It, s Championship weekend, and the Packers are headed to Seattle for a week-one rematch with the Seahawks. The two best ,and hottest teams in the NFC go head-to-head for a trip to the Super Bowl. Seattle’s defense hasn’t played a lot of top-notch offenses in the second half, but their performance week-to-week is impressive nonetheless. Green Bay’s defense was last against the run after eight games, but with a few tweaks, they’ve risen to 23rd. They also finished 10th against the pass. This game also features two high-powered offenses, so, really, anything can happen on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the matchups that will define Sunday’s contest.
David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga vs. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril
The Seahawks like to generate their pressure without blitzing. They’ve had success with sending their four defensive linemen to generate a pass-rush, allowing their linebackers and safeties to help out in pass defense and to close off running lanes for opposing backs. The problem for the Seahawks is that hasn’t led to a lot of sacks. They ranked 20th in the league this season with 37 sacks.
Their other problem is the Packers’ offensive line. This is the best offensive line Aaron Rodgers has played behind. They’ve allowed only 30 sacks this season, assisting Rodgers in a great season that just might see him win his second MVP award. Without Brandon Mebane at defensive tackle, the Seahawks will struggle to get an interior pass-rush without blitzing so the big matchups are on the edge. If Bulaga and Bakhtiari can contain Bennet and Avril, Rodgers could be primed for a big day.
Mike McCarthy vs. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas
The impact that Seahawk’s safties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas can have on a game has been well documented. They do very well to keep plays in front of them and deliver big hits on receivers and running backs. They also provide great help to the cornerbacks when they are able to sit back in coverage. When that happens, it becomes virtually impossible to pass against this Seattle defense.
The reason for choosing McCarthy as the matchup against them is that the way to beat these safeties goes against McCarthy’s instincts as a play-caller. If the Packers come out with a game-plan to run the ball a lot, and they do it successfully, Chancellor and Thomas will have to come help the linebackers in the box. If the safeties aren’t able to sit back and help in pass coverage all day, Rodgers will have far more opportunities to beat Seattle’s cornerbacks. McCarthy has to show tremendous discipline in his play-calling this week.
Davante Adams vs. Richard Sherman
This one seems a little bit off, right? Why would the Seahawks line up their best cornerback against our third receiver? The Seahawks cornerbacks do not often switch sides of the field, no matter who they’re lined up against. A lot was made of the fact that Aaron Rodgers did not attempt a single pass to Richard Sherman’s side of the field in week one. The biggest reason for that was that Sherman was lined up against Jarrett Boykin all day. Their best cornerback spent all day shutting down our third best receiver.
Davante Adams had a big week against the Cowboys. That game put him on Seattle’s radar, and they will, no doubt, make him a part of their game plan. The Packers will take advantage of that respect, and likely line him up against Sherman, giving more favorable matchups to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. That should yield some positive results in the passing game for the Packers.
Eddie Lacy vs. Seahawks Linebackers
As I said earlier, Mike McCarthy has to remain disciplined in his game plan and run the ball a lot. The Packers also need Eddie Lacy to take advantage of those opportunities. The Seattle defense is full of sure tacklers and hard hitters, and Lacy will need to break some tackles and make guys miss in order to get his yards. If he can get into the second level of the defense regularly, he’ll have a big day.
Before leaving the game in week one with a concussion, Lacy had only managed 34 yards rushing, with a 2.8 average, and 11 yards receiving. Lacy has improved steadily throughout the season, and has become a much bigger factor in the passing game with his ability to turn a screen play into a big gain, so I don’t think Seattle will be able to shut him down the same way this time around. The Packers need him to have a big day and throw this defense off-balance.
Packers’ Front-7 vs. Seahawks Rushing Attack
This is the most important matchup of the game. The Packers need that high-powered offense on the field as much as possible, so the defense needs to keep the Seahawks from running all over them. Seattle led the league with 172.6 rushing yards per game this season. Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Russell Wilson added 849 yards and 6 touchdowns on 7.2 yards per rush. These are the two things that will cause the Packers’ defense to lose sleep this week.
Marshawn Lynch is one of, if not the best, in the business at breaking tackles and racking up yards after the first contact. Packers’ linebackers have missed a lot of tackles this year, and guys like AJ Hawk and Brad Jones have a bad habit of trying to make arm tackles on big running backs. They have to keep Lynch in front of them and make their tackles this week.
Russell Wilson doesn’t have a great group of receivers to throw to. As a result, he runs the ball a lot. The Packers struggle against mobile quarterbacks; Colin Keapernick, and Russell Wilson especially have had success tucking the ball and running against this defense. The Packers’ front-7 has to contain Wilson and keep him from escaping the pocket. They can’t expect too much help from the secondary, who will likely be in a lot of man-to-man coverage against the receivers.