Seahawks vs. Packers: Saturday Scoop

The rematch is here!  OK, before I get on about the Green Bay Packers hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football tomorrow, I have to get something out of my system.  This is NOT the rematch.  I said that to get a rise out of you.  Did it work for a split second?  Yes, this is the first time these teams have met since their last matchup back in January.  Some game that had a lot of meaning or something like that?  Anyway, as is always the case from season to season, the teams change, players come and go and it might be similar, but it's never quite the same.  So no, it's not a rematch.

That said, this is a big game for both teams.  If that sounds like an exaggeration in what is only week two of this young 2015 NFL season, it may be.  But the Seahawks and Packers are still considered two of the top teams in the NFC and many have them making deep playoff runs again this year.  Last season, they met in week one with the Seahawks grabbing the win.  By season's end, that win ended up being a difference-maker to determine home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Packers nearly made that difference a moot point, but we're not going there.  Ever again.  Simply put, if the Packers beat Seattle tomorrow, they move to 2-0 and own a tie-breaker over their recent nemesis.  It's too early to start talking about any team "in the driver's seat", but holding a tie-breaker against another top contender in the conference never hurt anybody.

Even though I'm one of the writers here at CheeseheadTV,  I still look forward to our predictions post and reading the commentary from my colleagues.  I thought for certain there would be a split among us, with some taking the Packers and some taking Seattle.  I was surprised by what I found and read.  Check it out if you haven't yet.  I also ventured over to ESPN to see what the expert picks looked like.  All but one analyst (Eric Allen) picked the Packers to win this game.  It's a nice vote of confidence, but the game is played on the field and among the players involved, not on paper.  So let's look at what each team looks like and what we might see at the Lambeau Field opener tomorrow.

We learned that the Packers will be without starting right offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga.  He sprained his MCL during practice on Thursday and has been ruled out for this week.  The good news is that the injury is deemed minor.  The other news is that the Packers will have to roll with someone else in Bulaga's stead.  Top options are Don Barclay, J.C. Tretter or Josh Walker.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't say who would get the start.  Much of the discussion seems to indicate that Barclay is most likely to get the nod.  

Remember, Barclay filled in in 2012 when Bulaga was lost to injury late in the season.  When Bulaga was again lost for the 2013 season, Barclay filled in for him again.  That led to a Pro Football Focus rating of -10.4 and a ranking of 64th out of 75 tackles in the league.  In 15 starts that season, Barclay allowed nine sacks and 27 quarterback hurries.  A bright spot was that he had just six penalties all season.  Most of that PFF rating and the ranking was based on pass protection vs. run blocking.  We were reminded that Barclay's pass blocking is not his strength during this past preseason.  The Seahawks are aware and will scheme to exploit that weakness.  Barclay does have the occasional clean game at tackle and if Bulaga's injury is truly minor and he's only to miss one game, we have to hope that this is one of those type performances from the Don.  If it's Tretter or Walker instead, we don't have a lot of regular season tape to go off of and determine what to expect.  Tretter struggled filling in at tackle in Buffalo last season and against a good defensive front.  There's a reason Bulaga is a starter and the others aren't, but the Packers have to hope the next man up can do more than just plug the hole.  

The Seahawks lost a tough one in overtime against the St. Louis Rams.  Their offensive line doesn't look as good as it has been.  Quarterback Russell Wilson presents that typical challenge for the Packers defense in that he's mobile and has to be accounted for in addition to the coverage on the Seattle pass catchers.  The Packers sacked Wilson six times in the NFC Championship game so they can get there.  The question is, will they?  Speaking of pass catchers, the Seahawks brought in a new toy in that of tight end Jimmy Graham.  Graham is the prototype of the player the Packers struggle with.  He's a mismatch in coverage and he's a big body that requires sound tackling fundamentals to take him down.  The Packers did not show good fundamentals in tackling last week against the Chicago Bears.  Green Bay has to have a plan to contain Graham.  Either that or let him get his and stop everyone else, including running back Marshawn Lynch.  Lynch is another big-bodied back that has gashed the Packers in the recent past.  He runs hard and, like Graham, won't go down with a simple glancing blow.  The Packers gave up 140 yards to Matt Forte last week and will likely struggle to keep Lynch under the century mark this week.  Can they afford to let Lynch run and Graham do his thing and still win?  

