Early Bird Breakdown Week 2: Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers
Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown! Before diving into the matchups, let’s recap last week’s game:
While Chicago was able to control the clock for the most part, Green Bay offensively put up an efficient performance in which Aaron Rodgers only had five incompletions. Eddie Lacy ran well, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and the offensive line lived up to the billing as a top 5 offensive line, keeping Rodgers upright and giving up no sacks. The surprising star of the game though was James Jones, who Rodgers looked to early and often in the red zone, throwing two touchdowns to him and looked towards him for a third that did not materialize.
Typically the last few seasons Green Bay’s defense has started the season poorly and last week was no exception, as Matt Forte despite being behind a poor offensive line was able to run for 141 yards. With Sam Barrington out with an injury, the Packers defense appeared to take a step back but did enough to keep Chicago behind thanks to a timely interception by Clay Matthews. The Packers gave up a touchdown in the garbage minutes and ultimately won 31-23.
Packers’ Offense vs. Seahawks’ Defense:
The classic immovable object (Seahawks’ defense) vs the unstoppable force (Packers’ offense) matchup. Cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, and linebacker Bobby Wagner are all All-Pro caliber players, with defensive end Michael Bennett and Brandon Mebane at Pro-Bowl caliber and multiple other talented players Seattle boasts a, “who’s who,” of the league’s best defensive players. Missing from that list of All-Pro caliber players is strong safety Kam Chancellor, who is in the midst of a contract holdout and will not be playing Sunday at the Packers gives Green Bay a boost. While Wagner, Sherman, and Thomas are all more talented, Kam Chancellor is the vocal leader of the defense as well as the tone setter with his physicality. Michael Bennett has said that Seattle really misses his presence, and it showed on the field last week as the Seahawks were torched for 34 points against the division rival Rams and that offense does not have the level of talent of Green Bay.
Seattle is not the only team missing a key piece Sunday, and I am not referring to Jordy Nelson. Bryan Bulaga, the right tackle, went down this week in practice, and while initial tests looked fine, a second test revealed a torn MCL and he will be out 6-8 weeks. This is a big blow, as the Packers offensive line was one of it’s biggest strengths, though unlike last year when Bulaga got hurt during the Seahawks game (week 1, not the playoff game) Don Barclay is healthy to step in so the drop off while large will not be as bad as that game.
Having said that, Green Bay has some advantages, the biggest of which is they finally get the chance to host Seattle. While Seattle’s home field is often referenced, specifically their, “12th man,” fans, Green Bay has one of the best home fields in the league. Case in point, Aaron Rodgers has not thrown an interception since 2012. Green Bay scored 17 more touchdowns last season at home than on the road. And while Seattle is talented in the secondary, while Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are better than Cobb plus whoever you want to slot at two between James Jones and Devante Adams, Green Bay runs deeper than Seattle’s corners and can create mismatches in the slot. Not to mention Sherman is a stationary corner – he always lines up in the same spot and you could put the third or fourth receiver there to create mismatches elsewhere to minimize his impact.
To take pressure off of Rodgers, the Packers should go early and often to Eddie Lacy, though that is easier said than done as he only had 110 total rushing yards in the two games combined against Seattle last season. But Seattle has lost their defensive line depth due to salary cap issues and will not be able to bring in fresh bodies to clog the run, and the Packers offensive line has the talent to create push for Lacy so they should be able to run the ball, especially without Chancellor. I’m not saying he will get 100 yards, but 80 yards and 4 yards a carry should be obtainable and that balance will be needed to beat the reigning NFC champions.
Packers’ Defense vs. Seahawks’ Offense
This is what the game will ultimately come down to, Rodgers can only do so much against the league’s best defense missing his number one wide receiver and his left tackle, so the defense will need to be much tougher against a significantly better opponent this week than they were against the Bears last week.
