Week 1 Green Bay at Seattle Preview:
“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who tried to climb it fail-never get to try it again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the Gods, or love. Illusions! Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
If you’re a Game of Thrones junkie, you’ll recognize this quote. If you’re not, you may have chalked this up to a hyperbolic entry out of Golden Tate’s diary dated September 24, 2012. That date of course brings about a giddy and shameful grin to the face of even the most hardened members of the 12th man — and a scowl and indignant glare from even the kindest of Wisconsinites.
The date of course is significant, the day of Seattle’s own Immaculate Reception — a play embedded in NFL lore for turning a perennial loser in the Pittsburgh Steelers into one of the greatest dynasties the league has ever seen. The “Fail Mary,” as it’s affectionately known amongst Cheese Heads, appears to have had the same effect on the Seahawks.
You have to imagine Green Bay has spent the better part of the last two years seething beneath the continued blanket of frustrations that have seemingly plagued the team since the replacement refs made Pete Carroll the happiest man on Earth.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN:
The Seahawks will not be sluggish out of the gate
If the preseason is any indication, it seems that the combination of general manager John Schneider, aforementioned head coach Pete Carroll and an assortment of returning stars have found the cure for the Superbowl hangover. The Seahawks have dominated the exhibition season, showing no signs of the the hangover that that has inhibited Super Bowl Champions from winning a playoff game in the year following their victory since the 2004 Patriots win one in 2005.
Eddie Lacy will rush for 100 yards
This is not the same Seattle team, defense, or Legion of Boom that spit in the face of the new age, pass-happy NFL last season. Gone are defensive starters Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, rotational defensive tackle Clint McDonald, Brandon Browner, and nickel corner Walter Thurmond. All totaled that’s 141 tackles (14 percent of team total), 12.5 sacks (28 percent), 12 tackles for a loss (31 percent), 21 passes defended (25 percent), four interceptions (14 percent), two forced fumbles (10 percent), two recoveries (18 percent), and one defensive touchdown (25 percent).
Expect a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy toward a “softened” Seattle defensive line. It should come as no surprise that Lacy was actually better when Aaron Rodgers was in the game than when he was out: in the seven games that Lacy shared the backfield with Rodgers, he averaged 18 carries a game good for 652 yards, a YPC of 4.5, a YPG of 81.5, and 5 TDs. In the seven games Rodgers missed with a broken collar bone, Lacy toted the rock 19.9 times a game, picking up 526 yards translating to a YPC of 3.8, a YPG of 75.1 and 6 TDs. Seattle will be forced to respect the pass and unable to load the box, meaning the running lanes will be there for Lacy at some point during the game assuming he gets about 18 carries, it’s not at all unrealistic to expect a Benjamin Franklin out of the second-year running back.
Aaron Rodgers will approach 300 yards passing
A mended Aaron Rodgers will try and pick on new perimeter corner Byron Maxwell and nickel corner Jeremy Lane. Maxwell is in the mold of a what the Seahawks have had on the edge in that he stands over 6’ and a possesses a frame over 200 lbs with speed in the 4.4’s. Lane is as fast, if not faster, and only slightly smaller, weighing in at 6’0” and 190 lbs.
Randall Cobb will be the x-factor in this matchup as he is a chess piece that Green Bay can move in and out of the slot. The one type of receiver that tends to give the likes of Richard Sherman trouble are smaller, speedier receivers (T.Y. Hilton, Roddy White) that are quicker out of their breaks and more agile than the towering targets Sherman can use his size to dominate (see: Superbowl).
Marshawn Lynch will break 100 yards
Going the other way, Marshawn Lynch should likewise see a heavy workload against a retooled Packers front seven who returns Clay Matthews and introduces an aging Julius Peppers in a hybrid linebacker/end rushing role. The Packers are already without B.J. Raji for the season. Their defensive line is significantly slimmer than it’s been in year’s past, a move designed to try and get more pressure on the QB from the front three. It may prove difficult to matchup against a power offensive line like Seattle’s with less girth up front, something that is almost a necessity for the 3-4 scheme to operate correctly. I fully expect beast mode to capitalize and eat up chunks of yards in the middle of the field.
WHAT WON’T HAPPEN:
Neither team will crack 30 points
With both running games being successful in this one, expect the game clock to be winding down and stopping less more than it would in a game filled with passing and stoppage for incompletions. Ironically enough, both teams finished scoring 26.1 points per game last season, tying for the eighth-best rate in the league. Despite both teams adjusting to new personnel on defense both still have enough talent to avoid a meltdown.
Bruce Irvin’s prayers won’t be answered
Seattle’s pass rush specialist said he’d pray for Green Bay’s rookie center Corey Linsley, a fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft, who is set to make his first career start in the loudest stadium in the NFL. Talk about baptism by fire. The Buckeye should have enough trouble with relaying information to his line mates and receiving commands from his QB due to the level of noise he will encounter, let alone the defensive looks and players he’ll line up against. Still the talent behind him may help hide some of the mistakes he makes, what with Rodger’s talent reading defense, his quick release, and mobility and Eddie Lacy’s ability to shed tackles all over the field — but, hey, no pressure rook.
QB: Rodgers. I love me some Russell Wilson in this one, particularly after seeing what running QB’s like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick have done in the past to Green Bay defense. Still, I roll with a motivated Rodgers in this one.
HB: Lacy. I think though Lynch may gain more yards, Lacy’s added benefit out of the backfield makes slightly more valuable.
WR/TE: Green Bay. Outside of Percy Harvin, no one on Seattle scares me the way Randall Cobb does if he’s healthy. Add in the added veteran savvy of Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin, and I’ll take my chances with Green Bay’s corps. Tight end between Richard Rodgers and Zach Miller pretty much goes to the player with the better quarterback throwing him the ball and that is Rodgers and Rodgers.
OL: In this this game, I like Seattle’s front five. They’re not the most talented group but their mauling style should provide a mismatch to Green Bay’s slightly undersized offensive line.
DL: Seattle. Although they lost a lot, there are still established players in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett who will make their presence known on a game-in, game-out basis.
LB: Seattle. The speed and athleticism of Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith make this one easier than most would make it. For Green Bay, Clay Matthews missed almost all of last year and Julius Peppers looks like a round peg in square hole to me in the 3-4 OLB position, a spot that requires a lot of dropping into coverage, something Peppers hasn’t done a lot of in his career.
DB: Easily Seattle. Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor by themselves make up the best trio of defensive backs in the world. The rest will fall into place but not without their growing pains. Green Bay has solid players in Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett and a promising prospect in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who has yet to break into the starting spot.
ST: Give me Hauschka and Harvin for $500. The former is coming of a season where he hit 33 of 35 field goals and all 45 of his PAT’s. Harvin missed a lot of time due to injury but he is slightly more explosive than Randall Cobb for Green Bay. Mason Crosby has shown wilds bouts of inconsistency before, missing nine kicks in 2009 and eleven in 2012 before rebounding to connect on 33 of 37 in 2014.
Verdict: Seahawks 27, Packers 20. I’ve see-sawed these scores a couple times but the more I look at it the more I like going Seattle in this one. I think Lacy outdoes Lynch in this one, and Rodgers makes the Seahawks bite on a play fake in the 4th, but Russell Wilson should be able to use the balance of his legs plus decent receivers to drive down field to win this game late. This time there will be no fluke.
Tim Mullhaupt (@TimakaHines) is the editor of The Buckets Blog and a senior broadcast and mass communications major at SUNY Oswego. He has previously worked for SB Nation, WFAN and the NYCBL.