Can Packers Save Their Season on Sunday?Posted:Dec 9th, 2016 4:49 pm
OK, to start, I'd like to apologize in advance. I'll be at Lambeau Sunday, having strategically placed my annual business meetings for Monday and Tuesday in Neenah. The Packers have lost the last four times I've been in attendance.
I'd like to think I have nothing to do with it, but that's how fans think, right? Regardless, I'll be there to see if the Packers have turned a corner with their two game winning streak, or if they are not prepared to deal with the upper echelon teams in the league right now.
The Packers are in de facto playoff mode; with the Lions continuing to win, they know their margin for error has shrunk to probably zero. They need to win every game leading up to the Week 17 showdown and hope the Lions slip up once between now and then.
With three division games to close the season, the Packers first have to get through the Seahawks, a team that has won three out of four meetings with Pete Carroll in charge. The Pack's win came early last season at home and that of course is the key. The Seahawks haven't won at Lambeau since 1999 and Aaron Rodgers hasn't lost a home December start since 2008, 14 games and counting.
Of course, none of that really matters when the two teams take the field Sunday afternoon on a cold, snowy mid-December day. If the Pack plays like they did against the Texans, they'll have very little chance to beat the Seahawks, who looked every bit the part of a contender against the Panthers Sunday night (some would argue that the Panthers basically laid down in this game--Cam Newton's first series benching probably contributed to the issues this team is dealing with).
The Seahawks had everything rolling Sunday night, with 240 yards rushing and big plays through the air to their three dangerous targets: Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Russell Wilson appears healthier than he's been all season and their weakest link, the offensive line, held up as well as it has all season. Just one week earlier (granted, with center Justin Britt out), the line was putrid in Tampa Bay, giving up six sacks and doing very little in run support, as the team managed just 38 yards on the ground.
The Pack must win up front when Seattle has the ball. They must get big games from Mike Daniels and Leroy Guion, because virtually everybody behind them is a question mark. The Pack lists seven linebackers on the injury report and most of them aren't even practicing. Nick Perry is out with a broken hand, Blake Martinez is still out with a knee injury, Jake Ryan will likely try to give it a go as will Clay Matthews who played the part of the bad guy on The Fugitive, trying to make plays with one arm.
There's little doubt the Seahawks noticed how effective the Texans were running the ball on third down, as Dom Capers' blitzers opened up huge holes in the middle of the field for the running game. The Pack needs to do a much better job not totally selling out on the pass. Rawls and Wilson will run all day on this defense if they're not careful. The Pack's vaunted run defense has given up 4.8 yards per carry and 127 yards per game the last four. Seattle also uses the dangerous Lockett once or twice a game on the ground and they often go for big plays, as we saw on Sunday night.
I've got to believe the Seahawks will move the ball on the Pack's banged up defense. Once again, Morgan Burnett will move up to the inside linebacker role in nickel and dime looks, something he's become adept at. But it further weakens the back end, which may or not have cornerback Damarious Randall, who has practiced very little all week.
So assuming the Seahawks can put points on the board, can the Pack keep up with them? They obviously can't turn the ball over at the goal line again--they must take care of the football. The loss of Earl Thomas can't be overstated. The Seahawks are just 2-2-1 this season when one of their big three (Thomas, Sherman and Bennett) are out. Thomas missed the Bucs game and is now out for the season with a broken leg.
The Panthers attacked that hole right away and got a big play from Ted Ginn. Green Bay can't focus on deep routes just because Thomas is out. The quick rhythm passing game has been most effective all season and there should be opportunities in the middle of the field for Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery. Jordy Nelson was a beast last week, so it might be Davante Adams' turn this week. It will be interesting to see how much Rodgers tests Richard Sherman, who usually lines up on the right side.
As for the running game, I'd love to believe we've seen the last of James Starks, who appears to have nothing left. Every handoff is a wasted play. The team got a jolt when Montgomery carried the ball and Christine Michael showed some pop in limited opportunities. You figure he's motivated to play the Seahawks--let's see if he gets the chance for a bit of revenge.
I don't have a strong feeling about this one. Seems like the Packers need to play a nearly perfect game to get past the Seahawks, who already have a signature road victory under their belts, in Foxborough. If the Packers win this one, Rodgers' proclamation that they could run the table will sound a lot less preposterous. I'd feel a lot better about their chances if he was close to 100%. If he can't run the ball like he did in Philly, it will make that aggressive defense even tougher to stop.
The Packers are home underdogs for the first time in nearly a decade, and deservedly so. I'm going to believe they find a way to spring the upset. Possibly on the game's final play.
Packers 27 Seahawks 26