NFL Week 14 Preview: Seahawks vs. Packers
I wrote a piece earlier this season on why the Green Bay Packers offense hasn’t looked like the threat it once was in 2014; the gist of it being the lack of talent at wide receiver and tight end, juxtaposed with an offense that didn’t care to scheme its present personnel open, and a run game that just wasn’t good; at all. With that said, you’d think I consider this an easy win for the Seahawks, right? (If you said no, I’m glad you’ve been paying attention to what I write. If you said yes…I can’t help you.) Despite the flaws this Packers team has, they still have an all-time great under center in Aaron Rodgers, and it’s never wise to write a guy like that off until about an hour or so after the game is over. A couple things make this game even more insidious: this will be the second full game where the threat of Area 29 (Earl Thomas) no longer looms, and it takes place in Green Bay, in December. It’ll be a frosty one. There are lots of little things I’ll be keeping an eye on throughout this matchup, but the three key elements are below:
OFFENSIVE LINE: Out of all the issues in Green Bay, the offensive line hasn’t really been one of them. The run game has been mediocre, but that’s more on the running backs than the five guys up front. Aaron Rodgers regularly has time to work through his progressions, pat the ball, meditate, and review past selections on Netflix before throwing. He’s been sacked three times in the last three games, and that’s with an injured hamstring for the bulk of that time. If Seattle wants to have some success in hostile territory, defensive coordinator Kris Richard will figure out a way to disrupt things up front early and often.
Russell Wilson’s been sacked ten times in the last three games. Bradley Sowell has managed to work his way back into the starting lineup, at right tackle. The coaches cite his physicality as one of the reasons he’s starting again. While Garry Gilliam has had a petrifying season, I must admit that making the move to Bradley Sowell doesn’t do a damn thing to assuage my concerns. Offensive tackle play has been painful to watch. Let’s see if Seattle can finally make the pain go away against a defensive line missing its leading sack artist in Nick Perry.
SKILL PLAYERS: Out of all the issues in Green Bay, the skill players have been at the forefront. The Packers are integrating former Seahawk Christine Michael into their offense, but past that, there’s James Starks (not good) and Ty Montgomery (a wide receiver) combining to utilize the touches coming out of the backfield. Tight end Jared Cook seems to be settling in nicely, but while he is very physically talented, he’s also very inconsistent. At wide receiver, Jordy Nelson seems to be regaining some form, while Randall Cobb has been very quiet this season. Davante Adams apparently likes to show out against bad defensive backs, but ultimately, this group has done little to impress. If the Packers rely on a quick passing game, these pieces could produce. If it turns into a cacophony of isolation routes… it may be ugly.
I don’t worry about the skill players in Seattle. As long as Thomas Rawls stays healthy, we have a run game. It would be nice to see is if George Farmer and Troymaine Pope can get further integrated into the offense and start making things happen out of the backfield. The tight ends showed up against Carolina last week, against the run and in the air too. It will be great to see TEs not named Jimmy Graham contribute more going forward. That aside, this is a group that makes plays when given opportunities to do so.
PASS RUSH: It is very likely that this group for Green Bay will be headlined by the ostensibly ageless Julius Peppers, as Clay Matthews is nursing a shoulder injury, and Nick Perry will be out. If the Packers struggle to get pressure with four using this group, it will be a long day for their suspect pass defense; if they don’t? It will be an even longer day for the Seahawks defense.
For Seattle, this group has gone two weeks without sacking the opposing quarterback. Hopefully, Michael Bennett looks more like himself on Sunday. With Damontre Moore out, it will be on Cassius Marsh to try and be the miscellaneous pass rusher who makes something happen. This won’t be an easy task to accomplish, with Green Bay’s offensive line doing an outstanding job protecting the quarterback. But it needs to be done, one way or another.
Much like the Panthers, games against the Packers tend to not mesh with logic and reason at a high level. This could be interesting. This could also be hideous. But at least the Seahawks will compete.
Prediction: I’ll be in the gym or drunk by halftime.