Five things the Green Bay Packers need to do this week to defeat the Seattle Seahawks.
The Packers and Seahawks are set for another playoff classic.
Here is what the Packers have to do if they expect to advance to the NFC Championship:
1. Force Seattle to throw deep
The Seahawks are in all likelihood going to test the Packers’ up-and-down secondary deep a couple of times, specifically Kevin King. Rookie D.K. Metcalf is coming off a huge performance against the Eagles in the wild-card round, and given King’s inconsistent play, Seattle will undoubtedly match their big receiver up with him early and often. But if the Packers can limit their opponent’s ground game on first down, they will force Seattle’s hand.
If Green Bay is playing in more Cover 2 and 3 looks on third-and-longs, they will be able to give King loads of help against Metcalf. Handling Seattle on first down will force them to throw deep out of desperation with safeties in the picture, as opposed to throwing for the jugular.
Jaire Alexander can be trusted a little bit more against Tyler Lockett, but King is a cross-your-fingers guy on every play. If Seattle gets into a third-and-two or three down-and-distances, Metcalf will likely be one-on-one against King, and unless the third-year corner has a banner day, he’ll be beaten all day.
2. Feed Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones ought to get 30 touches against Seattle’s defense. He’s been Green Bay’s best player on either side of the ball all season and should have a good day against Seattle’s 22nd-ranked run defense. Matt LaFleur has virtually no reason to trust that his passing game can be lethal after being so pedestrian all season, so Jones figures to be the guy.
Even assuming the Seahawks will call a myriad of run blitzes on first and second down, the Packers need to be patient and understand that Jones will bust a few big runs and loosen up the offense. The Packers have a clear formula on offense that has worked all season, and it plays right into their opponent’s weakness. For a change, it’s time for the Packers to play with brute force and overpower their opponent on the ground.
3. Utilize Tyler Ervin
The castoff running back has been impressive since joining the Packers at the beginning of December. Tyler Ervin has speed that the rest of the offense doesn’t, and has been a godsend in the punt return game. Green Bay ought to use both Ervin and Aaron Jones at the same time in an effort to out-wiggle and outrun the elite linebackers of the Seahawks.
Ervin should also be involved as a receiver. Swing routes, screens, and wheel routes should all be in play. The Packers have had over a month to get Ervin involved in the offense, and his value should be realized Sunday.
Jamaal Williams will be fresh after not playing in three weeks, but the Packers need to use as much speed for this game as possible. As a returner, runner, and receiver, there’s nothing Ervin can’t excel at against a Seahawks defense that doesn’t have the blazing speed it once did.
4. Go for it on fourth down
The Packers are playing a team that isn’t going to score points in a crazy bunch. Given that reality, Matt LaFleur has got to be fearless on fourth downs in Seattle territory. One school of thought would be to kick field goals against teams that may not be as dangerous offensively, but scoring touchdowns could be something the Seahawks won’t overcome.
Hypothetically, if the Packers were to move on and face the 49ers, taking three points when available may help the Packers stay alive throughout the game and not get blown off the field. Kicking field goals will have the opposite effect against the Seahawks, and keep them equally in the game. Green Bay converted half of their fourth downs this season, and they may have to raise that percentage on Sunday.
5. Use proper defensive personnel
The Packers have linebackers that could be outperformed in an agility drill by an aircraft carrier. Against Russell Wilson, Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson are overmatched in the open field, just as they are against nearly everyone.
Needing to match speed with speed, Darnell Savage and Rashan Gary need to be on the field. Gary clearly still has no idea what he is doing quite yet, but the Seattle offense is not the world’s most advanced schematically.
Gary is the fastest player the Packers have in their front seven, and Savage is among the best athletes on the whole team. Assuming Adrian Amos plays another solid game, as he’s done all year, Savage figures to be the biggest weapon in Green Bay’s secondary.
Savage has a huge task ahead of him Sunday going against a quarterback who can outmaneuver some of the league’s most gifted defenders. Goodson, Ibraheim Campbell, and Kyler Fackrell are not the right players to have in the game this time around.