Massive Advantage in Pass Rush, QB Protection Key for Packers Against Seattle

The Packers have a serious edge over the Seahawks in rushing the passer and protecting the quarterback, which will serve them well on Sunday.

The Packers get to play host to the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game for the first time since January 2008, when the Brett Favre-led Packers routed the Seahawks after getting down early due to a pair of Ryan Grant fumbles. There were snowball fights and snow angels and plenty of wintery cheer as the Packers moved on to host the NFC Championship.

With snow in the forecast, Lambeau Field could look very much the same as it did that January day 12 years ago. But this time, don’t expect a barn burner. From the Packers' perspective, expect the pass rush to be the most important element of the game, on both sides of the ball.

Rodgers against the rush

Almost without fail, Aaron Rodgers has had his best games of the season against teams that struggle with rushing the passer.

One recent notable exception came in week 17, when Rodgers struggled mightily against the Detroit Lions, with their 31st-ranked pass rushing unit. The one Rodgers game in which he had a 95+ rating against a strong pass rush team came in week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings, when he threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns with a 64.7% completion percentage, good for a 101.2 rating.

The Seahawks have had some significant struggles rushing the passer this season. While the defense feasted against a depleted Eagles offense, the team had just 28 sacks throughout the entirety of the regular season, giving up 48 total to their opponents. Compare this to the Packers, who have 41 sacks on the season versus 38 allowed.

Given the Packers' pass blocking strength, this does not seem to be a good matchup for the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers may not be playing to the God-like level we've seen him play in the past, but you an still expect him to dice up a defense that's unable to get at him.

Wilson against the rush

The Packers, clearly, have the much more formidable pass rush, thanks in large part to the acquisition of Za'Darius and Preston Smith this past offseason, combined with the man-beast that is Kenny Clark on the interior. Green Bay finished the season as PFF's fifth-rated unit in terms of quarterback pressures, versus the Seahawks' 30th ranking in the same category.

The pass blocking divide between the two teams is even larger. The Packers finished as the fourth-rated pass blocking team in the league, with Seattle finishing 30th. 

When you combine Green Bay's strength at getting to the quarterback with Seattle's futility at protecting the quarterback, the pass rush battle when Seattle has the ball also appears to be very much in the Packers' favor. 

Those of you who watched the Eagles/Seahawks game on Sunday saw the Eagles' outstanding interior lineman Fletcher Cox eating the Seahawks' interior line alive. There's o reason to believe Kenny Clark can't do the same. And when you consider how much Mike Pettine likes to move around Za'Darius Smith and rotational players like Rashan Gary who also generate solid pressure on their reps, you can expect this defense to make it a long evening for Seattle's offensive line and, thus, Russell Wilson.

 

Obviously, there are going to be plenty of other battles worth watching this game. I'm particularly looking forward to watching Jaire Alexander and Kevin King take on Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. But the biggest difference between these two teams is the ability to rush the passer and protect the quarterback. Green Bay has a massive advantage in both areas, and I expect that to be the difference in this game. 

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (66)

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ricky's picture

January 06, 2020 at 12:15 pm

If the Seahawks decide to have Wilson run more often, rather than drop back and pass, the Packers could have a problem. They need to play a "contain" defense that pinches from the sides and prevents running lanes from popping up. Seattle will try to exploit the aggressiveness of the Packers, similar to what SF did with Kaepernick.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:09 pm

It was easy to run against clay mathews as a qb because he didnt know what contain meant. He was like a bull he just saw red and went after it. Z smith and p smith and these corners are more disciplined. I hope. I mostly hope im right and you are wrong. Cus i would love nothing more than russ to get shutdown at every turn

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Cubbygold's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:39 pm

I hope you're right. I do remember Clay getting washed out of plays as he ran well past the QB, opening huge running lanes frequently.

I think the big weakness is losing their RBs, it allows GB to play more DBs, which are naturally better at spying the QB.

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Minniman's picture

January 07, 2020 at 01:30 am

I would go as far to say that opposing teams with a mobile qb encouraged Matthews to bull rush the outside - it didn’t help that he didn’t consistently have the inside support to control the b gap.

It seemed that If the packers were in nickel formation they’d double the nose tackle or DE and encourage him outside - voila, instant escape route for a mobile qb!

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MWendlandt's picture

January 07, 2020 at 11:33 am

Not just the Smiths but Fackrell as well could be huge in this game. Andy Herman has a great article on Packer Report about the potential game for #51. With is length and athleticism, he could be invaluable spying Wilson and keeping him contained.

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murf7777's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:19 pm

ricky, this is a different D from the past years who had a major problems containing QB's. The "eye test" this year tells me that we are above average at containing the QB. Thanks to another year in Pettine's D, Smith Bro's and bringing in Amos and Savage as Safeties.

