So It Begins - Week 1 Preview
It has been 242 days since the Packers played a football game, and I know I've felt every excruciating minute.
What better way to wake up to the start of the NFL season, then, than with a trip to Seattle for a date with the Seahawks?
A football blog I used to read had a tradition. Every year, until someone beat the defending Super Bowl champion, that team would be number one in their power rankings.
It didn't matter how well or poorly the team played or how many games they narrowly squeaked out. Until someone knocked out the champs, they were number one.
They will always be the obstacle in the Packers' way as they try to get to another Super Bowl, and until they're dealt with thoroughly and decisively, they'll retain the right to swagger like the guy who knows he can take everybody else in a fight.
5 - Crazy good defensive backs on the Seahawks roster. - They've earned every bit of their self-given nickname "Legion of Boom." Perhaps you've heard of Richard Sherman? Yep, he's good, but running mates Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are All-Pros, too. Byron Maxwell is no slouch at corner opposite Sherman, and despite his aforementioned comments (see link filed under "braggadocious"), Jeremy Lane is a pretty good nickel corner too. The secondary is good stuff in Seattle.
4 - Returning members of the Seahawks top five pass catchers - Yes, they've lost Golden Tate, but they return, in order, Doug Baldwin, Marshawn Lynch, Zach, Miller, and Jermaine Kearse. Sure, they're far from prolific, but Seattle at least has some consistency among their top guys. Oh, and they get Percy Harvin back this year. You may have heard of him.
3 - Number sported by Russell Wilson, who could be primed for an All-Pro season. - Yep, I said it. Russell Wilson could be one of the best two or three quarterbacks in the game this year, but perhaps not entirely due to his own talents, prodigious though they may be. Wilson plays in a run-heavy offense and is a careful enough passer that he'll likely put up efficiency numbers that rival some of the top performers in the league, whether or not he actually has to expend much effort or not. He also is one of the most talented young passers in the league. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best passer in the preseason, and before you scoff and say "well that was the preseason" know that it wasn't even close. PFF's metric had him ranked 10 points higher than the next guy who's going to be starting in Week 1, and that guy was Tom Brady. Wilson graded out 17 points higher than Aaron Rodgers, although he played far more snaps and deeper into games, meaning that he likely faced weaker competition.
2 - Games last year in which Aaron Rodgers threw two or more interceptions. - Aaron Rodgers is better at taking care of the ball than almost anybody in NFL history. He has a career interception percentage of just 1.8, almost half of Brett Favre's (3.3) and lower than Tom Brady (2.0), Peyton Manning (2.6), and Drew Brees (2.6). Seattle is excellent at forcing turnovers, but they'll be going up against one of the game's great caretakers this week.
1 - Seasons, out of his last six, in which Julius Peppers has failed to make the Pro Bowl. - That, of course, was last season. Peppers, at age 33, looked uninterested, worn out, and just...old. He still snagged 7.5 sacks, but it wasn't a dominating performance by any stretch of the imagination. But from an outsider's perspective, it seems Peppers has more than enough reason to show the world that last season was an exception. He's a physical marvel, even at 34, and should have fewer blockers coming his way than at any point in the recent past. Perhaps a rejuvenated Peppers can bounce back?
Last Time - Seahawks: 14 Packers: 12 - September 24, 2012
Ah yes, the F*** M*** (I will not type those words). At once the most over-hyped and totally legitimate freakout about officiating, this game will live on in infamy...and never not be fun to talk about.
But I don't want to talk about the ending. I want to talk about the start. Or rather, everything that led up to the crazy end. How Seattle sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half. How Bryan Bulaga allowed two sacks, another hit, and eight hurries. How Cedric Benson led the Packers with a whopping 2.6 yards per carry. How JERRON MCMILLIAN was the highest rated defender on the Packers that day. Seattle may not have deserved to win, but I'm not sure the Packers did either.
Meet a Seahawk - Marshawn Lynch - RB - 5-11, 215 lbs
Lynch is the powerful, rumbling, diesel engine that makes the Seahawks' offense run. If Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris were somehow melded into one player, they'd look like Marshawn Lynch. He has Lacy's power combined with Harris's jitterbug moves, and he'll be a handful for the Packers tonight.
The Seahawks will win if...
...Marshawn Lynch passes 100 yards and Percy Harvin makes at least one big play. I think the Packers can get points against the Seahawks. But if they can't slow Seattle down, a win will be difficult. The easiest path to a Seahawk victory is forcing the Packers to tackle Lynch, while just waiting for the right moment to slice open the defense with Percy Harvin.
The Packers will win if...
...they can take advantage of the Seahawks' one weakness: their offensive line. Lynch makes them look good, but Pro Football Focus says they're not. In fact, PFF graded Seattle as just average, ranking below the middle of the pack in both pass and run blocking. If the Packers can make the Seahawks' heads spin up front, they'll be well on their way to a Week 1 win.
The Pick - Seahawks: 27 Packers: 20
I think the Packers are right there and this game could easily go either way, but last impressions matter when you've had limited exposure to both squads. The last we saw the Packers, they were walking off the field at Lambeau, victims of another defeat at the hands of the 49ers. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were hoisting the Lombardi trophy. The Packers may be ready to dethrone the Seahawks, but we haven't seen it yet. Until then, we have to side with the guys who've done it more recently.