Seahawks vs. Packers: Full Seattle Game Preview

Nick R. Moyle@@NRmoyleFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2015

Seahawks vs. Packers: Full Seattle Game Preview

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    After falling to St. Louis 34-31 in Week 1, Seattle is now in danger of falling to 0-2, a mark that spells certain doom for most NFL teams.
    After falling to St. Louis 34-31 in Week 1, Seattle is now in danger of falling to 0-2, a mark that spells certain doom for most NFL teams.Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    The NFL doesn't allow teams the time to wallow in their despair following an emotional loss like the one the Seattle Seahawks suffered to the St. Louis Rams in Week 1, especially not with a team like the Green Bay Packers next up.

    Seattle will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game on Sunday Night Football.

    The Packers remember their overtime loss all too well, but now the Seahawks have to come to their house. It's September, so it isn't the frozen tundra just yet, but Lambeau is a difficult atmosphere to play in any time of year. 

    Seattle enters the game with questions—too many questions for a team looking to earn a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.

    The offensive line let Russell Wilson get hit more than Rocky. The Legion of Boom still isn't whole without Kam Chancellor, and it might not be the same even when he returns. Marshawn Lynch's mom is calling for the offensive coordinator's headand job. 

    Game 2 in any other sport won't define a season, but in football it can and often will.

    Since 2002, 107 teams have began the NFL season 0-2; just 10 (9 percent) have made the playoffs, per Blogging the Boys. Fall to 0-3, like 65 other teams have, and you can start planning for 2016.

    Maybe this won't apply to a team as experienced and talented as Seattle, but the numbers in that regard are startling.

    This game is important, not just because of the opponent but because Seattle certainly doesn't want to find itself crawling out of a hole in what appears to be the most difficult division in the NFL.

    We'll briefly recap Seattle's Week 1 loss to St. Louis, hit on some relevant news and notes and get updates on injuries before identifying some key matchups and X-factors in the matchup, then top it off with a final game prediction. 

    Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

    Time: 8:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)

    TV: NBC (National)

Week 1 Results and Recap

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    Jimmy Graham found a rhythm with Russell Wilson in the second half. His 7-yard touchdown reception was key in sparking a Seattle comeback that fell just short.
    Jimmy Graham found a rhythm with Russell Wilson in the second half. His 7-yard touchdown reception was key in sparking a Seattle comeback that fell just short.Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    There were opportunities aplenty in Seattle's 34-31 overtime loss to St. Louis, but the only problem was it was the Rams, not Seahawks, who took advantage.

    Seattle's secondary allowed eight plays of 20 or more yards to a team playing Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin at receiver—not exactly a Pro Bowl-caliber lineup. 

    Dion Bailey failed to make much of an impact in Chancellor's stead. Nick Foles was a perfect 4-of-4 with 57 yards and one touchdown when targeting Bailey, per Pro Football Focus

    His slip allowed Lance Kendricks to bust loose for a 37-yard game-tying touchdown to force overtime. It was an inauspicious debut for the second-year safety.

    Even Richard Sherman—who, in an unusual turn, lined up in the slot on 23 of his 59 snaps, per ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia—was prone to the big play. The All-Pro cornerback surrendered a 22-yard pass to Stedman Bailey, who set the Rams up for what would be the game-winning field goal from 37 yards out with his beautiful tightrope catch along the sideline.

    Sherman locked down Austin for most of the game, but it was unusual to see him give up that type of play in such a critical situation. 

    "Stuff kind of snuck in on us that usually doesn’t happen. … There were just more of those plays that got away from us than normal for various reasons, " coach Pete Carroll said, per the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. 

    The defensive line fared much better, led by Michael Bennett, who was as disruptive as he's ever been charging through the Rams' line.  

    Bennett led the Seahawks defense with a plus-4.0 rating on the strength of one sack, three hurries and four solo stops, per Pro Football Focus.

    Seattle's pass rush ranked third in the NFL, behind only Denver and, of course, St. Louis, and did a tremendous job of putting constant pressure on Foles.

    Oh, and that St. Louis pass rush? Seattle couldn't do anything to stop it. 