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Packers2020's picture

January 06, 2020 at 07:46 pm

Murf,

The other difference may Kenny Clark. If he can continue to get the push and pressure inside, Wilson has nowhere to go when both sides colapse.

Here is to Kenny Clark!

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murf7777's picture

January 07, 2020 at 04:03 pm

You're right on about Clark, the second half of the year he has been a monster in the middle, even rushing as a 3 Tech. I was commenting on how the D is different with new players and the Vet's getting another year under Pettine's system.

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nstewart1's picture

January 06, 2020 at 07:46 pm

The way we've been able to handle Wilson in the past is by making his stay in the pocket - even though he is damn slippery and CAN pass the ball.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 06, 2020 at 12:20 pm

God I hope you're right! I guess I'm still freaked out from the 2014 and 2012 games against Seattle. 0ne thing's for sure, I'm not inviting my NFL neutral fan friend, who was at my house last time ,and who said this games over!

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TimBackes's picture

January 06, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Very different teams since those games. Every time the Packers played the Legion of Boom Seahawks, you had to worry about Rodgers getting put on the turf over and over again. This iteration of the Seahawks will essentially be carried as far as Russell Wilson can take them, while it's the Packers who have the dominant pass rush. Very much a role reversal.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 06, 2020 at 12:55 pm

This is an important point. Both of these teams have changed a lot.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:20 pm

Russell wilson vs 2019 aaron rodgers. We lose. Russell wilson vs 2019 gb packers playing as a team. We advance. That means playing your role. Rushers stay in lanes, safetys, protect deep balls, and most importantly, rodg sticks to the plan. He just has to be good i believe in lambeau against the russell wilsons. The time will be there. The recievers will get open. He just has to hit them. Its 2019. Theres only seven guys from that 2014 squad here.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:35 pm

It won’t be Russ vs Rodgers though it will be Russ vs the Packers def and Rodgers vs the Seahawks def I like the Packers chances in both matchups but you just never know with this team.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 06, 2020 at 05:52 pm

Heck, the 2019 Packers are very different than the 2018 Packers. Last year, they were ranked 10th in blitz percentage. This year they were 27th in blitz percentage. Every DC wants to get pressure without having to send more than 4. Pettine was able to do that much more this year.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Seahawks o line is banged up. 3 starters are out i believe. A 4 man rush should be able to get there so the safetys can stay back deep to defend the big play. Im so hyped for this defensive matchup. We need to get up in there and feast. Put z smith in the middle of the field right on there center and blow it up wit p smith and fakrell on the edges. 3rd and long should look good for us.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:52 pm

Yep Fackrell had one of his good games against that oline last season this would be a great opportunity for Pettine to dial somethings up for him.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 06, 2020 at 05:54 pm

And Z is motivated by an All Pro snub. When he got worked up over a Pro Bowl snub, the Vikings suffered the consequences.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:00 pm

Man, I hope the right Packers team shows up this week. Out here in the PNW, it’s all Seahawks. There is no higher high than beating them and no lower low than coming up short. I want a beat-down like we have the Vikes. Then, the Vikings can have one more good game before coming to Lambeau and I’ll be happy. Contain RW!!!

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:05 pm

Its set up for a similiar beatdown. They have a weak o line and no running game. Besides russell scrambling. We should be able to win in the trenches. My only fear is dk Metcalf. Hes a big fast deep threat. We need to win against the run with 7 in the box so the safety help will be able to prevent him.

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murf7777's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:25 pm

Hopefully, Alexander can keep Metcalf at bay....say, 4-60yards and no TD's would suffice.

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Philarod's picture

January 07, 2020 at 10:57 am

I'd enthusiastically take that. He's a huge talent, and playing well right now.

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murf7777's picture

January 07, 2020 at 04:12 pm

Yeah, they might put King on him, it will be interesting to see how they defend him and Lockett. It might be Jaire on Lockett and King on Metcalf when not in zone. Probably, makes more sense that way as Lockett is the quicker 5'10 WR. Either way, most important is putting pressure up the middle on Wilson and stopping their run game.

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ShozzBott's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:30 pm

For real, I'm only 20 minutes outside Seattle and I'm wearing my Packers gear to work everyday this week - I hope I don't regret it!

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:08 pm

PACKERS have NO ADVANTAGE over anyone. Knockout Aaron Rodgers and in comes Tim Boyle.

Packers just hold onto the Ball. WATCHOUT for the PUNCHING and STRIPPING of the BALL.

Protect the QB!! Be smart on special teams this time around!!

D.J. Metcalf is a BEAST!!!!!

DEFENSE get after Russell Wilson!!!

