Marshawn Lynch saw little action in the preseason, but should get his share of carries tonight.
The game literally fell into the hands of the officials last time the Packers and Seahawks met in prime time. The decision came on a replacement official’s call (accurate or inaccurate, depending on who you ask) which awarded the Seahawks the victory off of a Hail Mary on the game’s final play. The controversy brought back striking officials and launched the Seattle program into championship mode. Quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the game’s most efficient signal callers with an all-world defense at his back. The Packers have re-tooled with 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy and acquired pass-rusher extraordinaire Julius Peppers.
What the Packers must do to win:
Green Bay must take advantage of the afterglow of the pre-game pomp and circumstance and jump on Seattle early. If the Seahawks win the coin toss, you can bet they’ll defer — placing their defense on the field first. Aaron Rodger needs to lead the Packers on at least two early scoring drives and come away with 10-14 points before the champs wake up. Eddie Lacy and James Starks need to be effective from the outset with misdirection plays against a jacked up Seattle defense. I’m not sure if the Packers can go deep too early, but with their running game Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson should be able to find space in intermediate routes. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers will start and should get a few early targets to build his confidence. Rookie center Corey Tinsley anchors an offensive line which averages four years of NFL experience. Tinsley cannot become overwhelmed by the crowd noise or the intensity of the moment.
Nose tackle Letroy Guion will be asked to fill the huge shoes of B.J. Raji who was lost for the season with a torn bicep. The Packers snatched up defensive end Julius Peppers from the rival Chicago Bears in free agency. Peppers will line up opposite linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. Seattle will seek to hit the Packers defense right in the middle where Raji would be. Corners Sam Shields and Traymon Williams had seven interceptions between them last season, but they must be wary of Wilson when he rolls the pocket or leaves it altogether.
What the Seahawks must do to win:
This may be the year wide receiver Percy Harvin gives us all what we’ve waited to see. Harvin is now Russell Wilson’s No. 1 guy with Golden Tate moving on to the Detroit Lions. Harvin’s play making ability in the offensive and special teams game is undeniable and unmatched when he’s healthy. Wilson has the dependable Doug Baldwin — who is just as good a No. 2 option in the game. Baldwin’s hands and fearlessness to go in traffic are proof. Jermaine Kearse was solid in the postseason and should see his numbers rise — beginning tonight. Russell Wilson has opened the eyes of the League and will only get better. His game is mistake-free and while his numbers aren’t eye-popping, he is far from a game manager. With the lack of punch up the middle Wilson will have some time as long as the edges are contained. Marshawn Lynch didn’t see much preseason action and is ready to go. The Seahawks battering ram is intent on punishing the heart of the Packers defense.
Seattle’s defense has to be careful not to go for the knockout punch to early. Take the same approach as in the Super Bowl and allow the Packers to shoot themselves in the foot. Linebacker Bobby Wagner will be busy in a chess match with Aaron Rodgers. Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright have to keep Lacy and Starks from getting to the outside. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Brandon Mebane have to get into the passing lanes and take advantage of a young Packers offensive line.
If the Packers don’t jump on the Seahawks early and control the clock, it makes the game even once again — which favors the Seahawks. I’m not sure if the Packers young offensive line is ready for the intensity and aggression of the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers needs to go off to win this one, Russell Wilson doesn’t have to.
Seahawks 26 – Packers 21