Sports

Packers vs. Seahawks: Preview, keys & prediction

The Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks (4-5) at CenturyLink Field on Thursday Night Football. Green Bay will look to build on their 31-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, while the Seahawks return home after falling to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 36-31.

Some notes on the matchup:

  • FOX will televise the game nationally, with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink handling the broadcast duties. The game will also be available on Amazon Prime Video, with three teams to choose from: Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth, or Jorge Perez-Navarro and Oscar Benitez.

  • Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren can be heard calling the action on the 50-station Packers Radio Network, originating from flagship AM 620 WTMJ. Nationally, Westwood One Sports will broadcast the game on radio, with Tom McCarthy and Mike Holmgren on the call.

  • The Packers lead the all-time series, 11-7, and have won the last three meetings between the two teams.

Injury Report

The Packers had four players—WR Randall Cobb (hamstring), S Kentrell Brice (ankle), OLB Nick Perry (knee) and CB Kevin King (hamstring)—who did not make the trip to Seattle, and all four have been declared out for Thursday night.

For Seattle, the only major injury designation is LB K.J. Wright (knee), who is listed as doubtful.

The keys for Green Bay on offense:

  • Lean on Aaron…Jones: The second-year running back leads the league at nearly 6.8 yards per carry, which is obviously an absurd number. It’s probably not fair to expect that number to remain so high through the rest of the season, but would it surprise anyone at this point? With his vision and acceleration through the hole, Jones makes it extremely difficult for defenses to stop him for negative yardage and, more often than not, he’s able to pick up the first two or three yards without being touched. It took him just 15 carries to rack up 145 yards against the Dolphins, and it will be important for the Packers to get him going against the Seahawks in order to put the offense in manageable positions and open up the passing game for Aaron Rodgers.

  • On time and on target: Speaking of the quarterback, what better time to get back to being himself than a road game on a short week? To put it simply, Rodgers has struggled all year with missing throws he’s accustomed to making with his eyes closed. It was easy to blame those issues on missed practice time due to his knee injury, but with the brace off for two weeks now, those misses can’t happen anymore. The Seattle defense no longer includes the vaunted Legion of Boom, and the Packers can take advantage of the Seahawks in the passing game—if Rodgers capitalizes on the easy opportunities he gets.

The keys for Green Bay on defense:

  • Contain Russell Wilson: In general, the Seattle quarterback hasn’t exactly given the Packers a ton of trouble in his career. His quarterback rating in the last two meetings were 69.7 and 43.7, and he’s thrown 10 interceptions over the last four matchups. Where Wilson can hurt the Packers is outside the pocket. It will be interesting to see how Mike Pettine approaches a mobile quarterback from a personnel standpoint, given Green Bay’s penchant for playing safeties as de facto linebackers and Seattle’s relatively limited receiving corps. Wilson rushed for 92 yards last week against the Rams, though it’s not necessarily rushing yardage you have to worry about. Rather, it’s Wilson’s ability to elude pass rushers and extend plays long enough to allow his receivers to get open. The Packers need to get home with their pressure and force Wilson to make decisions quick.

  • Control the line of scrimmage: Seattle leads the league with just over 152 rushing yards per game, while Green Bay ranks 22nd league-wide in rush defense, giving up almost 121 yards per game. On paper, it’s not a great formula for success, and one might expect that Seattle will likely get their rushing yards some way or another. The key here is for the Packers to limit chunk plays in the running game and force the Seahawks into passing situations by winning on first and second down. If they can do so, they’ll make things much easier on themselves.

Prediction

The Packers are 8-18 in the regular season under Mike McCarthy in road primetime games. This time around, it’s CenturyLink Field, on a short week, down four starters. I’m less worried about Green Bay’s offense being able to get things going than I am about their defense getting gashed in the run game and allowing that to open things up for Russell Wilson. This feels like a close game, with the X-factor being special teams play, which just hasn’t been good enough for Green Bay all season. That, plus a raucous road environment, will doom them. Seattle 27, Green Bay 24.

Top photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today sports