It’s finally here! After what seems like an eternity NFL football is back, and the Packers have the honor of facing the defending Super Bowl Champions on their home turf to start the season.
While there has been a lot of focus on the “Fail Mary” game of 2012 leading up to this game, this bout between Super Bowl contenders has many other intriguing storylines.
Here are a few of the things I will be keying in on during tonight’s game.
Corey Linsley and the Packers Offensive Line
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin gave the Packers and their young offensive lineman some bulletin board material when he said he was “going to pray” for Linsley, the Packers rookie center. But he really didn’t say anything that most Packer fans weren’t already thinking. Playing at the incredibly loud Century Link Field is a challenge for even the most experienced NFL center, but for a rookie playing in his first regular season game in the NFL, it will be a incredibly daunting task.
And it’s not just Linsley who will be challenged, the last time the Packers played in Seattle they gave up 8 sacks, and right tackle Bryan Bulaga had the worst game of his career, giving up 2 sacks and 8 quarterback hurries. The Packers offensive line will need to do a better job of protecting Aaron Rodgers if they hope to have a chance at leaving Seattle with a victory.
What might help the Packers slow down the Seahawks relentless pass rush is their newly utilized running game. When they last played in Seattle in 2012, the Packers starting running back was Cedric Benson who had been out of work before signing with the Packers less than a month before the season began. But with Eddie Lacey leading the Packers rejuvenated rushing attack, Seattle will have something to think about rather than just being able to pin their ears back and attack Rodgers.
The Packers Defensive Front
Even with the loss of BJ Raji, the Packers defensive front should still be vastly improved. Mike Daniels is poised for a breakout season, Julius Peppers adds another pass rushing threat at outside linebacker, and Datone Jones will be expected to take a big step forward his sophomore season, and if Clay Matthews is healthy for 16 games, the Packers should easily surpass the 44 sacks they put up last year.
But sacks won’t be the key to stopping Seattle’s offense. What will be more important for the Packers defense, and something they have struggled with for some time, will be containing a mobile quarterback. In 2013 Russell Wilson ran for 539 Yards, 3rd most among all quarterbacks, and his ability to not only run the ball, but also make accurate throws while on the run when a play breaks down is what makes Wilson so dangerous.
Between Wilson’s ability to make big plays on the ground and in the air, the power running of Marshawn Lynch, and the verisitily of a healthy Percy Harvin, the Packers revamped defensive front will have their hands full on opening night.
The Seahawks Secondary
Richard Sherman and the Seahawks secondary are known for their physicality, but with the NFL’s new emphasis on defensive holding and pass interference, it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks are able to get away with the same type of physical coverage and downfield contact with receivers that they are so well known for.
You may not like Sherman on a personal level, but there is no denying that he is one of the most talented defensive backs playing in the NFL today. Last season, quarterbacks throwing at Sherman had a quarterback rating of just 36.2, the lowest in the NFL by 17 points. Compare that to the Packers best cornerback, Sam Shields, who allowed a quarterback rating of 72.7 to opposing quarterbacks.
But it’s not just Sherman the Packers need to be wary of. Hard Hitting Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are both Pro Bowlers who have 22 interceptions between them.
The Packers should have one of the most proficient passing games in the NFL this season, but the Seahawks are one of the few teams capable of holding them in check.——————