson also accounted for 7 rushes for 29 yards. Although not huge numbers, Wilson kept the Packers defense guessing and on its collective heels most of the day.

For the season it was a different matter. The MVP front-runner notched an un-worldly 112.2 quarterback rating with 4,381 passing yards and league leading 8.43 yards per completion. Wilson was good with a 95.0 rating and 3,475 yards per completion. His 7.69 yards per completion however was well shy of Rodgers.

Even with a bum leg that will limit Aaron Rodgers this coming Sunday, you have to say that the advantage at the quarterback position this time around belongs to the Packers.

Rushing the Ball

The Seahawks used ball control and pounded the Packers for 207 rushing yards in week one. The Packers could only muster 80 rushing yards and could never really get a rythum going. The quick Seattle defense was far superior to the Packers patchwork offensive line. The net result was an eye-popping time-of-possession disparity of almost 7 minutes in Seattle’s advantage. When you keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline for that long, good things usually don’t happen for Green Bay.

Eddie Lacy was held to 34 total rushing yards and a paltry 2.82 yards per attempt. Beast-mode Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch pounded Green Bay for 110 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per rush.

But it was Percy Harvin and the jet sweep that was a killer (Remember the Jet Sweep?). The Packers were surprised by this un-scouted look and did not have an answer for containing him the entire game long. It was Harvin’s finest day as Seahawk, who was such a poor fit that he didn’t even last the season.

With Harvin gone, Lynch and his understudy reliable Robert Turbin has been steady-to-spectacular. The Packers duo of Eddie Lacy and James Starks have also been steady and can close out a game when necessary.

In week one the Packers were starting a rookie at center after practicing with the first unit all of one week. In addition, Brian Bulaga went out with an injury and was replaced by Derek Sherrod for much of the second half. Sherrod proved to be a turn-style and required help on almost every play, limiting the Packers to a slimmed-down attack. Since then, Green Bay has had the good fortune, for the most part, of having the continuity of the same five starters protecting Rodgers and clearing running lanes for Lacy and company.

The Seahawks by comparison have an unimpressive O-line and have had to rely on the ingenuity of Wilson and power of Lynch to fashion their inconsistent running game.

This match-up is now a push.

Health and Injuries

As I mentioned previously, The Packers know all about the cumulative effect of injuries during the past three seasons. This year however not a single preferred starter has been placed on season-ending Injured Reserve. The week one match-up saw the offensive line jumbled with Bulaga replaced with the since departed Derek Sherrod and with starting JC Tretter sidelined, rookie Corey Linsley was thrown to the wolves in his first start. The result that day was not pretty.

The tables have turned since then.

TE Zach Miller, a playmaker and excellent blocker was lost for the season early on. Highly regarded nose tackle Brandon Melbane and edge-rusher Jordan Hill are similarly gone.

Reliable center Max Unger missed six games to injury only to return and be re-injured last week, although he is expected to play vs. the Packers.

The Seahawks also lost rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson to a knee injury against Carolina and he is out for the season. Richardson was having a good year as a receiver and was also their primary kick returner.

The Packers are healthy as a team but the injured left calf of Aaron Rodgers is the great unknown. If his line can protect Rodgers and not flush him from the pocket, it shouldn’t limit the Packers game plan. To date his line has done an excellent job of protecting the Packers star.

Coaching

For some reason, and perhaps it was to protect his young unknown’s from an aggressive Seattle defense, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy played scared. He didn’t challenge the Seahawks secondary and didn’t throw once in the direction of All Pro Richard Sherman. As a unit the Seattle defensive backs and safeties are the best in the NFL. Yet, McCarthy has powerful weapons of his own starting with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and emerging rookies Richard Rodgers and Devante Adams.

McCarthy now knows what he has to work with. His youngsters have matured and his troops are healthy. It would be a major surprise if McCarthy didn’t go mano e mano against the Seahawks backs in a “may the best man win” attack, similar to his approach against the vaunted Lions run defense in week 17.

At stake will be the ultimate NFC prize: a trip to Super Bowl XLIX and a chance at a World Championship. The ultimate winner will be the fans who get to see the battle of the titans.

