How the Green Bay Packers’ pass defense matches up with the Seattle Seahawks’ passing offense will be key to Sunday’s game.
Stopping the Seahawks’ passing game will be priority number one for Mike Pettine’s defense in Sunday’s divisional-round game. It’ll be one of the matchups to watch.
It starts with Russell Wilson.
Wilson could be number two in the MVP race behind Lamar Jackson, but he’s been the best quarterback in the NFC this season. He finished the regular season having thrown for 4,110 yards and 31 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also rushed for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Green Bay’s pass rush will need to generate consistent pressure throughout the game, but that’s only half of the problem. Wilson’s ability to escape sacks, extend plays and make ridiculous throws on the move makes him tough to defend. The Packers have struggled to stop him in the past, and both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith will need to be at their best to prevent Wilson from taking over the game.
Alexander and King vs. Lockett and Metcalf
The Seahawks have plenty of receiving talent, too.
It’ll be a battle between Packers corners Jaire Alexander and Kevin King up against Seahawks receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. It’ll be interesting to see how Pettine plans to use the two cornerbacks, but my guess would be Alexander covering Lockett and King on Metcalf.
King (6-foot-3) can match Metcalf’s height (6-foot-4) better than Alexander. Alexander (4.38 40-yard dash) has the speed to match Lockett (4.4 seconds).
A potential mismatch could be Metcalf’s speed up against King. Metcalf is an excellent deep threat and ran a 4.33 40 at the combine.
Lockett and Metcalf combined for 1,957 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. Alexander and King combined for 32 passes defended. Alexander tied for fourth in the NFL, King ninth. They also combined for seven interceptions, with King making five of them.
Packers pass rush vs. Seahawks offensive line
The Smith Bros. were the best pass-rush tandem in the NFL in 2019, combining for 25.5 sacks. They also combined for 60 quarterback hits, with Za’Darius Smith tying for a league-best 37.
Russell Wilson was sacked a league-high 48 times. Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle’s offensive line 27th in the NFL after the regular season. This is a matchup the Packers’ edge rushers have to win.
But it’s not just on the Smith Bros. When Wilson scrambles and looks to buy time, other defenders will need to react quickly to make a play. The Packers can’t give Wilson time to move around outside of the pocket or run. Up against a talented receiving corps, the coverage can only hold up for so long.
The return of Raven Greene?
Safety Raven Greene hasn’t played since Week 2, but he is set to return this week after being designated to return from injured reserve. It remains to be seen how many snaps he’ll play, but his return should help the pass defense in the middle of the field.
He could key in a matchup with Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister, who has been impressive in the second half of the season.
Hollister played 11 games in the regular season, finishing with 349 yards and three touchdowns. He took on a bigger role in Seattle’s offense after Will Dissly suffered a season-ending injury.
Wilson has been playing at an MVP level in 2019, and with injuries to Carson and Penny hurting their ground game, a key matchup for the Packers will be stopping the pass. If they can do so, it’ll go a long way to punching a ticket to the NFC Championship Game.