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?
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.
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 .