The best team this day should be the Green Bay Packers.

——————

Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .

——————

  • Sorry don’t buy it. As a Packer fan who hates the Seabags I believe they have an advantage rushing the ball on us, stopping the run on us and stopping the pass on us. Their passing game isn’t scary, but it’s effective.

    I hope we win, but a team that can rush the passer and cover is this team’s kryptonite. Eddie will have to get 35 carries and 175 total yards, we’ll have to have a turnover free game, and we’ll have to keep Lynch in check in order to win.

    In other words, it would be the single greatest effort, and the biggest Packer upset, since the 95 SF game under Holmgren and Fritz and Brett and Reggie.

    Hope I’m wrong.

    • Razer

      Despite the modern trend of high scoring games and high octane offenses, this game will be dictated by the defense – as it should be. Unless the Seattle defense shows up with a hangover, we will struggle to control the time of possession. Conversely, our defense has struggled to stop the big RB and to get off of the field in 3rd down situations. We are rightfully the underdog.

      We do have playmakers so there is hope that lights-out play can tilt the field to at least level. I too hope that Bearmeat is wrong.

      • Bearmeat hopes he’s wrong too. He’s been known to be wrong before. After all, that idiot thought GB would blow Dallas out – even with an injured ARod. 😉

        • Razer

          I know that you do – you are a real Packers fan! Go Packers

    • Sindy

      I agree with you. I just don’t see us going up there to win. I hope I’m wrong because I would love it if we could go up there and snatch the glory from the Seahawks & their annoying & arrogant fans. Packer D is just no where near Seattles D. But I just think they are an overall better team. I want this team to prove us wrong. Go up there and win!

    • White92

      Alas, the realist! Can’t you just let us dream Bearmeat?? 🙂

  • packett

    Intuitively, the 7.5 points in favor of the Seahawks is probably right, and translates in a near 25% chance of winning. So, I like the underdawg position. Yeah, Seahawks are confident, and that’s tough. Thus, that should inspire the GBP to play lights out, and go for broke. So the only chance of winning are:
    1) MM goes for broke, and pulls some innovative wrinkles with strategy and capitalizes on trends or over pursuits.
    2) GBP really plays mistake-free ball. No critical drop passes, no critical penalties.
    3) A little fortuitousness….like when there is a loose ball, or tipped pass…it goes to the right hands.
    4) refs keep a consistent game, and reign in over-aggressiveness (generally a seahawk tendency)

    • dobber

      Packers must play with a lead. It’s that simple. If I’m MM, I want the ball first and I need to do whatever I can to get that first 7 on the board. The Seattle defense preys on teams trying to scramble back from even small deficits. If the Packers can establish a lead and keep the whole playbook open, it will make a tremendous difference in this one.

      I for one, would love to see the Packers take the ball and go 6-8 minutes, 80 yards, and have a run-to-pass of higher than 2-1. I’d like to see the Packers ram the ball down Seattle’s throat and make them doubt themselves.

      • That’s our only ticket right there Dobber. That secondary is the best in the past 20 years. With Wagner fast enough to both plug the run and cover underneath in the pass game, the margin for error to beat by the throw/throw/throw game plan is about 1%.

        We have to ram it down their throats. Score 14 at least in our first 3 drives and play with a lead the whole game. It can be done. But it’ll be really hard.

  • croatpackfan

    I see this game as game of patience. Whoever break that mode will be loser. If you will fall behind, stick to your game plan, do not try to fast overcome deficit. That want be successful.

    I wrote this on Packers com and I trully believe in it. When you look games played against Seattle you may see pattern. Trying to avoid deficit quickly just push you into more mistakes. They are freaking good D, so you have to avoid quick decisions and plays which are not certain…

  • packett

    So, what is better amongst second-best options? We know the best scenario of course, GBP winning the next 120 minutes of football. but if not;
    1) GBP beats Seahawks but loses to NE in SB. Is that as painful, more or less than:
    2) GBP loses to Seahawks and Seahawks pounds NE, Brady and bilichick are stunned.
    3) GBP loses to Seahawks and NE pounds Seahawks. Seahawks are stunned.