    Russell Wilson was sacked six times and right tackle Garry Gilliam and left tackle Russell Okung were consistently beat on the edges by Robert Quinn, Chris Long and William Hayes.

    Inside was no better with Aaron Donald in the Seahawks' backfield on nearly every dropback. 

    The offensive line was also unable to hold long enough for Marshawn Lynch to gain the one yard he needed to keep Seattle's overtime drive alive, a frustrating outcome for those who called for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's head following last year's Super Bowl fiasco.

    Seattle's third facet also failed in its duties, though rookie Tyler Lockett's 57-yard punt return touchdown masked some of the poor showing by Seattle's special teams unit.

    Jon Ryan punted away from Seattle's intended downfield coverage on Austin, who promptly thanked the punter with a 75-yard return touchdown that pushed St. Louis' lead to 24-13 near the end of the third quarter.

    And the typically reliable Steven Hauschka's intended squib kick ended up as a pseudo onside kick attempt after a mishit on the ball. The play granted St. Louis prime position to begin overtime and played a key part in the field goal that effectively won the game.

News and Notes

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    Marshawn Lynch and the offensive line failed to get the one yard Seattle needed. That's put offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the hot seat, at least according to some.
    Marshawn Lynch and the offensive line failed to get the one yard Seattle needed. That's put offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the hot seat, at least according to some.L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Carroll Believes Seattle Should Have Won

    Despite the miscues, the porous offensive line and Hauschka's overtime mishit, the Seahawks still had every opportunity to fly back to Seattle 1-0. 

    That wasn't lost on Carroll in the slightest. 

    “The way we look at it is we never should have lost that game," Carroll said Monday, per the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. “We had plenty of chances and opportunities to really take the game in command, and we didn’t seize those opportunities as we came down to the end of the game and the fourth quarter and in overtime. … We didn’t finish the way we needed to.’’

    Seattle struggled in all three facets of the game: offense, defense and special teams. That's rarely a recipe for victory.

    St. Louis' dominant defensive line and aggressive blitzing packages stifled Seattle's offense for most of the game, until Wilson was able to find some semblance of a rhythm in the fourth quarter, though its final failure on 4th-and-1 in overtime will reside alongside its fateful Super Bowl play in the minds of many for some time.

    The defense was also uncharacteristically prone to the big play, something Seattle rarely succumbs to. Eight plays of at least 20 yards? It almost looks like a typo. 

    Seattle even failed in the third phase despite Lockett's 57-yard punt return touchdown. Austin's 75-yard punt return touchdown and Hauschka's overtime miscue were key contributing factors in Seattle's defeat. 

    And with all that, Seattle lost by field goal.

    Carroll knows his team can be better, and must be, in a division that looks to be the best in the NFL. 

    Offensive Line Exits St. Louis With More Questions Than Answers

    It was the 10th play of Seattle's opening drive. The offense was movingslowly, but it was moving. 

    Wilson lined up from the shotgun on 1st-and-10 at the St. Louis 29. Then, Donald happened

    A six-yard sack effectively negated the rhythmic currency Seattle had built up, leading to a stalled drive and a punt.

    It was the first time, but far from the last.

    After that, Wilson was running for his life on nearly every dropback. 

    The offensive line was completely overcome by the Rams' monstrous defensive front, led by Donald and Quinn. Wilson was pressured 20 times in his 55 dropbacks (36.4 percent), per Pro Football Focus

    Not a single offensive lineman graded out positively. Seattle's five starters combined for a negative-36.8 rating, while the team as a whole ranked 31st and 32nd in pass blocking and run blocks, respectively, per Pro Football Focus.

    And to cap it off, on the final play of the game, the Rams ran through Seattle's line like waves crashing over rocks. It ended the game and left Seattle once again one yard short. 

    “They won the line of scrimmage on that play and did a nice job attacking us,’’ Carroll said, per Condotta. “We just weren’t able to get the crease that we needed."

    Forget the crease. On Sunday in St. Louis, the offensive line wasn't able to get anything it needed. 

