By Cedric Williams
Before the season began, most would’ve considered this Week 14 matchup between the vaunted Seattle Seahawks and the hallowed Green Bay Packers a likely playoff preview. Some experts even predicted these would be the two teams to meet in the NFC championship game with the opportunity to play in Super Bowl 51 on the line.
But things just haven’t gone that way this season. At least not so far. And especially not for the Packers, who have struggled just to reach the .500 mark this season.
Green Bay has had injuries across the field — especially on defense — and just hasn’t played very well for much of the season. But recently, the Packers have found a bit of a groove and will be looking to make more of that cheesehead magic this Sunday when the Seahawks come to town.
Green Bay Packers Season Record: 6-6, tied for 2nd place in NFC North
After beginning the season with a 3-1 record, the Packers proceeded to lose five of their next six, making some question if they should even be considered among the NFC’s possible playoff contenders. But in the last two weeks, Green Bay has improved, picking up wins over Philadelphia and Houston.
The Packers have now gotten themselves back to the .500 mark, and they’re even within striking distance of the first-place Detroit Lions, whom Green Bay will face in the season finale on Jan. 1.
Before then though, the Packers must keep their current two-game hot streak going if they’re going to have any shot at making up their two-game deficit behind Detroit.
Green Bay will host Seattle, then play each of the other three teams in NFC North to close out the regular season. So the Pack has a chance, but they must make the most of it. And that begins this week, with the Seahawks coming to town.
Green Bay Packers on Offense:
Injuries in the backfield and along the offensive line have hampered the Packers all season long. And those injuries—along with less effective play by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his usual high-octane stable of receivers and tight ends—has cost Green Bay its longtime reputation as one of the top offensive units in the league.
With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers have been among the NFL’s top five offenses for several years. But this season, the Pack has slipped back to No. 13 overall in total yards per game (360.3), with the primary problem coming from the running game, which ranks 24th (or ninth-worst) in the league in yards per game (99.1).
Green Bay has tried using several primary backs this season, including Eddie Lacy, James Starks and even wide receiver Ty Montgomery. But if last week’s performance is any indicator, it seems the Packers will be turning to former Seahawk Christine Michael, whom Green Bay picked up as a free agent at midseason after he was cut by Seattle.
One example of how poor Green Bay’s run game has been this season is that Lacy remains the Packers’ leading rusher with just 360 yards this season, despite not having played in a game since Week 6.
The main focus of the Packers offense, though, will be its passing game, which ranks 10th-best in the league this season in yards per game (261.2). Green Bay has also managed to do its share of scoring this season. The Packers are 10th in the league in that category also with an average of 24.6 points per game.
Green Bay Packers on Defense:
Statistically, the Green Bay defense is not having a bad year. The Packers are ranked 13th overall in total defense, which is a bit surprising considering this group gave up 30 points or more in five of six consecutive games, including four straight, during the middle part of the season.
Over these last two weeks, though—albeit against the struggling offenses of Philadelphia and Houston—Green Bay gave up just 17 and 13 points, respectively.
The Packers have played better over the last two weeks and they’re going to need that to continue to have any shot against a Seattle team that has won four of its last five games.
Green Bay Packers Players to Watch:
The Packers’ offense is completely built around Rodgers, who is second in the league in total passes thrown. For the season, Rodgers ranks among the league’s best with 3,283 passing yards, 29 TDs, and a 98.5 passer rating. Receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams have each taken turns being Rodgers’ favorite target in recent weeks. So Seattle’s defensive game plan might play the biggest role in determining which one sees more of the ball on Sunday.
Green Bay’s top performers on defense this season have been safety Morgan Burnett, who leads the team with 70 tackles, and linebacker Nick Perry, who leads the team with eight quarterback sacks.
Although Green Bay has played much better over the past two weeks, the Packers weren’t facing these Seahawks, who are coming off a straight beat down victory over Carolina this past Sunday night.
It’s December and the ‘Hawks are getting ready for the playoffs, so we expect them to outplay the Pack this weekend. Prediction: Seattle 31, Green Bay 17.