Mike McCarthy has moved past the "Fail Mary" matchup against Seattle...and it's time everyone else did, too. There are countless reasons why Packers at Seahawks is a compelling season-opener, "Fail Mary" notwithstanding.
There are few matchups that would have been tougher for the Packers to open up their 2014 season than Seattle—the team with the second-best win percentage at home over the last decade, behind only Green Bay itself. They're defending Super Bowl champions, led by a mobile quarterback who also had the fourth-highest yards per attempt in 2013, with 8.25.
In the last few years, Green Bay's zone blitz defense has struggled to adapt to the rise of the read-option quarterback. In 2012, Russell Wilson led all quarterbacks in scrambles after dropping back to pass, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). His squad beat the Packers in Week 3 of that season. (Yes, in the "Fail Mary." That's the last time we're mentioning it!)
In 2013, Colin Kaepernick had the second-most scrambles after dropbacks in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He has beaten the Packers in the last three games he's played against them, dating back to the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs. Dom Capers is making offseason adjustments to better prepare Green Bay's defense for these kinds of opponents, and Week 1 in Seattle will be the first test of his success.
It's not a coincidence that the Seahawks and the 49ers also have two of the most hard-nosed defenses in the league, and wins aren't a quarterback stat. The Seattle defense gave Green Bay a fair share of trouble in 2012, and it looks to be in top form in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
Green Bay's receiving corps will square off against Richard Sherman, who, in spite of his antics, finished the 2013 season ranked the No. 6 corner in the league by Pro Football Focus, allowing receivers a catch rate of just 51.7 percent. And a little further back on the field, there's ball-hawking safety Earl Thomas, who had the second-most interceptions among safeties in 2013 with five.
Up front, Seattle's vaunted front seven will be a thorn in the sides of both Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy. It will use multiple pressure schemes to try and force Rodgers to hurry, much like it did when it embarrassed Drew Brees in Week 13 last season, holding him to just 147 yards.
Seattle defensive ends Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin can rush Rodgers on one play and stop the run on the next. At least Green Bay won't have to contend with Chris Clemons, who signed with Jacksonville this offseason.
Packers cornerback Sam Shields will have a chance to earn his recent payday against a healthy Sidney Rice, who should finally be a factor for Seattle in 2014. As for covering Percy Harvin in the slot, it will be interesting to see if Green Bay utilizes Casey Hayward as its cover corner, or perhaps puts Micah Hyde there as McCarthy attempts to use him on the field as a three-down player.
The Seahawks and the Packers are two of the youngest teams in the league, with a majority of players who were developed in-house. That's why looking back to previously-played games isn't as interesting as looking forward.
A budding rivalry is set to play out between these two teams for the foreseeable future, because as long as they each have Wilson and Rodgers behind center, they figure to meet in the NFC playoffs again...and again.