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Seahawks/Packers Preview

19 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

It has been six years since the Seahawks last played a meaningful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Amazing to think about what has happened since.

The Seahawks head back to the frozen tundra for Sunday Night Football this week as they take on the defending NFC North champion Packers. The Seahawks are 0-1 following their 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. Green Bay started their 2015 campaign on the right foot, defeating the Chicago Bears 31-23 last Sunday. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-8. By now you know what happened the last time these two teams played but here’s a quick reminder. The Seahawks trailed 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. After a Russell Wilson touchdown run, a successful onside kick recovery, a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and  a successful Luke Willson two-point conversion, the Seahawks suddenly took a 22-19 lead. The Packers drove down to tie the game at the end of regulation and in overtime Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the game winning 35-yard touchdown. Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX. Green Bay’s season ended. This is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Seahawks to win. Here is what I will be looking for.

After giving up 34 points last week it is crucial that we see improvement out of the Seahawks defense. There has been ongoing talk during the week about cornerback Richard Sherman lining up at nickel this week in order to cover Green Bay’s best wide receiver Randall Cobb. I think we may see Sherman on Cobb a little bit but Sherman will predominantly play on the outside like normal. The number one thing I am focused on this week will be how we go about eliminating explosive plays. Last week the Seahawks gave up 13 plays of 10 yards or more. The correlation? Although we sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles twice, for the most part he had plenty of time in the pocket to go throw his progressions and make his throws. In order to eliminate the big plays this week, something that the Packers are well equipped to do, we must put excessive amounts of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line did not allow a sack last week so it will be difficult to rattle Rodgers. My hope is to see Bruce Irvin used as a pass rushing specialist. Frank Clark could be a pivotal player this week. The more pass rushers we can get on the field at the same time, the better off the Seahawks will be.

For the Seahawks offense my main focus will be on the play of the offensive line, and how their play will have a domino effect on the rest of the offense. The offensive line’s performance last week was second-rate. The Packers sport big time players in Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and B.J. Raji who do an exceptional job getting to the quarterback. This week I believe Russell Wilson must take it upon himself to avoid the kind of pressure that he faced in St. Louis. Screens and slants may be the most effective strategy in the passing game. I would also like to see Wilson be more assertive in the running game. The read-option was nonexistent last week which I believe was necessary for our offense to keep drives moving. There were multiple plays last week where Wilson could have easily run for a first down. Instead he elected to stay behind the line of scrimmage to try to make a throw. If it is necessary this week or if plays are broken, I want to see Wilson run for yards.

It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one the most explosive offenses in football. Aaron Rodgers is a master at playing to the weaknesses of the opposing defense. I believe Rodgers will take a Tom Brady-esque approach in regards to how to face the Seattle defense. This could mean a lot of three step drops and short passes. Instead of going deep he will rely on his receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones to pick up yards after the catch. As tough as the Packers passing game is to defend, running back Eddie Lacy may be poised to make a significant impact on the ground. In 18 career games at Lambeau Field, Lacy has averaged 81 yards per game and a solid 4.6 yards per carry. If these numbers can hold up in this game it will greatly contribute to an outstanding performance by the Green Bay offense.

On defense for the Packers one position in particular has my full attention. Last week starting middle linebacker Sam Barrington injured his foot and was placed on season-ending injured reserve shortly thereafter. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Green Bay this week is Barrington’s counterpart in the middle of the defense, Nate Palmer. Palmer enters his third season with the Packers but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over him. Before last week, Palmer had not played since 2013 after injuring his foot.  He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve. In 2013 Palmer played in 9 games, accruing only 17 tackles. To make things even murkier, Palmer made the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker during this past offseason. His inexperience could give the Seahawks offense an advantage in the middle of the field. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Palmer will wear the “green dot” helmet, meaning the coaches will communicate the defensive play calls through the radio in his helmet. Given that these are new responsibilities for Palmer, there is a possibility that the Green Bay defense will have communication issues.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks tweeted out their uniform combination Friday night. We will be wearing white jerseys and white pants… The Packers will wear their traditional home look of green jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee… The Seahawks have only beaten the Packers once at Lambeau Field. I remember the game well. It was Monday Night Football during the 1999 season. Mike Holmgren made his first trip back to Green Bay after leaving for Seattle following the previous season. It was Brett Favre’s worst career game, as he went 14/35 for 180 yards, one touchdown, and 4 interceptions. Shawn Springs was the player of the game as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and intercepted Favre twice. The Seahawks won the game in dominating fashion, 27-7. Let’s hope for the same kind of result this week… Random travel story of the week: I am not looking forward to flying Southwest Airlines to Milwaukee. My only ever experience flying Southwest was in 1999 coming home from Omaha, Nebraska. On Southwest your boarding priority is determined by the time you check in. The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board. My family was filling up our rental car with gas near the Omaha airport when the street was shut down so Vice President Al Gore and him motorcade could come through. We were late getting to the airport and were placed in the “C” boarding group (the last group to board). I was separated from my family on the plane (something somewhat traumatic for a 9-year old) and I wound up sitting in between an older couple. I had a book of word searches with me and I just did word searches for the entire flight. Surprisingly, the older woman next to me had no idea what a word search was so she looked over my shoulder and watched me do word searches for the majority of the flight. Talk about awkward… I will be tailgating on someone’s property right off of Lombardi Avenue, directly across the street from Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay tailgating scene is somewhat restrictive to non-Packers season ticket holders so it will be fascinating to see how Packers fans do tailgating… I am beyond excited to step inside Lambeau Field. I consider it to be the cathedral of professional football. So much history has occurred inside that bowl that I’m sure to get chills just walking around. Just like going to Notre Dame Stadium in 2009, this is sure to be a trip I will never forget. The only thing that will make it better will be a Seahawks win!

Prediction: After the Fail Mary and the NFC Championship miracle comeback, the Packers finally get back at us. Aaron Rodgers will come out firing and will throw touchdowns to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the first half. The Seahawks will only be able to counter with one Steven Hauschka field goal as the Packers will go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Seahawks will make the proper adjustments and will score two second half touchdowns; one by Marshawn Lynch and another to Jimmy Graham. The Packers will lead 23-20 and will deliver the dagger with just under 5 minutes left to play. Rodgers will find Cobb for his second touchdown of the game and the Seahawks will head home for their home opener with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Packers 30, Seahawks 20

Programming Note: My game review will be published on Monday when I get back from Green Bay, NOT late Sunday immediately following the game.

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Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Seahawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!