Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NFL Week 1 Preview: The Green Bay Packers vs. The Seattle Seahawks

The time has finally come. A new season is upon, and the Green Bay Packers will be in the spotlight right out of the gate. Will the heat from the spotlight be too much for them or will they prosper? The NFL didn't do them any favors giving them the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks right off the bat. The Packers will be facing one of the NFL's elite teams for the fourth straight year. They may need to play a perfect game to take a win in loud Century Link field, but it's not impossible to win there either. The Packers offense must be on point though.

For the sake of this post staying on topic I won't get into the "Fail Mary", because in the end it was the replacement refs that caused that controversy for the Packers. Thursday will just be about who the better team is.

In order to escape Seattle with a win the Packers offense will have to be near perfect.  That starts with QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers in his ninth year is the unquestioned leader of this team, and one of the best QB's in the league. It's going to be up to him to get this team ready for the raucous enviroment in Seattle. It helps that Rodgers has started 2 games in Qualcolm prior to this season. He knows what kind of effect that the "12th man" has on offenses. The Seahawks defense proved to be a nightmare for the Packers offense when these two teams faced off in 2011. Rodgers was sacked 8 times, in the first half, by a then young and up and coming Seahawks defense. Since that meeting the Seahawks defense has turned into one of the greatest units in NFL history. But the Packers offensive line has improved greatly.

The Packers offense does have one worry going into Seattle. That is the center postion. When starting center J.C. Tretter hurt his knee during the week 3 preaseason match up with the Oakland Raiders. This left rookie Corey Linsley as the only true center on the roster. It seems as if Linsley will get his first start on opening night in Seattle. Linsley has to be ready for this moment though. Besides the QB you could make a case for center being the most important postion on the offense. The Packers will be asking a rookie to step right in against a very talented defenisve line in the noisest enviroment in the NFL. Coach Mike McCarthy and his staff must have a ton of faith in Linsley, because the team did not pursure another center after the Tretter injury.

The packers key to winning this game is going to be ball control. The Packers best defense is Rodgers and RB Eddie Lacy. If those two the offense in rythm they could be unstoppable. It sounds easier than it really is though. If the Packers can keep the Seahawks offense on the sideline they will be in line to win this game.

To win the game of possesion game the Packers receivers are going to need to be aggresive. The Packers use receivers pride themselves on yards after the catch(YAC). The Seahawks boast the leagues best secondary with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. And the self procalimed "greatest corner in the game" Richard Sherman. Screen routes will not be easy against this secondary.

The Packers are going to have to air it out. It starts with playaction passing. Jordy Nelson isn't afraid to go across the middle, and will hang on to anything thrown his way. On the opposite side Randall Cobb brings the speed factor to the offense. Rodgers is simply at his best when he uses the play action. The Packers are going to need their veteran recievers to step up though. It wouldn't be wise to rely much on rookie reciever Davante Adams or even third year reciever Jarret Boykin. Nelson and Cobb have played in this enviroment and against this secondary. They're going to need to move Nelson and Cobb around to try and confuse the secondary. In that case Boykin and Adams would be good decoys. If anyone can come up with a solid game plan on offense it's McCarthy. The defense of the Packers is another story.

Dom Capers tenure as the Packers defensive coordinator has been shaky to say the least. The only thing that has kept him employed as a coach was the 2010-11 playoff run and Super Bowl victory. Outside of that year the Packers defense has been in the bottom half of the NFL's total defense. In 2011 the defense lead the league in turnovers, which was a pretty good stat at the time, but in the end it was defensive miscues that lead to a Diviisonal round playoff loss to the New York Giants.

The Seahawks will be a great test to see how far the defense has come since last seasons 25th ranked unit. Although Russell Wilson doesn't have the size of a prototypical QB he makes up for it with his pure athleticism. Wilson is accurate on the run, and can use his legs to his advantage if no one is open. If there is thing that has given the Packers defense fits in the past two years it's been scrambling quarterbacks. The Packers must be conscious of Wilson's playmaking ability. Free agent additon Julius Peppers was brought in to help Clay Matthews contain these running quarterbacks. What better chance for Peppers to show he was worth every penny, than to give the Seattle offensive line fits. Then there is Mr. Beast Mode himself Marshawn lynch. Lacy reminds a lot of Lynch. That's a good sign for Lacy's future, but a bad sign for the Packers defense in the present.

Lynch is a bowling ball who won't be brought down by simple arm tackles. The Packers defense has a nasty knack for missing tackles. That does not bode well with Lynch in the backfield. Stopping Lynch will have to start up front. The Packers lost BJ Raji for the season due to a torn biceps. This is a blow for a 3-4 defense who counts on that big body in the middle to stuff the run. It'll be interesting to see how the Packers replace Raji. LeTroy Guion, who was brought in as a free agent, will get the shot to replace Raji. Guion missed most of training camp with an injury, but finally practiced and played the last week of the preseason. He's going to have to step up to control Lynch.

In the end it's going to come down to the Packers defense getting a few key stops so the offense can work. That may be all that a talented team like the Packers needs to win. The atmosphere is going to wild, and it seems as if it would be meant for the Seahawks to win at home while raising their Super Bowl Banner. But It's time for the Packers to play villian, and show that they still belong in the same conversation with the NFL's elite.

AJ's Prediction:

Green Bay Packers 19
Seattle Seahawks    10

Follow me on Twitter: @NFLOwnerGBP

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