Packers vs. Seahawks: Initial thoughts on divisional-round game

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers are set up for another clash with the Seattle Seahawks in the postseason next Sunday.

Here’s a taste of what Packer fans should expect:

The 13-3 Packers are four-point favorites early in the week leading up to their divisional round do-or-die date with the hawks of the sea. The Seahawks are coming off a so-so wild-card win against the Carson Wentz-less Eagles in Philadelphia. With two weeks off and a team largely reliant on Russell Wilson on the other side, the Packers are justifiably favored.

The Packers have also had tremendous success against the Seahawks in recent memory. After the 2014 NFC Championship debacle, the Packers will now have seen them in five straight seasons, with Green Bay winning three of the previous four matchups. Green Bay has also beaten Seattle at home eight straight times. Many memorable, thrilling finishes have been witnessed between these two NFC powerhouses and next Sunday might be no different.

Seahawk fans want to jump into the Puget Sound when reminded of Matt Hasselbeck‘s guarantee during the 2003 wild-card playoff game in Lambeau Field that Al Harris won for the Packers in overtime.

Packer fans meanwhile bury their faces in a cheese grater when shown virtually any of the mind-numbing blunders committed in the 2014 title game, as well as M.D. Jennings‘ game-winning touchdown catch from Russell Wilson during the 2012 season.

But in this game, both teams are very different. The Packers are being led by a rookie head coach who the team has clearly responded to, and a defense that is by no means intimidating but has the capability of putting together a good enough performance to get the job done. The Seahawks are beginning to see the true capabilities of rookie D.K. Metcalf alongside established veteran Tyler Lockett.

The Packers will have to wait to find out if veterans Mike Iupati and Duane Brown will be healthy enough to play for their opponent’s offensive line, but even with a fully healthy group, the Packers ought to get considerable pressure with their two outside linebackers.

The question will be, can the Packers contain Russell Wilson after forcing him off the spot? It has been well documented that the Packers have about as much athleticism at the linebacker position as a snail wearing his shell as a helmet, so Mike Pettine will have to adjust to a mobile quarterback.

Darnell Savage figures to be the player the Packers will have to feature in this game. Blake Martinez wouldn’t catch up to Peyton Manning, so we can rest assured he won’t run stride for stride with Wilson.

Adrian Amos will have to play closer to the line of scrimmage against a top-five rushing offense, but Savage is the best athlete in the secondary. He ran 4.36 in college and can close down well on receivers and running backs. Actually making the tackle has been a problem for him in his rookie year, but the ability to handle Wilson in the open field is there.

Using one safety to essentially follow Wilson’s every move, Jaire Alexander and Kevin King will have added pressure on them to win their one-on-one matchups with Lockett and Metcalf. B.J. Goodson will also likely be active and on the field on first down in an effort to slow down Marshawn Lynch, who showed some real life against the Eagles.

Offensively, the Packers probably caught a break that they didn’t end up facing the Eagles. Philadelphia’s rush defense was third-best in the league during the regular season, compared to Seattle’s 22nd-best. Incredibly, Green Bay has proven to be better running the ball than throwing it all year, and the game plan against Seattle might not be any different.

But just two games from the Super Bowl, it is clear that Aaron Rodgers will have to be substantially better than he was against the Lions in Week 17, and all season. While Green Bay’s receivers are painfully bad outside of Davante Adams, Rodgers simply has to look more like himself if the Packers are going to beat Seattle, and stand any chance in hell of beating a better team in the NFC Championship Game.