The only good news for Green Bay is they are significantly better at corner than Seattle is at wide receiver. Green Bay’s third best corner in Damarious Randall is better than any wide receiver Seattle boasts. Seattle also had a suspect offensive line to begin with and they traded their center away in a trade that brought back Jimmy Graham, and I’ll get to him in a moment. Green Bay should be able to get to quarterback Russell Wilson, but they will have to hold containment and not let him run away and convert first downs with his feet.
That actually might be the entire key to the game. Routinely coordinator Dom Capers’ Packers defenses have fallen apart to scrambling quarterbacks and Wilson is no exception. The reason is that the non-Clay Matthews rushers tend to be too undisciplined to stay level with Wilson which let’s him escape. Basically, normally when facing say a Tom Brady or any other non-running quarterback, the defender can continue past the quarterback and round back as part of his pass rush to sack the quarterback, it gives them more room to break free from the blocker for the sack. Against a quarterback like Wilson, the second they are parallel to Wilson they must stop and hold their lateral position, only moving straight towards the quarterback but not further behind Wilson’s back, doing so leaves room for Wilson to slip through and convert a first down with his legs. If Green Bay plays disciplined football, they will minimize mistakes and keep themselves in it, but this alone will not get their defense past Seattle.
Seattle’s most dangerous weapon is running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and he will be looking to damage this Packers’ defense that is missing middle line backer Sam Barrington, who left the Chicago game with an ankle injury and is now out for the year. Last year against the Seahawks, Barrington went down before Lynch took over the game, when he went down Lynch went off and Green Bay will be looking to linebacker Clay Matthews almost exclusively to carry the load to stop him. Matthews will have to have one of best impact games of his career to contain Lynch on first and second down to help the Packers’ defense stop Seattle, and even if they contain Wilson, slow down Lynch, they still have one more problem to worry about.
This offseason, Seattle traded for one of the most dynamic tight ends in the game in Jimmy Graham, and Green Bay historically has had about as much success covering dynamic tight ends as it does stopping the run, which is to say not much success. Graham is the kind of weapon everyone wants and no one has, he is 6’7”, 265 lbs, and is too fast for a linebacker to cover. However, normally this would be more of a problem, and while it still is Green Bay can afford to bracket cover Graham thanks to their depth in the secondary and the lack of weapons for Seattle on the outside. Of the three major issues, this is probably next to playing fundamentally sound against Wilson the easiest to fix with a solid gameplan to keep a safety and a linebacker/nickel corner on him at all times.
A perfect high fifties, low sixties game that will be a little cool but no wind or percipatation in the forecast.
Seattle’s offense matches well against the Packers defense, the Packers only strength being a better secondary then their receivers and Seattle’s line being a wash with Green Bay’s front seven. On paper, fully stocked Seattle is probably better and probably wins this game in Seattle. However, Green Bay is a juggernaut offensively in Lambeau. Couple that with no Kam Chancellor to set the tone and rally the Seahawks defense, Green Bay should be able to put up points. Last week St. Louis scored 34 points, and Green Bay is better on offense and led by a significantly better quarterback who is looking to stick it to a team that should have lost in the NFC championship if not for a special teams blunder. Keeping the ball away from Richard Sherman and efficiently throwing short passes away from Earl Thomas will give Rodgers momentum to keep Seattle behind. Green Bay wins 34-27.
If you have a strong backup to challenge this week Rodgers’ start since he is playing the Seahawks, I wouldn’t worry because they are in Lambeau.
One Packers wide receiver will have a big game, but it is too hard to guess who. Last season McCarthy tried both to move Nelson around and away from Sherman and another game put Nelson on Sherman anyway. It is too tough to know how McCarthy wants to line his receivers up this week and if they are going to be matched with Sherman. If it is like last week, Adams will be lined up on Sherman, and I would expect Cobb and Jones to have big games. If they put either of them on the outside, Adams could explode. So all of the Packers receivers have a bit of a risk this week.
Eddie Lacy will be featured enough both receiving and running he should scrounge up at least 10 points of standard scoring.
Marshawn Lynch probably looks forward to this game as he has dominated in these matchups. Jimmy Graham is the only other Seahawk I would start.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University