  • Thegreatreynoldo

    Reasons why GB might play better against Seattle than in week 1:

    1. No jet sweeps from Harvin, who was traded.
    2. Peppers is more comfortable at OLB. Peppers in general.
    3. CMIII is now at ILB. It’s heresy, but maybe he should stay there.
    4. No Hawk and Brad Jones at ILB. Barrington is noticeably better.
    5. Guion is in better football shape. Week 1, he had practiced for 1 week.
    6. Clinton-Dix starts at FS, freeing up Burnett to play SS more in the box.
    7. Hyde going back to slot corner. Hayward in dependent on match up.
    8. Demise of the 4-3 under or Quad defense.
    9. Cornerbacks can play more man and press with Dix as the FS.
    10.Sherrod is gone, and Bulaga figures to play all the snaps.
    11.Adams as the 3rd WR – he should be able to create mismatches.
    12.Aaron will at least look for the TEs occasionally.
    13.Lacy is now trusted to be a 3 down back and receiving threat.
    14.Cobb was terrible for the 1st few games. He’s is explosive again.
    15.Kuhn used more as a lead blocker.
    16.GB will throw at Sherman at least sometimes, with better match-ups at WR3, TE1 and TE2. Run routes that break inside against Sherman,
    17.With CMIII at ILB, Perry will play more OLB, and set a better edge.

    Not sure this is enough for GB to win. With Rodgers gimpy, I give GB would a 40% chance of winning. Cobb’s resurgence, and Adams’ ability gives me the most hope on offense. That, along with better play calling by MM lately. On defense, Peppers, Peppers, Peppers (he has the best mis-match going up against Seattle’s RT Britt), Guion, and the moves of CMIII to ILB with those dominoes and Clinton-Dix starting at FS with those dominoes give me considerable hope. OL must be stellar. Linsley played well against Seattle, so I am not throwing in the rookie at center stuff. Still, Seattle’s d-line is good: it is fast but also small. Need to pound Lacy between the tackles. IF GB pay can run zone stretch plays, well I will own myself surprised, but pleased. Go Pack Go!

  • BobbyD

    All good points oh great one….AJ and Jones played 110 snaps first game. Sitting both of those guys alone balances things out somewhat. Can’t believe Hawk is seeing as much time lately as he is…..he’s a joke. Still going to need a lot to go our way to beat these guys up there. As soon as we lost to Buffalo you can see this coming. X factor could very well be the rain. Rodgers has big hands and that will help with a wet football. Don’t have a history on how Wilson plays in those conditions, but I hope it pours……then anything can happen both good and bad. I’ll take a shot. Let it rain, let it rain let it ran

  • BubblerBoy

    Can anyone imagine the Packers winning this game with Brad Jones and AJ Hawk as starting inside linebackers?

    How about Derek Sherrod playing tackle?

    Of course not.

    Sherrod can’t hurt us anymore and Hawk and Jones have been benched and the less time they get the better the D plays.

    Lot more hope for this game than the opener.

  • Since ’61

    Packers should go with their spread offense and make Seattle cover as much of the field as possible. Create as many one on ones as possible and attack all game. In the run game, run Lacy straight at them. No east-west running plays, they are too fast. Defense, stop Lynch, contain Wilson. If our defense could handle the Dallas O-line, they should be able to handle Seattle’s. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    • SchenySchen

      Packers23/Seahawks 20…Crosby is busy, but Pack does just enough to win and Hyde breaks a long punt return(but not for a td). GoPack!

      • Since ’61

        Scheny – I’ll take it! Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    • dobber

      Packers pound Lacy to get the safeties to start cheating up, then pitch him out and trap them in the box.

  • aaronqb

    I was at the 95 SF game in Candlestick Park as I was living in the Bay Area. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had watching a football game. The Packers were on Young’s back as soon as he dropped back the entire day.

    I now live in the Seattle area and feel GB has a very good chance of winning on Sunday. The Seahawk offense is nothing special. They rush the ball well, but since midseason, GB has been good against the run. The Seattle defense has been dominating the past few weeks, but they haven’t faced anyone. Carolina moved the ball just fine. I expect GB to move the ball also – and AR won’t throw a stupid pick like Cam.