Hello Packer Nation,
Here we go! The playoffs officially started for the Packers as soon as Seattle thumped Philadelphia 17-9 in last weekend's Wild Card matchup in Philadelphia. There are many people who were happy Minnesota upset New Orleans in the other NFC Wild Card matchup. While I think there are advantages to not playing the Saints, the Seahawks are no pushover. They have been a perennial playoff team for years but a lot of their playoff success happened when games were played in Seattle. Let's not forget how the 2014 NFC Championship ended for the Packers, who weren't the NFC representative in the Super Bowl after losing a heartbreaking game in OT at Seattle. This is not the same Seahawks team but is still formidable. Seattle has not won a game in Lambeau since 1999. Let's go through what the Packers are looking at this weekend on the opposing sideline.
OFFENSE: Seattle has explosive weapons in rookie WR DK Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett and of course MVP candidate QB Russell Wilson. Their offensive line is banged up and ripe for a good pass rush to take advantage. Their offense revolves around Wilson and his ability to extend plays. Statistically, they are average except for their rushing attack which was third in the league with 2,200 rushing yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. They prefer to grind out games with their rushing attack. They are banged up on this side of the ball and have lost many key players due to injury. Brian Schottenheimer is the Offensive Coordinator and likes big plays downfield that feed off defenses trying to stop their rushing attack. Let's take a gander at each position.
Quarterbacks: Russell Wilson overtook Rodgers this past offseason as the highest-paid QB in the NFL. He is a legitimate threat to take over games with his pocket presence, arm talent and ability to scramble out of trouble. He killed the Eagles last weekend after accumulating 45 yards on his feet and converted big first downs. He also had two big throws to rookie WR DK Metcalf. The biggest throw came with the game on the line on 3rd and 10 under two minutes left when Metcalf caught a perfect 36-yard pass that lead to a game-clinching first down. Their backup is veteran Geno Smith, who was a high draft pick by the Jets in 2013 and has bounced around the league before settling in Seattle this year. The biggest concern for the Packers defense will be keeping Wilson in the pocket and limiting his scrambling opportunities when plays break down. He is a game-changer there. He has been "lights out" finding receivers downfield for big plays.
Running Backs: I did mention they had one of the most productive rushing attacks in the league. That was before Chris Carson, their featured back injured his hip in second to last regular-season game and is out for the season. His backup, Rashaad Penny, tore his ACL a few weeks before Carson's injury and is also out for the season. Those two combined for 1,600 of their total 2,200 rushing yards. Their replacements are rookie Travis Homer and Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch. Lynch was signed just before the regular season ended to help fill the void left by Carson. Homer and Lynch combined for 17 carries for 19 yards in their Wild Card win against Philly. It is quite likely the Packers will see a healthy dose of Lynch and Homer running the ball. Head Coach Pete Carroll has said they will unleash "Beast Mode" against the Packers. The wild card will be Homer, who has shown flashes in the last two games of the regular season.
Wide Receiver: This is a position that came into the 2019 season with a ton of question marks after long time Seahawk Doug Baldwin retired. Holdover Tyler Lockett had his first 1,000-yard receiving season and was targeted 110 times. He is a long ball threat with his speed. Rookie DK Metcalf should be in the running for rookie of the year after 900 receiving yards and 7 TD's with a 15.5 yard per catch average. He was targeted 100 times. Metcalf and Lockett will be the focal points in the passing game and will receive the majority of the targets. Metcalf will create mismatches with his big frame and rare speed for a guy his size. He had a breakout game in their Wild Card win with 9 catches for 160 yards and a TD. Their backups weren't all that impressive. David Moore only caught 17 balls. Malik Turner hauled in 15 catches. Jaron Brown had 16 catches. Turner, Moore, and Brown were on the injury report this week and are no guarantee to play. Within their offensive structure, play action is their bread and butter and the Seahawks look to stretch Metcalf and Lockett for big plays.
Tight End: This is not a terribly imposing position. Jacob Hollister will start and caught 41 balls replacing starter Will Dissly, who was placed on IR earlier in the season. Hollister is a possession type guy who doesn't stand out in any area. He was brought up from the practice squad in week 6. Hollister will be a check down outlet and he could be open underneath with the Packers concentrating on stopping Metcalf and Lockett. Backup is Luke Willson who did not contribute much.
Offensive Line: This position is banged up beyond belief. Starting tackle Duane Brown will likely miss the game along with starting LG Mike Iupati. Starting center Joey Hunt is battling a fibula injury and his status is questionable. George Fant will likely start in place of Brown and is a below-average pass blocker. Fant was used in their "jumbo" package (6 OL) when Brown was healthy. Veteran DJ Fluker will start at RG and is average. Germain Ifedi will start at RT and is likely their best OL outside of Brown. If there is any position the Packers can exploit, it is here! They gave up 48 sacks in the regular season.
