The Past: Here we go again, right? Interestingly, while many fans are calling this the new Cowboys-Packers one-sided rivalry from the 1980s-1990s in reality, Packers fans only say that because of the “fail mary” touchdown and a loss on opening day this season. If you go back 10 years, the Packers have played the Seahawks 7 times including in the playoffs and have lost 3 of them, not exactly the complete decimation that fans are making it up to be. When you consider that the “fail mary” game was played poorly by both sides (keep in mind the final score was 14-12), and the 2014 season opener was against the Super Bowl champions in their homecoming (which historically is always won by the home team) the Packers have probably done as well as can be expected. Nevertheless, Packers fans have been fearful of the Seahawks probably since the 2014 schedule was announced and have a sort of optimistic dread that 1) the Packers would get a shot to play in the Super Bowl but 2) that they would have to go through Seattle at home.
The Present: It’s not very common for the #1 and #2 seeds to play each other nowadays; perhaps even more uncommon is that the #1 offense will meet the #1 defense. The Packers boast the best offense in the league according to DVOA (Football Outsiders’ metric) ranking 2nd when passing and 6th when running, leading to a very balanced attack that can exploit match ups and allow Aaron Rodgers to pick the most favorable play. On the other side, the Seahawks have the league leading defensive DVOA, ranking 3rd against the pass and 2nd against the run. The Seahawks are a staggering 25% more effective than average against the run, which basically means running backs have basically been walled off against the Seahawks front 7 and safeties; runners have averaged 3.4 yards on 380 attempts for 1304 yards and only 8 touchdowns; keep in mind the Seahawks have faced DeMarco Murray and Jamal Charles, probably the two best running backs in the league currently.
While statistically the Packers offense and Seahawks defense match up quite evenly, the Seahawks offense definitely has the upper leg on the Packers defense. While vastly improved from their first matchup in the beginning of the season, the Packers are exactly half way in the league defensive rankings, ranking 11th against the pass and 23rd against the run resulting in a perfectly average 16th ranking overall. On the other hand, Seattle’s offense isn’t as great as the Packers but still are in the top 10, ranking 5th in the league and first in running the ball. While there’s little chance that the Packers defense can really hold off the Seahawks offense, they only have to slow them down enough for the Packers offense to pull ahead.
At the end of the day, the Packers really have two options; first is to score a lot of points early and nullify the running game as the Seahawks pass to catch up (this has worked stunningly well for the Packers at home). The other option is for the defense to stop Marshawn Lynch by themselves and then let Rodgers and co. grind out the clock with a balanced offense, which is also something that the Packers have done well, although this strategy is a lot less safe than the previous one. Add to that the Packers will have to contend with a mobile quarterback in Russell Wilson, who can do his own damage with his legs and keeping the Packers defense fundamentally sound will be the utmost importance.
The Future: Winner gets a shot at the Lombardi trophy, simple as that.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.