    Latest on Chancellor

    Chancellor replacement Bailey has received plenty of grief for his game-changing slip in coverage of Kendricks.

    Bailey's fall has led to an even greater call for Chancellor and the Seahawks to come together and end this holdout, and on the surface that makes sense.

    But Carroll said the result of that one play didn’t necessarily change Chancellor’s status.

    “No, I mean, there is not much going on right now. It’s pretty quiet,” Carroll said during his show on 710 ESPN, via Condotta.

    Why? 

    There’s no one (reason),’’ Carroll said, per Condotta. “It’s not that easy, ever.’’

    These situations tend not to be, and with this one extended far longer than usual, this case has taken on an unusual flavor. Both sides are dug in, it seems, with neither willing to budge from whatever line of demarcation they've drawn.

    Ironically, while Chancellor continues fighting for more money, the Legion of Boom's hardest hitter has seen his bank account incur some hard hits of its own.

    The cost of his holdout through Tuesday was $1.87 million in fines, forfeitures and lost wages, according to Pro Football Focus's Mike Florio. Should he miss this entire week, another $267,000 will be added to that total, pushing the number to more than $2.1 million, per Florio.

    All Carroll and his team can do at this point is hope their young safety learns from his mistakes before facing the best quarterback in the NFL on Sunday night.

    “I’ve got to go 100 percent on my opportunities, and I missed a big one today,” Bailey acknowledged, per the Seattle TimesJayson Jenks. “I’ve got to learn from it and represent my family name better next week.”

    Momma Lynch Calls for Firing of Offensive Coordinator Bevell

    What's that, someone named Lynch was chatty following a game?

    It's true, but it wasn't Marshawn. Rather, it was his mother, Delisa Lynch, who took to Facebook to air her displeasure with Bevell. 

    Bevell has had a rough stretch starting with February's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, wherein his decision not to hand the ball off to Beast Mode on the Patriots' goal line turned him into a scapegoat.

    Faced with a similar decision Sunday, Bevell called for a zone read option in which Wilson could either keep the ball himself or hand it off to Lynch. He chose the latter, and though the ball resided in Beast Mode's hands this time, the result remained the same.

    In her Facebook post, "Sunshine Lynch" referred to Bevell as the "worst play-caller ever" and someone who "should have been fired." A full screen shot of the rant was posted by Condotta

    Bevell has been Seattle's offensive coordinator since 2011, following a five-year sting with Minnesota in the same position. While Seattle isn't known as an offensive powerhouse, the Seahawks have finished ninth, eighth and 10th, respectively, in total points over the past three season, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    Not that any of that matters to Momma Lynch and the Seahawks faithful following another failure of the most gut-wrenching variety.

    As one might expect, Delisa's son hasn't chimed in yet and likely won't. He's not the chatty type, not Marshawn...unless, of course, he's peddling Skittles

Latest Injury News

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    Cornerback Tharold Simon was inactive Sunday against St. Louis but could be ready to go against Green Bay.
    Cornerback Tharold Simon was inactive Sunday against St. Louis but could be ready to go against Green Bay.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
    PlayerPositionPractice Status
    Mike MorganOLBOutHamstring
    Will TukuafuFBLimited participantFoot
    Bobby WagnerMLBLimited participantAnkle
    Michael BennettDELimited participantAnkle
    Tharold SimonCBLimited participantToe

    (Courtesy of Seahawks.com)

    After sitting out Week 1, Morgan will once again be sidelined against Green Bay, per 710 ESPN's Brady Henderson.

    Simon didn't practice in full on Wednesday, though Carroll stated he's hopeful that will change Thursday, per Henderson.

    There doesn't appear to be any cause for concern in regards to Bennett or Wagner missing Sunday's game. Against Green Bay's prolific offense, they'll be needed.

    For Green Bay, starting safety Morgan Burnett returned to practice in limited fashion on Wednesday after missing the Packers' regular-season opener, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood.

    Randall Cobb was also listed on the injury report, but he'll be suiting up Sunday night following a solid debut against Chicago where he didn't appear to reaggravate the injury.