DEFENSE: This is not the "Legion of Boom" anymore. They finished the regular season 26th in red zone efficiency and 32nd over the final eight games. They had the second-fewest sacks in the regular season (28). These are two areas where strong defenses excel. Yet, they mysteriously finished with the 9th best QB rating allowed. They will compensate for the lack of pass rush by keeping plays in front of them - bend but do not break. Depth is also a question mark as 11 defenders played over 65% of the snaps against Philly in the Wild Card win. While they played well last weekend holding Philly to 9 points and 282 yards of total offense, their inconsistency to stop opposing offenses is not something Seattle is used to. This defense is especially susceptible "over the top" of their front seven. Plays can be made over their linebackers shoulders. Watch for the Packers to attack this part of the field. To Seattle's benefit, they have found ways to get offenses to turn the ball over with 30 total takeaways this season. Former Cowboy great Ken Norton Jr. is the defensive coordinator. He will need to get creative and find ways to pressure Rodgers. He cannot allow Rodgers to be comfortable. Their pass rush woke up last week in Philly after accumulating seven sacks against a good OL.
Defensive Line: As mentioned above, this position has always been a strength and contributed to the "Legion of Boom's" prior success. That has not been the case this season. They drafted LJ Collier in the 1st round and he only contributed two tackles. They made a big trade before the season started when they acquired Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans to replace Collier. He was a disappointment and only contributed 3 sacks. Clowney did wake up in the Wild Card win against Philly and was a disruptive force all game. They will need him to be as productive against the Pack. On the other end, former Detroit Lion Ziggy Ansah was signed in offseason and has been a nonfactor all year. He is likely going to miss the game against the Pack with an injury. They are stronger inside with starting DL Jarran Reed and Poona Ford. Backup NT Quinton Jefferson has played a lot lately and is quick off the ball. He had two sacks in their win against Philly last weekend. Depth is questionable.
Linebackers: The unquestioned strength of their defense is at the second level. Bobby Wagner leads the league with 159 tackles and is all over the field. He doesn't have any weaknesses and is a perennial All-Pro. He has Hall of Fame instincts and is a coach on the field. Next to him is K.J. Wright who also racked up 132 tackles. Both Wagner and Wright can cover and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. They lost their running mate in Mychal Kendricks for the season with a knee injury and his replacement will be rookie Cody Barton, who is everything Wagner and Wright are not. Depth here is questionable.
Secondary: Beyond starting CB Shaquill Griffin, there are mostly unknowns here. Griffin is a lockdown corner who was one of the league leaders in passes defended. He can be beaten deep because he is ultra-aggressive. Tre Flowers is the other starting CB who is long and possesses similar body composition to Packer Kevin King. He was beaten regularly underneath. Backing them up are Akeem King and ghosts.
At safety, they made an in-season trade for Quandre Diggs from the Detroit Lions. He has quietly been one of the defense's most important players and had 3 INT's as a Seahawk. Bradley McDougald is a solid back up being forced to start. Marquise Blair had a solid rookie year.
There are no Richard Sherman's, Cam Chancellor's or Earl Thomas's in the secondary.
Special Teams: Kicker Jason Myers made 82% of field goals and missed four PAT's. Second-year punter Michael Dickson is one of the leagues most productive punters and averaged over 45 yards per punt and placed 34 punts inside the 20. Their coverage units only allowed 6.1 yards per punt return and 19.6 yards per kick return. Putting opposing offenses in less than desirable field position is something they are good at. Field goals will not come easily as Myers has not been consistent.
How to Beat Seattle: They are susceptible to the run and their offensive line is injury-riddled and porous. Aaron Jones should get the ball quite a bit. Play action will be key for the Packers offense in keeping Seattle's linebackers from dropping too deep into coverage. The "Smith Brothers" need to have success getting to Wilson and will need Kenny Clark to keep him in the pocket for the Smith Brothers to corral. Pettine needs to find ways to get pressure with four rushers, not losing their gap containment and refrain from blitzing a ton. Wilson has one of the best "deep ball" arms in the league so King and Alexander will be tasked defending Metcalf and Lockett in "one on one" situations if the Packers blitz. The Packers will need to keep field position in their favor. Seattle finds ways to make quick work on a short field. Head Coach Pete Carroll is one of the most aggressive coaches in the league and isn't afraid to take chances. He will not allow the Seahawks to go down without a fight.
My Prediction: Seattle's own injuries will be hard to overcome. They were lucky to get past Philadelphia even after knocking out Carson Wentz. Not having RB Chris Carson will hurt. This game will come down to the Packers ability to stop Seattle from running the ball, keeping Russell Wilson in the pocket and preventing Metcalf and Lockett from getting downfield. I firmly believe the difference in this game will be the Packers defense. They need to show energy from the start and be ready for a Seahawk team who is gritty and battle-tested. The Seahawks have won eight out of nine games on the road this year (including @ San Francisco). It will be tough to stop Russell Wilson and he will single-handedly keep the Seahawks in the game. An interesting side note - Since Rodgers and Wilson have battled against each other, the home team has won each home game in seven contests. That trend will continue.
Green Bay 24
Go Pack Go!