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:40 pm

Why do people say that as if it’s not true for literally every team that has a franchise QB? Besides the Pats, Nick Foles lead Eagles team and Fitzpatrick when he forgets he’s mediocre everyone sucks without their franchise QB. Knock out Russ and you have who? Geno Smith? JT Barrett?

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:50 pm

Agreed. The biggest advantage we have is that were healthy. There arent 64 good qbs. There arent even 32 good qbs. In the universe.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:18 pm

Bridgewater did a good job in keeping New Orleans in it.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:26 pm

He was supposed to be the Vikings franchise QB a devastating injury derailed that, he’s much more than a typical backup.

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murf7777's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:28 pm

There are exceptions and I think Bridgewater will get a chance to start in this league again.

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Adorabelle's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:43 pm

OK!! The Packers should protect Aaron Rodgers!!!! And they should score Points!!!!!!! And they should sack Wilson!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And by all means they should catch the onside kicks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LOL

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4zone's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:26 pm

I predict the one critical factor that will decide this game is who scores more points. Done.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 06, 2020 at 06:01 pm

Be careful climbing out on that limb!

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MWendlandt's picture

January 07, 2020 at 11:36 am

[Insert Booger McFarland meme]

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DragonSilk's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:39 pm

Just a feeling but I think this could be a big game for Gary. I think the Smith's will be tasked with keeping Wilson contained which could free up Gary to pin his ears back get after the QB.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:54 pm

Big game for Gary?... based on what? The guy who could have a big game is Fackrell. He'll be in more than Gary because even with his speed Gary isn't as good at chasing anyone down and expect Wilson to be doing a lot of scrambling. Mostly, this game should be Clarke and the Smiths after Wilson like junkyard dogs, with a big dose of safety blitzes, based on what we saw of the Seahawks interior line.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 06, 2020 at 07:26 pm

Inside pass rusher, Fackerell is not that guy. FAckerell is starting to get close to the QBs, now he has to get them on the ground.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 01:49 pm

I just hope these guys come in ready to play this Seahawks team isn’t that good they have Russ and some other nice offensive pieces but the line is a mess and on def they have Wagz, KJ and Clowney (if he decides to show up) but that line and secondary is a mess this isn’t the LOB anymore it’s not even close the Packers should win this game and win convincingly but you just never know with these guys they could have Lynch looking like 2011-2014 Lynch.

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dblbogey's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:04 pm

Buy some punctuation.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:15 pm

So you’re that guy with nothing important to say about the topic but choosing to focus on grammar? Go be a loser somewhere else please.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:27 pm

Go police peoples grammar somewhere else please. Packer fans wanna talk about packer shit. Not grammar.

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murf7777's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:33 pm

I agree, especially when your typing on an IPAD or something similar. Who wants to take the time to make sure your sentence structure is right!

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

January 06, 2020 at 08:27 pm

People’s. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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murf7777's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:31 pm

CAG, they might not be the LOB any longer, but when you have Wilson you always have a good chance to win. They beat SF once and almost twice. They are a bit like us, just find ways to win.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 05:11 pm

I agree and I don't want to downplay the dangerous connection of him and Lockett over the past two years over 2000 yards and 18 TDs. I actually hope the packers go strength for strength as far as matchups with speed on speed JA on Lockett and size on size King on DK as much as I like the dog in JA I think DK bullies him.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 06, 2020 at 06:43 pm

I agree wit the matchups luckily the have no tight end threat so we can double those guys as well

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 06, 2020 at 11:26 pm

They are very good on defense and active up front with Clowney healthy. They brought in Metcalf to stretch the field and he has become their second receiving threat. The game still revolves around establishing the run and shutting down Seattle and Lynch. It will be a close game. One of the trio MVS, gMO and Kumerow have to step up and make a couple plays. Pettine may have Green available to work on Hollister, maybe Amos takes him? Somebody has to spy on Wilson. The Packers cover backer is a no show. Interesting matchups. Philly was compromised with McCown in at QB, and they could not stop the big play by Russell Wilson, the likely NFL MVP candidate.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

January 07, 2020 at 10:35 am

Lamar Jackson is the MVP but this was Russell's best year as a QB and an MVP like performance in 2019.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 07, 2020 at 09:40 pm

It would be great to see mvs or gmo step up. For mvs and his confidence especially. But if they dont do much we can still win wit davante lazard jones and jamal williams being productive. And i think they all will. Tyler ervin brings another dimension too in the slot or out of the backfield. The trio and jimmy just have to catch the few balls that are thrown at them. And not fumble.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:19 pm

About 20 years ago, a writer for SI named Pat Kirwan had an article pointing out that the team which protects their QB best wins a really high percentage of games.

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Bure9620's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:41 pm

Yes this is true, typically the teams winning the LOS in general wins, however, we were much better than Seattle in this area in 2014. Just expecting a weird game as always between these 2 teams.

