By John Boyle Herald Writer
The Packers lead the regular-season series 8-6, including four of the last six, but the Seahawks own the most recent victory (though Packers fans might not agree), a 14-12 win in 2012. Seattle has won three of five matchups at home, including two of three at CenturyLink Field.
Packers RB Eddie Lacy vs. Seattle’s front seven.
As much as the Packers are known for their passing game, led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers, stopping the ground game will be key for the Seahawks.
“First thing’s first, we’ve got to stop the run,” said linebacker K.J. Wright. “Eddie Lacy is a big guy, he runs people over, breaks tackles left and right, so I believe we’ve got to stop him first. If we don’t stop him, they’ll just have their way with us.”
With Rodgers sidelined by injury for the second half of last season, the Packers had to lean on Lacy, and the rookie produced, finishing the year with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. And it won’t exactly be easy for a defense to open the season with a back as physical as the former Alabama standout.
“It’s a great test to play against a 240-pound running back,” defensive end Michael Bennett said. “You obviously get to see what the tackling’s going to be like. A key point will be how many missed tackles there are going to be. If we don’t have a lot of missed tackles, it’ll be a great game.”
If the Packers can get Lacy going and create favorable down-and-distance situations, even Seattle’s vaunted secondary will be vulnerable to the passing game. If, however, Seattle can bottle up Lacy and create third-and-long scenarios, no quarterback, not even Rodgers, will have success against the “Legion of Boom” and the din of CenturyLink Field.
18.3: Seattle’s margin of victory in seven primetime regular season games at CenturyLink Field under Carroll. The Seahawks are 7-0 under Carroll in such games, and all have been double-digit victories with the exception of the 2012 14-12 victory over Green Bay.
Seahawks — TE Cooper Helfet (knee), RB Christine Michael (hamstring), G Lemuel Jeanpierre (neck), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (hamstring) and CB Tharold Simon (knee) have all been ruled out. The Seahawks got better news on WR Kevin Norwood (ankle), CB Jeremy Lane (groin) and LB Bruce Irvin (hip) who are all probable.
Packers — Nose tackle B.J. Raji suffered a season-ending torn biceps in the preseason, a big blow to Green Bay’s defense. On the other side of the ball, there is concern in the middle as well, as center J.C. Tretter has been ruled out with a knee injury, meaning rookie Corey Linsley will make his NFL debut in a hostile environment. Also out are TE Brandon Bostick (fibula) and CB Demitri Goodson (concussion).
BREAK IT DOWN
Seahawks will win if they …
>> Feed off the crowd. CenturyLink Field will be rocking Thursday night, and if the Seahawks can feed off of that energy and start quick, things could spiral out of control quickly for the Packers. Seattle doesn’t need a quick start to win — see last year’s NFC Championship game—but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
>> Establish run early. Seattle’s passing offense looks like it will be explosive, but it all starts with the threat of Marshawn Lynch. If Lynch can start the game with a few good runs, say of the 7-to-8 yard variety, it will force the Packers to dedicate more resources to the run game. That, in turn, should open things up in the passing game.
>> Handle Green Bay’s pace. The Packers are expected to go hurry-up on offense, which the Seahawks say won’t be a big deal. One concern, however, could be that the Seahawks like to rotate defensive linemen with a pretty high frequency. The Packers going no-huddle would obviously limit those chances to sub out linemen.
Packers will win if they …
>> Win the turnover battle. Beating the Seahawks at home is hard enough without making mistakes. Doing it if you give them the ball is darn near impossible (though somehow the Cardinals did it last season). If Aaron Rodgers and company are careless with the football, it could get ugly in a hurry.
>> Contain Percy Harvin. The Packers are very familiar with Harvin having played him twice a year when he was with the Vikings, but they don’t have a ton of tape on how the Seahawks will use him thanks to last year’s injuries. Losing track of Harvin even once could be a mistake that costs the Packers six points.
>> Help rookie center Corey Linsley. Thanks to an injury to starter J.C. Tretter, Linsley will be making his NFL debut in the league’s loudest stadium while also lining up against veteran DT Brandon Mebane, one of the game’s most underrated defensive linemen. Linebacker Bruce Irvin joked he would be praying for Linsley because of that matchup with Mebane, but rather than pray, the Packers should look for ways to give the rookie blocking help in the middle.
PICK: Seahawks 27, Packers 20
Green Bay seemingly is too talented to let this game get out of hand, but there’s no way the Seahawks are losing at home on the night they hang a banner.