You’re likely to read a lot of columns this week talking about how this is a revenge game for the Packers. Let’s get this out of the way right now: there is not a single universe in which winning a Week 2 match-up is revenge for losing the NFC Championship Game.
I would love if the Packers won this game, but it won’t take away the sting of last year’s loss. Nothing ever will.
I’ll be telling my grandchildren about that loss, but I will not immediately follow it up with, “But, you know, the Packers got the better of those Seahawks in Week 2 of the following year, dropping them to 0-2.” It won’t matter. Those kids won’t listen to me, anyway. They never listen to me. Grandkids these days, amiright?
Randall Cobb vs. Richard Sherman
In their first meeting last year, the Packers made a decision not to throw at Sherman’s side of the field. They threw Jarrett Boykin on the left side of the field and told Aaron Rodgers to look everywhere else. That game ended with the Packers losing 36-16.
Convinced that it perhaps wasn’t the best idea to just write off an entire side of the field, they decided to test Sherman’s side of the field a little more in the NFC Championship Game. When throwing at Sherman, Rodgers was 1/2 for 6 yards and an interception (although I maintain that a member of the Seahawks jumped offsides, leading Rodgers to think he had a free play and trying to sneak a ball through he wouldn’t normally throw).
The completion went to Jordy Nelson, while the interception was on a ball intended for Davante Adams. That game ended with the Packers losing [score unable to be deciphered through the sobbing].
This time around, I would like to see them use the same approach as they did in their second meeting, but perhaps with a different personnel set. Giving Sherman a dose of Randall Cobb would make a big difference. Cobb’s quickness should allow him to get open on some quick-hitting routes with Sherman in coverage.
Davante Adams seems like the more obvious play here (combating size with size), but I’d like to see the smaller (and quicker) Cobb over on Sherman’s side from time to time.
Julius Peppers and Mike Neal vs. Garry Gilliam and Russell Okung
I’m going with Peppers and Neal here because they played the bulk of the snaps at ROLB and LOLB, respectively.
Both Peppers (3.8) and Neal (1.6) had good games against the Bears. Gilliam (-11.1) and Okung (-4.6) had horrendous days against the Rams. Granted, the Rams defensive line is stacked, but those are still some pretty awful numbers. If Peppers and Neal can collapse the edges, that will make life hard for the Seahawks in both the pass and run game.
Morgan Burnett vs. Marshawn Lynch
At this point, I don’t know what Burnett’s status is for this game. I’m a fan of Micah Hyde, but he’s not as good in run support as Burnett is. The key to stopping Marshawn Lynch may very well rest with Burnett’s hamstring.
NFC Championship Game Replays vs. My Sanity
They already started running replays of last year’s NFC Championship Game in preparation for this game, and I have already started looking away from the TV when that happens. All I can do is whisper, “I’ll be okay, I’ll be okay,” over and over again while the tears stream down my face. There will be no avoiding these replays. There is no escape. There is only blood.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Dion Bailey
On paper, this Seahawks secondary doesn’t look nearly as daunting as it has in the past. Part of that is the absence of the terrifying Kam Chancellor.
Earl Thomas is good, but it’s the combination of Thomas and Chancellor that makes this team especially hard to pass on. If the offensive line can give Rodgers time to throw – and I believe they will – he will be able to get the young Dion Bailey out of position, which should lead to a few big plays.
Anyone vs. Jimmy Graham
The Packers have had problems covering tight ends for a very long time. Martellus Bennett had a pretty nice day last week (5 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown), and I expect Jimmy Graham will have a nice day this week.
Nate Palmer had a decent week in coverage last week, so I’m hoping he’ll be able to step up and slow down Graham this week. Maybe have Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde and Sean Richardson help over the top. Just please have someone – anyone – have a decent plan on how to slow down a tight end. If they can’t stop Graham early, it’s going to be a long day.
– The loss of Byron Maxwell will hurt the Seahawks secondary. Then again, I just watched him get torched by Julio Jones, so maybe the system was making him look a little better than he actually is.
– The Rams found some success last week in running up the middle on the Seahawks. Seeing as how Corey Linsley was the Packers best run blocker last week (2.8), I expect to see a few runs of Eddie Lacy plowing through the middle.
– I really don’t like Marshawn Lynch in the Xbox fantasy football ad that WatchESPN insists on running, so I hope he runs for negative yards in this game.
– I was happy to see Jayrone Elliott on the field against the Bears, even if it was only for 20 snaps. I expect he’ll get more as the season goes on. He had a couple really nice plays, and I expect he’ll have a couple more against the Seahawks.