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Lphill's picture

January 06, 2020 at 02:53 pm

Time to bury the demons of the Seahawks in Lambeau field. It’s time! A great man once said.

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CAG123's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:22 pm

Interesting enough we really don’t have any demons of the Hawks at Lambeau it’s CenturyLink that’s been bad for us Lambeau has been a house of Horrors for Russ and even the two games at CLF the fail Mary and NFCCG he played terrible and should have lost.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:04 pm

The Packers used to be unbeatable at home in the playoffs. Since then, we have lost home playoff games to:

Vick
Culpepper
Eli
Eli again
Krappernick

5 losses all as Vegas favorites. We could have won a lotta $$$ betting on the road dogs.
One thing all 5 of those games was the other teams were more physical. Favre blew the 2007 NFCCG himself though.

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Adorabelle's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:18 pm

you are really going to compare this team to the teams from that long ago? Might as well add in the Packers are going to win because Starr was unbeatable in Lambeau in the playoffs.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 07, 2020 at 06:42 am

There are 4 players on the Packers that have experienced a playoff loss at Lambeau--Rodgers, Bakh, Tramon and Crosby. All those teams that lost were powered by high-flying pass game with a suspect defense. IOWs, they were not built to play in Lambeau in January.

This team is built to win in Lambeau in January.

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Adorabelle's picture

January 06, 2020 at 03:51 pm

When you play against a QB as good as Russell Wilson you always have to worry about him just doing some amazing plays. The game against San Francisco the 49er D was stifling the Hawks all game and then Wilson just went into hero mode and almost won the game. Otherwise I agree that the Packers have the edge in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Packers just have to make sure they are ahead by more than one score late and not let him go rescue the game.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:05 pm

He is having a Career year tossing the ball into tight spaces. His footwork is super good and he gets to open space fast. If anybody roams with this guy it should be Tramon and Green.

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Minniman's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:10 pm

Whatever the pass rushers do, don't get suckered into persistent outside bull rushes - it just opens up the B and C gaps for Wilson to shoot - set and maintain the edge.

While painful from one perspective, I loved the work that the 49ers pass rushers did to contain Rodgers in the pocket and squish him - if Bosa was making progress outside then Armstead or Ford would slide to the inside and keep the pocket constricting.

...... Also a second shout out to watch for the trick plays, the Packers can be notoriously easy to be stitched up by these (maybe bias here!) and Pete Carroll with a limited running attack is going to be all in on trickery.

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Turophile's picture

January 06, 2020 at 04:33 pm

The game is all about the lines. So, our O line is better than their D line and our D line is better than their O line. Big advantage. Fletcher Cox caused havoc when the Eagles played them, so expect Kenny to cause trouble up the middle, while the Smiths do their thing on the outside. Having a home game at Lambeau is also another nice advantage, Century Link field IS an open stadium, but playing in Seattle isn't the same as playing in Green Bay in January.

The Packers win if Rodgers has a decent outing. It doesn't have to be great but it must be decent.

Remembering the time (was it 2012 ?) when the replacement refs changed the outcome of the game, so that the Seahawks beat the Packers with the final seconds endzone interception that wasn't called. It is time for karma to rebalance itself.

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Minniman's picture

January 07, 2020 at 01:23 am

Agree, I’ve always believed that a game is won or lost on the line - and the skill position players just decide by how much.

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Philarod's picture

January 07, 2020 at 04:20 am

Besides Wilson - a Top 5 QB and future Hall of Famer - I am concerned with Metcalf and Clowney, two great athletes who are difference makers.

Versus Philly, not only did Clowney knock Wentz out if the game (and with a cheapshot) but he exerted pressure all game. Metcalf has really come on, and his size and speed are a mismatch against almost anyone.

In retrospect, I kind of wish NO had won, as Brees had a bad game - and that was in his home done.

All this said, I think the Pack... what else... squeaks by.

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Turophile's picture

January 07, 2020 at 07:25 am

Clowney will not find it easy going, not against Bulaga and not against Bakhtiari. The Packers o line is very good vs the pass rush - and Rodgers still has some escapability talent left in him.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 08, 2020 at 07:18 am

Isn’t Bulaga still recovering from a concussion? Lindsay has back problems and Turner has a turned ankle?

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LambeauPlain's picture

January 07, 2020 at 09:13 am

Both the Packers units in the trenches are Top 5.

Both the seabird groups are ranked #30.

This is a huge potential advantage going into the game...especially the run game where the Pack is potent and Seattle is weak.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 07, 2020 at 11:42 am

Seachicks picking it up with good motor guys up front like Poona Ford. They do not quit. Pete Carroll will be attacking at all times. The Pack better be all business.

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