Key Matchups

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    Randall Cobb is still limited by a shoulder injury, but as Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 target he can't be overlooked.
    Randall Cobb is still limited by a shoulder injury, but as Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 target he can't be overlooked.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    C Drew Nowak vs. NT B.J. Raji

    It'll take a collective effort to stop the forceful rush of a more svelte (well, for him) 327-pound B.J. Raji, but with the Packers nose tackle lining up over center, the onus is often going to fall on Nowak. 

    Raji missed the entire 2014 season with a torn bicep, but he's been an integral part of the Packers defense since being drafted in 2009, though he's never been able to duplicate his Pro Bowl play during the Packers' magical 2010 Super Bowl season as he's aged.

    Still, Raji's size and skill demands double-teams, especially against lineman as new to the other side of the NFL trenches as Nowak, a former practice squad guard and converted defensive tackle.

    Raji's offseason of rehab and slimming looks to have paid off, as he led all Packers lineman with a plus-2.2 rating in Week 1, per Pro Football Focus.

    On the other side, Nowak is coming off a discouraging debut at center along with the rest of the offensive line, but he actually finished the game with Seattle's only positive pass-block grade (+0.8), per Pro Football Focus.

    He had difficulty run blocking though, and Raji's strength and mass could be enough to stifle most attempted runs up the gut.

    Most people don't pay attention to the battles in the trenches, but this is one well worth directing your eyes toward.

    OC Darrell Bevell vs. LB Clay Matthews

    A five-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2010, Matthews has been one of the most dynamic linebackers in the NFL since being drafted 26th overall in 2009.

    Seattle got an intimate view of what Matthews was capable of in the NFC Championship Game. He was credited with six tackles and one sack, but he was constantly pressuring Wilson, his on-field antics frustrating Bevell.

    This year, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers has allowed Matthews more free reign to roam, use his instincts and make plays when dropping back into coverage—his interception of Jay Cutler in Week 1 played a key role in the Packers' win.

    On the heels of Momma Lynch's public demand for Bevell's head, the Seahawks' chief play-caller finds himself in hot water once again.

    He'll need to play close attention to Matthews, while making sure not to ignore Green Bay's other defensive weapon, Julius Peppers.

    Matthews is especially intriguing in pass protection, and he could see some time trying to stop Jimmy Graham, especially in the red zone. Graham is there to score touchdowns, and Drew Brees made him a star by forcing him the ball in difficult situations, but all it takes is one miscalculation for Matthews to end up with the ball in his hands. 

    This is a fun cat-and-mouse game worth monitoring.

    CB Richard Sherman vs. WR Randall Cobb

    The narrative has already been established: Richard Sherman strikes fear into the heart of quarterbacks everywhere, so much so that they rarely even look at his side of the field.

    He's earned that, but that doesn't mean Aaron Rodgers is going to ignore his best receiver just because Sherman lines up on him.

    As mentioned earlier, Sherman uncharacteristically saw time in the slot against St. Louis, as opposed to lining up every snap at left corner as he usually does.

    This added a new layer to the Seahawks offense, one with results that pleased Carroll.

    "He did great," Carroll said, per ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia. "He’s going to be a factor whenever we use him in there. It’s a real plus that we’ve had the opportunity to mix him in. It depends on the matchups each week and how it goes and the different things we’re trying to get done. It’s nice to have that flexibility. We’ve never had that before. He’s really taken to it." 

    Against Seattle's nickel scheme, Rodgers could look to isolate Cobb, placing him in one-on-one situations with Sherman in a situation the Seahawks corner isn't as familiar with. 

    Cobb is one of the most dangerous receivers out of the slot in the NFL, even with an ailing shoulder.

    He caught seven passes for 62 yards and one touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and led the team with 10 targets. 

    Sherman was often matched up with Austin—a blazer with supreme quickness but far from an elite wide receiverin the slot last week.

    Cobb will present a new challenge for Sherman, and it'll be critical for Seattle to limit Rodgers' effectiveness in throwing to him.

    If anyone's up for the challenge, it's Sherman.

