The Packers return to Lambeau Field this Sunday for a showdown against the rival Seattle Seahawks in what is looking to be a snowy evening and a great game.
It feels like the setting is all too familiar. It’s hard to think about the Packers and Seahawks without thinking of all the incredible games these teams have played against one another; be it a Packers win or not. Too often I think of the 2007 divisional game where the Packers came away with a win, which was one of my all-time favorite Packers seasons.
Interestingly enough, there is some striking similarities between the 2007 team and the 2019 squad. Both Favre and Rodgers were in their mid to late 30’s, both teams have a strong rushing attack, and both came in to play the Seahawks at 13-3 with a chance to the NFC championship on the line in a snowy game.
The biggest difference between those two teams, however, is the defense. The Packers defense will be a key component to a win over the Seahawks. I’ve been saying all week that Blake Martinez has to have a strong performance in this game if the Packers want to come away victorious. Martinez has been playing better week to week. During the tail end of the regular season, it felt like I routinely watched him make big plays on film. I think most of his early-season problems were due to the fact that he wasn’t quite settled into Mike Pettine’s base defense. The run defense as a whole has been settling into the scheme nicely, and the entire defensive unit will have to play lights out in this game.
The Seahawks come into this game with the second-best total offense in the NFL, while also having the best passing offense statistically. Russell Wilson has shown time and again this season that he can certainly be dangerous when the ball is in his hands. The thing that scares me the most about Wilson is what he does outside of the pocket. He always seems to be able to buy an insurmountable amount of time with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield. This can work to his advantage sometimes and sometimes not. When watching the Seahawks this season I noticed that he has a tendency to break the pocket early on in his drop set. A strong pass rush by the Packers could really throw him off of his game.
Along with getting pressure on Wilson, the Packer defensive backs will have to play aggressive and smart. When I say play aggressive, I mean that they will have to rally to the ball and get the receiver to the ground. With a player like Adrian Amos, the defense always has an opportunity to force a fumble or come away with an interception. Tramon Williams will be another key player, as he is often asked to play the boundary as well as the slot. I’m not looking for Mike Pettine to send a lot of pressure with his defensive backs. The key for them is preventing the big play. Expect to see a lot of zone coverage out of the defense and keeping the receivers in front of them. The defense can’t afford to give up a big play. Momentum is everything in playoff games.
Offensively, I’m looking for Aaron Jones to have a big day. The key to the Packers offensive success lately has been on the ground. Jones has been electric running quick dives to the inside or outside running plays such as the stretch or toss. With as good as the offensive line has been, particularly the play of Jenkins, I would look for LaFleur to run early and often with the duo of Jones and Williams.
It’s no secret that Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been on his best game lately, but I also don’t feel like he has cost the offense (or team) games. I am surprised that we saw LaFleur go to the air as often as he did against the Lions in week 17, but something was just off with Rodgers. No cause for concern. Quick throws and an intermediate passing attack would be a great way for the passing game to get things going. It opens up a number of different things for the offense, including the threat of a deep ball. If you can get defensive backs to bite enough on curls, hitches or out routes, then you have a chance to run a go-route off of one of the shorter ones.
Ball control will be one of the most important factors in this game. If the Packers offense can consistently wear down the Seahawks with short gaining plays, then I feel like they will have the upper hand and dictate the flow of the game. The threat of Rodgers through the air and Jones on the ground make that possible.
While many analysts, commentators, and writers will doubt the Packers all week, we as Packers fans know better. While the Packers may not win in the prettiest fashion, they always seem to find a way to come out victorious. It’s just that: they win. It doesn’t matter how, by how much and it certainly doesn’t matter what the stats are; the team controls their destiny now, and they can win all the way to the Super Bowl.
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