Packers at Seahawks preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (4-5).
WHEN: 7:20 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
TV: Fox and NFL Network with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink (sideline).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 13-8.
LINE: Seahawks by 2½.
WEATHER: Cloudy, low of 48.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (135-82-2) vs. Seattle's Pete Carroll (126-91-1)
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively discussion
5 THINGS TO WATCH
THE BIG 10: There are plenty of reasons to fear Packers running back Aaron Jones, but the biggest is that he’s gaining 10 or more yards at a greater clip than any other back in the NFL. Jones leads the league in average yards per carry (6.8), but it’s not because he has a bunch of long runs. He has 18 runs of 10 or more yards on 73 carries, which means he breaks one of 10 or more every 4.06 times he carries the ball. Most backs aren’t even close to that average. Todd Gurley gains 10 or more every 7.07 per game, Kareem Hunt every 7.6 and Ezekiel Elliot every 7.0. The closest back to Jones is San Diego’s third-down back, Austin Exeler (4.21), and the closest starter is his teammate Melvin Gordon (5.21). “Aaron Jones is doing a nice job carrying the football,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s averaging almost seven yards a carry so that’s really a problem that we’re concerned about. That balance makes it harder to take your plan to stopping Aaron Rodgers.”
RUN AROUND: The Seahawks are no slouches when it comes to running the ball, and a breakout game from first-round pick Rashaad Penny (12 carries, 108 yards) against the Rams on Sunday means they have three backs (Chris Carson and Mike Davis are the other two) who can pound the rock. Throw in quarterback Russell Wilson, who has 210 yards on 33 carries, and the Seahawks rank first in the league in rushing yards and second in carries. Since Week 3, they’ve had at least 32 rushes every game and are averaging 176 yards per game. “I know they have a new offensive coordinator, but the playbook has stayed the same so they’re going to try and pound the ball, make it manageable situations and take some shots,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “So, it just puts extra onus on stopping the runs.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Speaking of Seattle’s offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, he is the fourth former coordinator or offensive coach who worked with or for Mike Pettine to face the Packers defensive coordinator this season. Last week against Miami, Pettine game-planned against his former quarterbacks coach in Cleveland, Dowell Loggains. Against San Francisco, he squared off with his former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. And against Minnesota, he faced another of his offensive coordinators in Cleveland, John DeFilippo. Schottenheimer was quarterbacks coach for the New York Jets for three seasons in which Pettine was defensive coordinator, so like the others he has an intimate knowledge of Pettine’s scheme, and vice versa. Pettine is 2-0-1 against his former coaching mates, but this will be the first one he’ll face on the road.
FALSE PRETENSES: The Seahawks claim more opponent false-start penalties have been called at CenturyLink Field since its inception in 2005 than at any other stadium. Opponents average 1.58 per game. Over their last three games at CenturyLink, two regular season and one postseason, the Packers have committed only three false-start penalties. Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have executed their silent count without too much disruption, in part because they use it at every road venue. This will be the first visit for second-year backs Jones and Jamaal Williams and rookie receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, all four of whom will play Thursday night. “We haven't always started the quickest up there,” Rodgers said. “We'll start a little faster, try to take the crowd out and kind of withstand the surge that usually comes with that team.”
JUST FOR KICKS: Both teams used fifth-round picks to select punters in the draft in April and so far, the Seahawks have gotten the most out of it. Michael Dickson, who grew up in Australia playing Australian Rules Football and played at Texas, ranks third in the NFL in gross average (49.0) and tied for first in net (43.8). The Packers took JK Scott 23 picks after the Seahawks took Dickson, and he has not been the asset the team hoped. He ranks 17th in gross average (44.5) and 22nd in net (38.9). He suffered his first blocked punt Sunday against Miami. Only nine of his punts have been returned, which is the second fewest among qualifiers.
The NFC is too much of a wild card to say the Packers will be out of it if they lose this game, but they would definitely be in it if they were to beat the Seahawks. As vulnerable as Seattle has been at home this year, they’re going to run the ball down the throat of Mike Pettine’s nickel defense and ride the wave provided by the home crowd. Seahawks 37, Packers 26
The Packers have to hope Aaron Jones can take the NFL’s loudest crowd out of the game. But the guess here is that the long trip on a short week will be a little too much for the Packers against a resourceful Russell Wilson. Seahawks 24, Packers 23
If this were a normal, seven-day week I’d probably pick the Packers. Home or away. But although both teams have to deal with the short week, only one has to fly across the country. That’s just too much to overcome for a Packers team I expect to compete with a lot on the line, but ultimately fall short. Seahawks 28, Packers 22
While the Packers were able to get a much-needed home win to reset their season against the Dolphins, the logistics of a short turnaround coupled with continued pass-game inconsistency will be their undoing on the road. Seattle isn’t a much better team, but home-field advantage plays big this week. Seahawks 28, Packers 23
Logic suggests the Seahawks won't lose a third straight home game, and that they will turn the tables on the Packers after dropping the last three matchups against them (all at Lambeau Field). But the hunch here is that, after two close losses at the Rams and Patriots, the Packers finally will force the key turnover or make the big play that delivers their first road victory of the season. Packers 24, Seahawks 20