Week 1: Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks
Of any game that could have been chosen to start off the Packers’ season this was probably the best, as well as possibly the toughest contest they will face all year.
The reasons go on for days:
- Facing the defending Super Bowl champs. On the road. In one of the loudest and toughest venues to play in for opposing teams
- Returning to the site of the ‘Fail Mary’ game in 2012, which stole what could’ve been a crucial game in a crowded NFC playoff picture
- First game of the year, which means fatigue could and most likely will play a major factor for everyone
- Corey Linsley, a rookie center, is getting the start against a team known for their defense and crowd noise
- An offensive line as a whole that, while improving over the past few years, is still suspect and facing a strong defensive attack
- A very inexperienced, thin and vastly different defensive line rotation from last season
- A defense as a whole that is coming off a mid-20s-ranked season, one that especially wore down against the run, facing a team that builds everything on offense off of Marshawn Lynch bulldozing his way down the field
- Also a defense that has had a hell of a time containing QBs who can scramble (Russell Wilson miiiiiight just qualify as such)
- The ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary, which has the skills to at least hamper the passing game and force turnovers
Those are just a few key reasons why this will be a rough encounter..but despite all the potential negatives, these Packers do have some positives to look forward to.
As much as the ‘Fail Mary’ may still sting, the fact that the Packers were in that game is commendable; they allowed 8 first-half sacks and generally couldn’t make much of anything happen with a one-dimensional offense, but still were set to win had the replacement referees made the right call. That game has no bearing on this one of course, but the fact that the Packers have found balance with the emergence of Eddie Lacy since then could tilt the scales more in favor of Green Bay on the offensive end. Add in expected improvement by players on the offensive and defensive lines, plus having improved the biggest weakness going into the offseason (safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was drafted, Micah Hyde converted from CB to S, Sean Richardson and Morgan Burnett fully healthy after injury issues last year. Replaced ineffective/awful M.D. Jennings and Jeron McMillan, who were consistently abused by QBs and played huge roles in Green Bay safeties not catching a single INT), and it could be seen that Green Bay should have a legitimate shot at giving Russell Wilson his 2nd home loss of his career.
Green Bay’s D seem poised to try and prove themselves better at run-stopping, but success won’t be seen quite yet; Lynch will most likely reach 100 yards, and Wilson will probably get one signature run. I do think the Packers’ pass defense will step up and garner a pick from one of the talented secondary players at their disposal; Shields, Williams, Hayward, Hyde…take your pick, they all are good choices.
On offense for Green Bay I’d expect an early turnover while the team adjusts to the noise and rookie center, but afterwards everyone settles down and Lacy gets the running game going. With the running game keeping Seattle honest, it will allow more time for Aaron Rodgers to let plays develop and find Nelson and Cobb underneath and all around the secondary. You should keep your eyes on Nelson all game; he is someone who has stated and shown many times that he likes competing against tight coverage (sure to see that from Seattle), and with the expected emphasis on pass interference-type fouls it could make it even easier for him to contribute even when he isn’t catching passes.
At the end of the day this game can and should go right down to the end, and may well be decided by who has the ball last. Looking at the way the Packers are built now, at least offensively, they match up well enough to get the win in hostile territory over the defending champs; defensively is where the question will fall. Seeing as Seattle isn’t really an explosive team (a lot due to their run-based offense; they do have explosive players in Wilson and Percy Harvin), as long as Green Bay can somewhat hamper the run game and prevent Russell Wilson from getting free for deep passes they can control this game. My prediction is that they find a way to do enough and start the season with a win over the defending champs. ‘Fail Mary’ avenged!
Green Bay 23