Packers vs. Seahawks: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (13-3, No. 2 seed) vs. Seattle Seahawks (12-5, No. 5 seed).
WHEN: 5:40 p.m. CT on Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
TV: Fox with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (reporter).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 13-9.
LINE: Packers by 4½.
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, high of 23.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur (13-3) vs. Seattle's Pete Carroll (155-103-1).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively conversation.
5 THINGS TO WATCH
1. PACKERS SEEK DOMINATION UPFRONT: As long as nose tackle Kenny Clark (back) is at full strength, the Packers have a chance to control the line of scrimmage. They beat up Minnesota’s offensive line three weeks ago and were so-so against Detroit’s the week after that. Now they’re facing a line in tatters. Left tackle Duane Brown (knee) is coming off a procedure and won’t be 100% if he plays at all. Right guard Mike Iupati (stinger) is likely out and Jamarco Jones, who made his first career start last week, would replace him. George Fant (groin), who has been filling in for right tackle Germaine Ifedi – who has been filling in for Brown – might not play. If Brown can’t play Chad Wheeler, who was signed from the practice squad this week, would get the start at right tackle. It would take an inspired effort for that line to keep the Packers out of the backfield. “Those guys have really come through for us, so we don’t feel like we’ve dropped off as much as it might appear,” coach Pete Carroll said.
2. D-ING DK: The Philadelphia Eagles were down just 10-6 in the third quarter when they made a critical error in the secondary and let Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf get open for a 53-yard touchdown. It was a blown coverage and with Metcalf’s speed, there’s no making up ground. The touchdown flipped momentum to the Seahawks and doomed the Eagles. The Packers cannot make an error like that. “Especially with a guy that probably throws the best deep ball in the league,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “We can’t play with our eyes in the backfield. We tell those guys on the back end, deep to short. We’re going to let the guys up front defend the run and when you have deep responsibility, make sure you play that first. This is as critical a week for us to maintain deep-ball security than any other because of what they do.”
3. CARROLL KNOWS WHAT HE LIKES: There have been times this season that Carroll has gotten away from the Cover 3 scheme that his “Legion of Doom” made famous in the mid-2010s. Mostly it’s because he didn’t have a deep safety to roam the field. But former Detroit Lions safety Quandre Diggs came back from an ankle injury last week and Carroll went back to playing a lot of Cover 3. That defense allows him to use the strong safety to play the run and roam underneath the linebackers in pass coverage. “They’re not an overly complex defense,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re only going to run a few different coverages and fronts, but what they do so well is they are so fundamentally sound. They don’t give up the big plays, and they’re on all of the little details of attacking the football.”
4. TAME THE BEAST: Now three weeks into his unlikely return to the Seahawks, it’s possible running back Marshawn Lynch will find his groove. The Packers have done a pretty good job against Lynch over the years in the regular season: 77 carries for 313 yards (4.06 average) and two touchdowns, plus five receptions for 36 yards in four games. But he had 25 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 26 yards in the 2014 season's NFC championship game. When he gets going, so does the Seahawks offense. “We’re trying to discover it a little bit as we’re going through it,” Carroll said. “We know what we want to do and how we want to get there and what it looks like. Marshawn’s now practiced for two weeks and he’ll add what we can add.”
5. HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE: It’s not just that Russell Wilson has had trouble at Lambeau Field. It’s that the Seahawks haven’t won in Green Bay since 1999. The Packers have won eight straight games at home against the Seahawks, including a pair of playoff games. The last win was when former Packers coach Mike Holmgren marched in during his first season as Seahawks coach and beat Brett Favre and the Packers, 27-7. The Packers got Holmgren back twice in ’03, including the overtime thriller in which Al Harris returned an interception for a touchdown. This is the first home playoff game for the Packers since they beat the New York Giants in the wild-card round in January 2017. “We wanted one of these for a while, a divisional game at home, good opponent, with the weather in our favor,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
Everything is set up for the Packers to advance to the NFC championship: a healthy roster, home-field advantage and the momentum of five straight victories. So what could go wrong? Overconfidence? Rust after a week off? Russell Wilson? A botched onside kick? The bottom line is this is an opportunity you can’t blow. Packers 24, Seahawks 16.
Seattle is pretty banged up – its top three running backs, top two tight ends and center are on IR, and its starting LT and LG probably won’t play Sunday. The Packers are healthy and at home. There’s a good chance that’s the difference. Packers 27, Seahawks 21
This is the inverse of the 2014 NFC championship game. The Packers have the better defense, and it’s the Seahawks with an All-Pro quarterback. This game will come down to the trenches, where the Packers have the better offensive and defensive lines. That will be the difference. Packers 24, Seahawks 20
The Packers will continue to “win ugly” thanks to Aaron Jones and by doing enough to slow Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf in the end. Packers 27, Seahawks 24
The Packers should win this game. They have home-field advantage coming off of a bye and they’re playing a depleted team bound to be fatigued after traveling to Philadelphia last weekend. Seattle’s run game isn’t what it was earlier this season, making them one-dimensional. Packers 27, Seahawks 23
The injury-riddled Seahawks are a shell of the team that looked like a Super Bowl favorite after winning Nov. 11 in overtime at San Francisco. The Packers will control both lines of scrimmage and need only to avoid getting burned by deep passes to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Packers 28, Seahawks 17