Preview, predictions: Packers vs. Seahawks
Teams: Green Bay Packers (6-6) vs. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
When: 3:25 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Lambeau Field.
Radio: AM-620 in Milwaukee, AM-1360 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network
Series: Packers lead, 11-8.
Line: Seahawks by 3.
Weather: Low 30s, snow.
Surface: DD GrassMaster.
Coaches: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (118-68-1) vs. Seattle’s Pete Carroll (110-76-1).
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
LITTLE BIG MAN: WR Doug Baldwin lacks size but has developed into a major threat. “He is an underrated player in this league,” Packers CB coach Joe Whitt said. “He blocks, he can play any position … he can catch the ball away from his body, he understands where the holes in coverages are, he can (see) blitzes and he’s always the hot guy that Russell can get to right away.” In three games against Green Bay, Baldwin has 16 receptions for 212 yards (13.3) and one TD. He beat Clay Matthews for a gain of 29 yards, Casey Haywards for 20, 35 and 32, and Micah Hyde for a 13-yard TD. “They work their scheme to try to get the ball in his hands,” said one scout. “Let him do things with it.”
BADGER RETURNS: According to the Packers, the Seahawks start with QB Russell Wilson. “He extends plays probably as well as anybody in the league,” coordinator Dom Capers said. “Throws the ball really well on the move, which is what makes him dangerous. He can be running full speed and throw the ball across his body with pretty good accuracy.” Eagles coordinator Jim Schwartz praised Wilson before the two teams met Nov. 20. “People have had a long time to try to figure him out and nobody really has,” said Schwartz. “Even though he’s 5-10 ½ or whatever he plays big … He also scrambles backwards, which makes him hard to catch because he already has a little bit of a cushion. Fran Tarkenton did a lot of the same things … Scheme-wise, they do some things to help him out. When you’re not as tall, they drop him a little bit deeper. It’s not rare to see him 10, 12 yards behind the line so when he throws it evens out the height of image. They open up windows.”
WEAK UP FRONT: One reason Wilson must scramble so much is the fact his revamped offensive line remains a mess. “You break them down individually, I don’t think they’re very good at all,” said one scout. “(Justin) Britt is the most consistent of the group. Not physical, but he’s a good athlete … (Germain) Ifedi is a big body but very robotic. Slow to the second level. Very slow to react and recover … (George) Fant has a chance to be good but he’s a way away. He has the raw tools but he’s just not ready for prime time … (Mark) Glowinski is OK. He battles. … (Bradley) Sowell is athletic but he lacks anchor and makes mental mistakes. Bad angles to the second level.”
NEW STARTER: FS Steven Terrell will be making the second start of his four-year career for injured all-pro Earl Thomas. “He has the physical tools,” said one personnel man. “He has good speed and made a high-point interception (against Carolina). He didn’t have a productive college career. He would be someone I’d try to attack to see what he’s made of. He’s not an alley runner. Earl would be 100 miles an hour running the alley where this guy kind of feels his way. I wouldn’t say he turned down (contact) but he doesn’t have the presence in the run game that Earl would.”
PASS RUSH: With Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, the Seahawks have three legitimate rushers that regularly win one on one’s. “I think Bennett is better rushing inside,” said one scout. “He’s such a mismatch. … Avril’s playing great. He can run the edge with speed and finish. Occasionally he’ll come underneath. The guy knows how to rush … Clark’s an explosive, leverage rusher. He’s much better than I thought he’d be.” The Seahawks love to run stunts, too. “This group is fast,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said before a game in Seattle. “Obviously, they feed off their crowd at home. They want you in third and long’s. That’s where they get most of their hits on the quarterback. It’s still an eight-man box, and they try to take that run game away from you.”
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VIEWS OF THE GAME
In their last two games against Seattle, the Packers have played solid defense in all but one quarter (and overtime). The key to victory is making the Seahawks pay for their porous offensive line, making life miserable for Russell Wilson and forcing punts and/or turnovers. Points will be at a premium. The offense will need some short fields.
This is a statement game for the Packers. If they aren't competitive, you'll know the last two games were a sham. They need to win, but just as importantly they need to play like a playoff team. I just don't see their defense being at that level right now. Seahawks 26, Packers 21
Snow is in the forecast for the second consecutive week at Lambeau Field, but the Seattle Seahawks aren't the Houston Texans — they're not a one-sided team. The Seahawks can hurt opponents in all three phases of the game and have a proven track record in December, January and February football. They might show the Packers what a real contender looks like. I just don't think this is the Packers' year. Seahawks 23, Packers 17
Seattle has the NFL's top-rated scoring defense, and quarterback Russell Wilson is finally healthy and has some weapons in the passing game with tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Doug Baldwin. The guess here is that will carry the day. Seahawks 24, Packers 21
Earl Thomas’ absence because of a broken leg makes this more interesting, but the Packers short-passing offense isn’t really equipped to go vertical and exploit the All-Pro safety’s absence. The Packers have played better recently, but the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles aren’t in the same league as the Seattle Seahawks. Until the Packers beat a good team, it’s hard to pick them to beat a good team. Seahawks 20, Packers 17