If you like a game that pits opposite styles of play, you're going to love the Monday night tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
Behind Aaron Rodgers, the Packers boast one of the league's most prolific passing attacks. Although it struggled in Week 1, the Green Bay defense came alive against Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears in Week 2, sacking him seven times and intercepting him four times.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are all about running the ball, building off of that with the play action pass, controlling the clock and playing sound defense. Behind Marshawn Lynch, they'll look to continuously pound the rock and keep the ball out of Rodgers' hands.
Add the boisterous crowd of CenturyLink Field, and you've got yourself a ball game. Let's take a closer look at this Monday Night Football battle.
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
When: Monday, Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius 92 and 93; Westwood One
Betting Line: Green Bay (-3.5), according to Bovada
Packers Injury Report (via ESPN)
RB James Starks, Toe, Questionable
WR Greg Jennings, Groin, Questionable
DE C.J. Wilson, Questionable
CB Davon House, Questionable
Seahawks Injury Report (via ESPN)
WR Charly Martin, Questionable
What's At Stake?
With the San Francisco 49ers looking like the league's best team, the Seahawks won't want to fall to 1-2 and behind in the AFC West, while the Packers won't want to fall to 1-2 and behind in the NFC's homefield advantage race. For two teams who will spend much of the year wondering where the Niners are in the standings, this is an important clash.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit' Em and Sleeper
Sit Aaron Rodgers.
Wait, sorry, hold on a second, that should read "Don't you dare ever sit Aaron Rodgers." Sorry about the confusion. Greg Jennings (if he plays), Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley should also be started. James Jones and Randall Cobb are only options in deep leagues as flex plays. The Green Bay defense is a nice play as well (but you already knew that if you checked out my fantasy positional rankings this week).
Sit Cedric Benson. The Seahawks are only allowing 46 rushing yards per game, second in the NFL.
For Seattle, the only obvious player to start is Marshawn Lynch. I wouldn't trust any of the other offensive players and certainly not the defense this week.
It's a sign of how slowly Tate's career has started that catching three passes for 38 yards is considered a breakthrough for the third-year receiver. But each of those three catches resulted in a first down, and it was impossible to watch the way he ran with the ball and not think that Seattle needs to get him more opportunities. On Sunday, he was Seattle's most explosive offensive player not named Marshawn Lynch.
I'm not saying he'll blow up this week. But he's certainly a player to keep an eye on.
What They're Saying
We keep it with O'Neill, who asks the key question about Sunday's game:
Packers' Player to Watch: Jermichael Finley, Tight End
Will the real Jermichael Finley please stand up?
Few players in the NFL inspire more praise in one breath and more exasperation in the next. Finley is a wide receiver that just happens to be big and strong enough to play tight end, so that's where the Packers put him.
But he's also inconsistent from one week to another, and has developed a nasty habit of the dropsies stemming from last season.
Still, the Packers are likely to pass, pass and pass some more in this one. Seattle's physical corners will try to manhandle the receivers at the line, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the safeties play in a two-deep over the top to take away the long pass.
Thus, Finley should have room to work over the middle and favorable matchups to exploit. If he can have a big game and settle over the middle as a reliable target for Rodgers, the Packers will give the Seattle defense headaches all game long.
Seahawks' Player to Watch: Marshawn Lynch, Running Back
Sometimes, the best defense is a ball-controlling option. On Monday night, the Seahawks defense will certainly appreciate if Lynch can grind out the yards and keep Rodgers and the Packers' offense off the field.
Lynch has been very good thus far this season, rushing 47 times for 207 yards and a touchdown. And he's especially good at home, according to Elias (via ESPN):
Marshawn Lynch gained 122 yards in the Seahawks' 27-7 win over the Cowboys. It was Lynch's sixth consecutive 100-yard game at CenturyLink Field, dating back to last November and extending the team record he set in Seattle's final home game of the 2011 season. Lynch leads the NFL in rushing since November 1, 2011 (1148 yards in 11 games).
Don't be surprised to see Lynch carry the rock close to 30 times in this one. What he does with those carries, of course, will be what really matters.
Key Matchup: Seahawks' Secondary vs. Packers Wide Receivers
We know the Packers probably won't have any success running the ball in this game. That means the battles on the outside will be huge.
Can Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman play physical and knock Jennings and Nelson off their routes, allowing the Seattle pass rush time to reach Aaron Rodgers? Or will the Packers simply overcome a lack of a running game by throwing the ball all over the field?
It's the biggest key in this game. If Rodgers and company can turn this one into a shootout, Seattle is in trouble. But if the Seahawks can play physical on the outside, limit yards after the catch and frustrate Rodgers, they can absolutely win this game.
The Seahawks are tough to beat at home in one of the NFL's loudest stadiums, and the defense isn't going to simply roll over and allow Rodgers to throw the ball all over the field. But Green Bay has had four extra days to prepare for this game (they played last Thursday, not Sunday), and the Packers' passing attack is slowly rounding into form.
Expect Green Bay to escape with a tight win, 27-21.
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