Episode 126 - Week 11 Preview: Packers Face a Tough Road in Seattle

 In one of the last truly solid efforts of the Dom Capers era, the Packers bothered Russell Wilson all day long en route to a Week 1 win in 2017.

In one of the last truly solid efforts of the Dom Capers era, the Packers bothered Russell Wilson all day long en route to a Week 1 win in 2017.

Are there too many cooks in the kitchen on the Packers offense? Could be, and it may be the reason the Packers offense is sluggish so far this year. Plus, why Aaron Rodgers is bored and why you should keep an eye on what Russell Wilson is wearing on his head on Thursday.

Five Things to Think About During Thursday’s Game

1 - You may have heard this, but Russell Wilson is a good quarterback and the Packers will have to play well to keep him in check. Unfortunately, Wilson has been pretty good no matter what opposing defenses throw at him. So far this season, his passer rating is a career-high 110.2, which is excellent. But digging deeper, it looks even better. When facing the blitz, Wilson’s passer rating is a league-leading 129.4. Even when pressure forces him out of the pocket, his rating only drops to 108.7, fifth best in the league.

For comparison, Aaron Rodgers is 10th in the NFL with a rating of 89.1 outside the pocket.

2 - Mike Daniels hasn’t stuffed the stat sheet this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not having an impact. Even though he’s only recorded two sacks, according to ESPN’s pass rush win rate stat, he’s one of the top defensive tackles in the league at beating the man in front of him. He’s winning 35% of his one-on-one matchups, behind only Aaron Donald’s 45%.

3 - We all know Aaron Jones has been great, but you may not have realized exactly how unprecedented his 2018 season has been. He’s produced 494 yards on 73 carries so far this year, and only one Packers player has ever done better on the same amount of carries. Tobin Rote produced 510 yards on his first 73 rushes of the 1951 season, averaging a whopping 6.99 yards per carry.

4 - A Thursday night game between two talented but underachieving squads seems like it could easily hinge on special teams play. If that’s any indication, neither team is doing particularly great but Seattle might have an edge. Football Outsiders ranks Seattle’s special teams 12th in the league based largely on the strength of rookie punter Michael Dickson, a former Australian rules football player with a diverse arsenal of kicking styles.

Fortunately, the Packers may be in line for a little help on special teams this week. Trevor Davis is eligible to play this week after returning from injured reserve. Davis averaged 12 yards per return on 24 punt returns last season. He also was third on the team in special teams tackles last year with five, ahead of players more commonly thought of as special teams aces like Jeff Janis and Kyler Fackrell.

5 - The Packers will wear their all-white “Color Rush” uniforms for the third time on Thursday night. Green Bay is 2-0 in their previous Color Rush games, both against Chicago. In Week 7 of the 2016 season they beat the Bears 26-10 while wearing white at home, then duplicated the feat in Week 4 of the 2017 season with a strong 35-14 win.

Who Could Be an X-Factor This Week?

Josh Jones got his most significant playing time of the season last week against the Dolphins, lining up for 61 snaps on that side of the ball, just under 90%. With the Packers’ safety group taking another hit this week in the form of an injury to Kentrell Brice, Jones may be counted upon to stabilize the position again. Don’t expect to see him roving deep in the secondary, but he could again provide an athletic presence near the line of scrimmage, which would be more than welcome with Russell Wilson roaming about.

What Happened the Last Time the Packers and Seahawks Played?

This is the fifth consecutive regular season in which the Packers have played the Seahawks. Last year, the Packers got their season started with a solid 17-9 win over Seattle.

Aaron Rodgers was solid if not spectacular with 311 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 42 attempts. The lone touchdown was a classic free play seam route to Jordy Nelson, which also happens to be the last touchdown of more than 20 yards Nelson has scored.

Mike Daniels and Nick Perry led a strong defensive effort with 1.5 sacks each as Russell Wilson was held to just 158 passing yards.

Who’s Going to Win?

In a normal week, I think these teams would be pretty close to even. Both teams have played better teams tough and lost in some games and underachieved in others on their way to middling records so far. On your average Sunday afternoon, you could easily see this being any kind of close game, either a high-scoring shootout or a defensive slugfest.

But this isn’t an average Sunday afternoon. This is a Thursday Night Football game where the banged up Packers have to take their weary roster halfway across the country to the Pacific Northwest and play in front of a crowd that is the very definition of hostile. Given how inconsistently the Packers have played this season, this just feels like a situation where they’re bound to come apart at the seams. I’ll take Seattle 31, Green Bay 20 in a game that isn’t as close as it looks on the scoreboard.

One Last Thought

We reported earlier this season that Aaron Rodgers would be forced to change his headgear in 2019 thank to new NFL helmet guidelines. We didn’t know what helmet he’d wear, but now we have an idea what brand he’ll likely choose.

According to Forbes, Rodgers recently invested in Seattle-based helmet manufacturer VICIS as part of a $28.5 million dollar round of investment funding for the company. A line from the article announcing Rodgers’ investment seems to indicate he’ll switch from his traditional Schutt model to the VICIS helmet next year:

"Despite the investment, Rodgers still does not wear the VICIS helmet on the field and doesn’t plan to do so until the 2019 NFL season.”

Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks both already wear VICIS helmets, so keep an eye on their headgear for an idea of the kind of model Rodgers could be sporting next year.