That depends on the Packers offense and how many points they can put up.  Logic says the offense will be fine and obviously the defense needs to keep both Graham and Lynch out of the end zone.  Aaron Rodgers was near perfect last week against the Bears.  He was lights out at home last season and hasn't thrown an interception there in a regular season game since December of 2012.  Receiver James Jones strolled in off the street and casually caught two touchdown passes.  Randall Cobb remains a threat that has to be accounted for and there has been speculation that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may move into the slot and shadow Cobb, a la Darrelle Revis last season.  While Sherman is doing that, Davante Adams would then draw Cary Williams.  I'll take that matchup more often than not.  Seattle's linebackers are still good enough to keep up with Packers tight end Richard Rodgers so I see the passing game being all about the receivers and the screen pass.  

This isn't the Legion of Boom Seattle defense that we have become used to seeing.  Safety Kam Chancellor is still holding out and won't be on the field for this game.  Dion Bailey starts in his place and Bailey is not Chancellor, plainly said.  Earl Thomas is back but is still dealing with after effects of a torn labrum in his shoulder, suffered in the NFC Championship game.  Seattle's defensive front is still good, featuring Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril.  This is where the Packers will likely struggle offensively.  Keeping Aaron Rodgers clean and giving him room to run when needed.  With Bulaga out, it's a pretty even match between the Packers offensive line and the Seattle defensive line.

In looking at the Packers defense, I can see this game turning into a situation where they give up a lot of yards but keep the point total down.  The old "bend but don't break".  They'll likely need a turnover or two and they have been able to force them against Wilson and the 'Hawks.  It's hyperbole to say the Packers need to play a perfect game defensively, but they will have to improve over last week's showing, from a fundamental standpoint.  I talked about Julius Peppers being a X-factor on this past week's Pulse of the Pack podcast.  Peppers had 1.5 sacks last week and his presence will be needed just as much this week.  Inside linebacker Nate Palmer will likely start in place of Sam Barrington, who was lost for the season with a foot injury.  Palmer hasn't proven anything on the defensive side and this is an area of concern.  He would be in the team's base 3-4 defense but remember, the Packers run a ton of nickel and other packages that pull a linebacker off the field. 

And we have to talk about special teams.  Ty Montgomery had two returns over 30 yards last week and looks to be an upgrade over the returners the past few seasons.  The Packers even recovered an onside kick to ice a game last week.  Kicker Mason Crosby is still good.  Punter Tim Masthay has not been as good.  The coverage teams still look like an unorganized fire drill and hopefully the coaching staff continues to emphasize the importance of this area.  Field position is going to be huge in this game.

So there you have it.  Just a few minor thoughts about this tilt between the Seahawks and Packers.  Like I said, it's just another game and no big deal, right?  #jokes

 

Before I sign off, I want to share an image of the work that is being done on the sign on the fence across from Lambeau Field.  Earlier this week, we announced that CheeseheadTV will be sponsoring this elite piece of real estate and the mayor, Kyle Cousineau tweeted a picture of the beginning phases of the sign.  Check it out if you're in town and tweet out your pictures of the sign with our @ and #CheeseheadTV!

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (7)

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Bearmeat's picture

September 19, 2015 at 01:46 pm

We've all had this game circled on the calendar for months. While it would be nice if Jordy, Bulaga and Barrington were healthy, I still think GB wins. They were a better team than Seattle last January, and the're a better team now.

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Since'61's picture

September 19, 2015 at 02:27 pm

Rodgers is healthy this time and I don't think Seattle has an answer for him. We're playing at home and we have the 12th man now. No excuses. Go Pack. Thanks, Since '61

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cheddarhead's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:12 pm

We have the 12 man.

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Allan Murphy's picture

September 19, 2015 at 03:33 pm

J.C .T or Walker or Don I would like to see J.C.T but i'm not the boss .

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Tundraboy's picture

September 19, 2015 at 04:42 pm

Rodgers is mobile again and his throws have been deadly. He looks sharp and I think it is his game that will make the difference. Screens shovels whatever. Just hope the team as a whole rises to the occasion. Go Pack Go

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Allan Murphy's picture

September 19, 2015 at 07:17 pm

Are you kidding me just hurd Brain Balauga's out 4 to 6 weeks he had surgrey today on the knee wth ?

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croatpackfan's picture

September 20, 2015 at 05:19 am

No, that is sad truth!

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