Packers, Seahawks likely to be key battle in NFC
Last in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
As the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks can attest, not all rivalries are rooted in geography.
The very definition of a rival is two opponents competing for the same objective, each striving for superiority. The Packers and Seahawks have played each other four times in the past four seasons. Despite two of those games coming in September, each meeting has had significant playoff ramifications.
There likely will be no mistaking that impact when the Seahawks travel to Lambeau Field for a late-season game Dec. 11. It will be the Packers' final game against a nondivision rival in the 2016 regular season, with their final three games against NFC North opponents. Same for the Seahawks, who play their final three games against NFC West opponents.
Here are three things to know about the Seahawks.
» A talent leakage: Since winning Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks have seen talent leak out of their system over the past three offseasons. It started with their vaunted Legion of Boom, when Brandon Browner left for the New England Patriots before the 2014 season. Byron Maxwell filled Browner’s role in the Seahawks' secondary, only to depart for the New Orleans Saints one season later. This spring, it was Bruce Irvin’s turn to depart, leaving via free agency for the Oakland Raiders. Running back Marshawn Lynch, the heart and soul of these title-contending Seahawks, chose to retire despite being only 30 years old. That’s a lot of talent to leave one franchise in just a few seasons. Of course, there’s one predominant reason the Seahawks are still considered Super Bowl favorites …
» Better than Rodgers? It would be blasphemy inside the state of Wisconsin to suggest former Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson is better than Aaron Rodgers — and ultimately inaccurate. Rodgers is the two-time MVP, Wilson is not. Regardless, Wilson has not only won as many Super Bowl titles as Rodgers but also played in more Super Bowls. Neither made it to the Super Bowl last fall, but there is no question Wilson had the better 2015 season. His 4,024 yards, 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions trumped Rodgers’ 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight picks. Wilson had a career-high 110.1 passer rating, much better than Rodgers’ 92.1. He also completed 68.1 percent of his passes and averaged 8.3 yards per pass, better than Rodgers’ 60.7 percentage clip and 6.7 average. Even advanced metrics liked Wilson more. His plus-33.6 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus, was much better than Rodgers’ plus-19.2. Yes, Rodgers played without Jordy Nelson last season, which explains his dip in production. However, it’s not like Wilson’s receiving corps of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, rookie Tyler Lockett and underwhelming tight end Jimmy Graham were appreciably better than Rodgers’ remaining targets. Now, one season on an island does not tell an entire story. Rodgers’ body of work clearly outweighs Wilson's, which is why he’s the better quarterback. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Packers count on a substantial quarterback edge most weeks. When they host the Seahawks, that isn’t necessarily the case.
» A broken offensive line: There’s another reason Wilson’s 2015 season was so impressive. His production came behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The Seahawks’ overall pass-blocking grade of negative-76.9 ranked 30th in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Packers actually allowed one more sack than the Seahawks last fall (47 to 46), but the Seahawks allowed more total hurries (169 to 161). Both teams addressed their offensive line early in the draft. While the Packers traded up in the second round to draft Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs, the Seahawks traded back to the final pick of the first round and drafted Texas A&M offensive tackle Germain Ifedi.
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Packers schedule glimpse
Dec. 11 vs. Seahawks, 3:25 p.m., Fox
Week before: vs. Texans, Dec. 4
Week after: at Bears, Dec. 18
On the horizon: vs. Vikings, Dec. 24
Coach: Pete Carroll (60-36 with Seahawks, seventh season)
2015 record: 10-6, second NFC West
Scoring offense: 26.4 points per game (4th in NFL)
Total offense: 378.6 yards per game (4th)
Scoring defense: 17.3 points allowed per game (1st)
Total defense: 291.8 yards allowed per game (2nd)
Series: Packers lead 9-7 (2-1 postseason).
Last meeting: The Packers exacted a measure of revenge when they beat the Seahawks 27-17 on Sept. 20 at Lambeau Field. The game came almost exactly nine months after their epic collapse in the NFC title game at Seattle. This time, the Packers pulled away with 11 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after the Seahawks outscored them 14-3 in the third, taking a one-point lead entering the final 15 minutes. Rodgers got the better of Wilson in this head-to-head matchup, completing 25 of 33 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 116.9 passer rating. Wilson completed 19 of 30 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 91.8 rating.