The Green Bay Packers kick off their season against the World Champion Seattle Seahawks Thursday night in Seattle. This is the season opener many Packers fans wanted when the list of 2014 opponents was released. Well, be careful what you wish for friends! It will be loud. It will be hostile. And it will be a while…before Seattle sees another team as good as the Packers!
The Packers quest to reach this year’s Super Bowl begins with their starting center and nose tackle out with injuries. NT B.J. Raji is on the shelf for the season. He’ll be replaced by journeyman NT Letroy Guion and rookie NT Mike Pennel. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two share time in the middle against the Hawks. At center, J.C. Tretter was designated as on IR / designated to return today. He’ll be replaced by rookie Corey Linsley. Linsley hasn’t exchanged a live in-game snap with QB Aaron Rodgers yet. But we’re talking about the Packers here. You know the drill: Next man up, strap it up, get in there and get after it!
Here are some things we should watch closely in the Seattle game:
Offensive Line- RT Bryan Bulaga will see his first regular-season action in a place he probably wants to forget. His performance against Seattle in the “Fail Mary” game was memorably bad. He’ll have his chance at redemption. And C Linsley will have as much help as LG T.J. Lang and RG Josh Sitton can give him. He’ll be baptized by fire. If he holds up against Seattle lots of folks will breathe just a bit easier. The offensive line play bears close scrutiny in this game. Watch Bulaga and Linsley closely.
Running Backs- RB Eddie Lacy will be called upon early and often. So will fellow RBs James Starks and DuJuan Harris. If the RBs can put a dent in Seattle’s run defense early, and make respectable gains consistently throughout the game, the offensive line will benefit too. Seattle will have to drop an extra man down near the box. Watch for it to happen, and if it does, watch Aaron Rodgers make them pay for it.
Classic Football Axiom of the Week: There is absolutely no offensive lineman anywhere in football who does not like run blocking!
Receivers- Way back before the draft I threw out either WR Jared Abbrederis or WR Jeff Janis as potential Packers picks. They ended up with both of them. A particularly shrewd job of evaluating talent by Ted Thompson and the Packers’ Scouting department! Unfortunately “Abracadabra” went down for the season with a knee injury, but rookie WRs Jeff Janis and Davante Adams, along with rookie TE Richard Rodgers, will all see opportunities to make plays against the excellent Seahawks defensive secondary. Watch for the Packers receivers to work seams and the make plays in the middle of the field.
Defensive Line- The combination of Guion and Pennel probably won’t equal the stout point-of-attack defense of a B.J. Raji, but with the new look, more athletic ends and experienced inside linebackers the Packers will just have to make it work. When a DL gets his hands on a ball carrier like Marshawn Lynch he’ll have to make the play. No beast mode please! Watch the run defense in the middle of the defense.
Linebackers- With Clay Matthews healthy and the addition of Julius Peppers, the Packers have potential to do damage in the pass rush department early and often. Shucks…I just like that Peppers won’t be chasing Packers QBs anymore! All of the linebackers will need to make tackles and cover well in space. The Packers have the talent in their deep and varied LB group. It’s now time to put it out there and make plays. Watch the LBs tackling and pass rush / contain of Seattle QB Russell Wilson.
Defensive Secondary- CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are veteran cover guys who can and must do their jobs cleanly with minimal mistakes. Helping out will be CBs Casey Hayward and Davon House, both of whom are potential starters on many other teams. The Packers are in good shape in the secondary. But they’ll have to tackle and make plays when they get their hands on potential picks. As far as the safeties are concerned they’ll absolutely have to make sure tackles and be assignment-sure. Watch the DBs in run support and their use of hands on the Seattle receivers.
Special Teams- K Mason Crosby didn’t exactly light things up in the pre-season. He had no camp competition for the first time in a long while. Crosby needs to be the consistently accurate kicker he has been for the majority of his time in Green Bay and not the train wreck he was in 2012. That’s the problem with kickers. You never know for certain what you’re going to get. Punting is not an area of concern as long as P Tim Masthay stays consistently good to excellent. The designated return men are WR Randall Cobb for kickoffs and versatile DB Micah Hyde for punts. I’d feel better if the Packers could find a return man who wasn’t so important to the offense (as in Cobb) or the defense (as in Hyde). Oh well. Maybe next year. Watch to see how well the return men field kicks.
DISCLAIMER: The writer assumes no responsibility and claims no expertise in the area of predicting random occurrences during sporting contests. If something accidentally occurs that the writer predicted, it is entirely coincidental and not the fault of, nor can credit be attributed to, the writer. Blah-blah-legalese-blah.
QB Aaron Rodgers will throw for over 250 yards and three TDs with no picks.
RB Eddie Lacy will not rush for over 100 yards, but between Lacy and RBs Starks and Harris the Packers will amass 150 yards rushing.
WR Jordy Nelson will catch one TD pass. WR Jeff Janis will snag another.
LBs Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers will each notch their first sacks of the 2014 campaign.
LB A.J. Hawk will lead the team in tackles.
CB Tramon Williams will catch one pick and drop another.
The Packers defense will hold Seattle under 100 total yards rushing.
The Packers will make a big special teams play against Seattle. A long kickoff or punt return or a block. Pick ‘em.
The NBC broadcast team will butcher at least one Packer player’s name.
The NBC broadcast team will isolate Julius Peppers on every single Packers defensive play.
NBC color commentator Chris Collinsworth will…well let’s just say I might turn the TV sound down and listen to the WTMJ feed on satellite radio so I can hear Wayne and Larry instead!
The PICK: Packers 35 Seattle 31 The Packers will be too much for Seattle in the season opener. Let’s face it: Both of these offenses can overwhelm the defenses. But expect a rematch come the Playoffs!
So that’s my look at the Packers season opener. I’ll do a preview of each Packers game this season leading up to what many believe will be a victory in Super Bowl XLIX. Believe!
Nobody covers the Packers like the staff at LombardiAve.com. Go Pack GO!