Matchup X-Factors

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    Is it cheating to call Tyler Lockett an X-factor every week?
    Is it cheating to call Tyler Lockett an X-factor every week?L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Seattle: KR/WR Tyler Lockett

    The rookie out of Kansas State is going to be an X-factor every single week. Elite return men who can change the game with a single touch of the ball tend to earn that distinction.

    But this week, against an offense as potent as Green Bay's, Lockett might be needed more than ever.

    The league has already seen that Seattle's secondary isn't quite itself right now, not with Chancellor gone and Byron Maxwell in Philly (though Maxwell looked far worse than any Seahawks cornerback against the Falcons). 

    If Seattle can't find a way to slow Rodgers down—a lot of that is going to lay with Bennett, Avril and the rest of the pass rush—then it'll need to find ways to score.

    No one wants a shootout in Green Bay, but if that's what it comes to Lockett will be the man who makes the difference.

    He doesn't have to bring every kick back to the house; that's an impossible task to ask of someone. But he's more than capable of delivering excellent field position and giving Seattle a short field to work with. 

    Don't discount his receiving prowess, either. 

    His stats against St. Louis (4 catches for 34 yards) aren't jaw-dropping, but he has the quickness to work the sidelines and the flats and the wherewithal to get to the first-down marker. He's earning his money as a return specialist right now, but anytime he has the ball Lockett is capable of going for six.

    Green Bay: WR Davante Adams

    When Jordy Nelson went down in the preseason, Adams was the guy expected to step up in his absence.

    Adams (6'1", 215 lbs) won't kill you with speed but rather with physicality and athleticism. The 22-year-old grew up a two-way star in hoops and football in California, so he has no problem leaping up and over his men, especially in the red zone.

    He caught just one pass for seven yards in last year's NFC Championship Game, but his emergence was the week before, when he caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys.

    Adams hauled in four passes on eight targets for 59 years against the Bears in Week 1. Not the most exciting line, but it's clear he'll be getting plenty of attention from Rodgers this season.

    Seattle's corners are known for their physicality, which Adams found out the hard way last season. But after another offseason and a fleeting taste of success, Adams will be coming into this game far more prepared for the Seahawks' brand of play, even if this isn't quite the Legion of old.

    When Green Bay gets into passing downs near the goal line, look for Rodgers to target Adams, especially in one-on-one matchups.

Prediction

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    After losing to Seattle in last season's NFC Championship Game, Green Bay gets a shot at revenge in their own house.
    After losing to Seattle in last season's NFC Championship Game, Green Bay gets a shot at revenge in their own house.Associated Press

    Seattle went 2-0 against Green Bay last season, bookending the Packers' season with losses.

    But they didn't travel to Lambeau for either matchup, and I believe the home-field advantage will give Green Bay just enough of an edge to overcome a Seattle team still reeling a bit from a somewhat flummoxing overtime loss.

    Sherman should be fine against Cobb in the slot, but the rest of the secondary looked shaky against a St. Louis team lacking a stellar receiving corps.

    Even without Jordy Nelson, Green Bay has a strong trio of receivers.

    James Jones appears to have taken a dip in the Lazarus Pit before returning to Green Bay. He looked absolutely refreshed against Chicago, catching four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns. And as noted before, Adams is a physical playmaking threat.

    Bennett and Avril were excellent in getting into the backfield last week, but if Bennett's slowed down by his ankle in the slightest, that could spell some trouble for Seattle's ability to put enough pressure on Rodgers, a quarterback who typically doesn't need much time to find the right read.

    The running back battle between Lynch and Eddie Lacy will be a fun one, with both bruisers trying to pummel their way through the opposing defense. Rodgers and Wilson are both excellent on play action, and both defense's will need to be wary if the opposition's running game is established early on.

    The game could swing on one big play from Lockett, but depending on that output from a rookie returner every week is ill-advised. 

    These teams are well-versed in one another's schemes by now following last year, so a blowout either way would be unexpected.

    Forget last year. It's a brand new season, and in Lambeau it just feels like the odds are tilted in the cheeseheads' favor.

    Prediction: Green Bay 27, Seattle 23