Well, Twelves, here we are. Our beloved Seattle Seahawks have made it to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. This is great news on a few levels.
Firstly, it shows that with a 11-5 record and a wildcard win, this young team has made progress from it’s 10-6 campaign in 2018. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it has done it with even more younger players stepping up. On the road against the Eagles last weekend, rookies DK Metcalf (WR), Cody Barton (LB), and Ugo Amadi (DB) are all credited by head coach Pete Carroll as being positive factors for the team (Metcalf was sensational). Lastly, this team is continually showing it can win on the road, and is now 8-1 in it’s campaign.
Because of all this, there is legitimate reason for optimism the Seattle can actually travel into Green Bay and pull off an upset against these 13-3 Packers. Skeptics will point to the fact that Seattle rarely pulled off a convincing win all season, and allowed a forty year old backup QB move the ball on them in Philadelphia. These same skeptics should equally note that Green Bay hasn’t exactly racked up convincing wins in 2019, either, and were even blown out a few times.
The objective football observer should probably look at both of these clubs and expect a close game. Green Bay has the clear advantage by having a first round bye to rest up, and playing at home. Yet, Seattle has shown all season long that it is a strong road team, having even beaten the powerful San Francisco 49ers on their home turf (a team that Green Bay badly lost to). Also, there are things that both of these clubs like to do that play into the supposed weaknesses of the other. Both teams will likely have to play their best ball to beat the other. For this perspective, this should be another fun game to watch.
So, let’s break it down some.
What to expect when Seattle has the ball
The Green Bay Packers are a really good pass rushing team, and they will look to pressure Russell Wilson a lot. They have a great edge rushing duo in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith (the Smith Brothers?). Their defense is set up to play against Wilson really well in some regards, but they are not a good run stopping team, and they can get beaten over the top on deep passes.
It does not take rocket science to predict what Seattle probably wants to do in this match. Pete Carroll even stated earlier this week that they want to get Marshawn Lynch more involved. This translates to Seattle wanting to run the ball more and to take play action shots down field as the game progresses.
We know that Seattle will run when Marshawn is on the field, what is perhaps more critical for Seattle is to get Travis Homer positively involved in the run game. Many Seahawk fan cringe reading that as the Eagles stuffed Homer early and often in the wildcard game last week, but it is important to note that the Eagles have one of the top run defenses in the league and they sold out against it in the rematch. I doubt Green Bay is going to do the same, and therefor, Seattle will probably have more opportunities. If they can get Homer going, that will could have the Green Bay defenders on their heals a bit more, as Homer is also a pass catching weapon out of the backfield.
If Seattle can establish the run with Lynch and Homer, this will open up Russell Wilson’s signature play action game. I would expect DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and tight end Jacob Hollister to be big factors if Seattle is successfully starts to dial up this signature portion of their offensive attack.
What Seattle might not want to go is to attack this defense with the short passing game early. Green Bay has good edge defenders, they can spy on Wilson, and they have good enough corners that can sit in the short zones waiting for Wilson to throw their way. This is what the Cardinals did well against Wilson in December and the Packers should look towards doing the same.
If Seattle wins this game, it will likely be because of their ability to run against the Packer defense, and to beat them with play action passes. Russell Wilson on the move looking down field is not what the Packer defenders want to see a lot of.
What to expect when Green Bay has the ball
This is not the old Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers when they were overly QB centric. They now have balance running the ball with Aaron Jones, and they are committed to that balance. Furthermore, Jones is an hugely underrated back that has Christian McCaffery like abilities to run and catch. He is a legitimate threat against the Seattle defense.
What the Packers are likely to do is to get Jones going against this Seattle defense the way the Rams got Todd Gurley going back in December. They will look to get Seattle biting on misdirection plays and to get the ball to Jones out in space against soft coverage if Seattle plays with the “bend don’t break” approach that they have done throughout the season.
What Green Bay doesn’t have that the Rams did, however, is a lot of talent at wide receiver. It is possible that Seattle could play a little more aggressively in coverage knowing that outside of Davante Adams, the Packer receivers aren’t very threatening, and that could work in their favor of slowing down Jones a bit, as they play a little bit more down hill against the run.
Also expect Aaron Rodgers to play a lot of his same pre-snap trickery trying to get Seattle’s aggressive pass rushers to jump off-sides, and to use quick snaps to take advantage of Seattle’s substitutions. Rodgers will do whatever he can to draw penalties from Seattle, so it is critical that the Seattle defense stays hyper aware and is discipline throughout. They can’t be so aggressive as to jump off-sides, and they need to be smart with their substitutions.
If Seattle wins this game it will probably be because their defense was ready for Rodgers, they played discipline, and they tackled really well against Jones. If they don’t handle Jones well in space, and if they commit numerous penalties, the Seattle offense will need a perfect game in Green Bay for Seattle to pull off the upset, and that is not an easy thing to do in January in that stadium, with that crowd behind the Packers.
The reasonable mind would likely place a safe bet on the Packers winning this match. They have had more rest and preparation than Seattle, and they are playing at home with one of the very best fan bases in the league supporting them. They also have Aaron Rodgers, who is still one of best quarterbacks in the league. In all these regards, Green Bay feels like the safe bet.
Yet there are things about Green Bay as a team that match favorably with what Seattle likes to do. They aren’t statistically a great team at stopping the run and defending deep passes. They lost badly to the Chargers and 49ers that are built somewhat like Seattle, and Seattle has a better quarterback in Russell Wilson than those two teams have. From this perspective, Green Bay feels beatable.
So, I am going to go with the upset in this match. This is a total homer Twelve thing for me to do, I am well aware of it, but I picked Seattle a lot this season, I might as well stay true to the Blue.
I say Seahawks 27-24 in this one. Wilson leads a fourth quarter come from behinder that will stun the Green Bay fans, leaving them hating everything Seattle even more than they already do.. which is A LOT.
.. And if the Vikings can somehow pull off the upset against the 49ers, Seattle will actually host the NFC championship game next weekend. Imagine that.
So skol Vikings and go Hawks!