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Packers vs Seahawks Divisional Round Preview: Defense and Jones are the catalysts

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When the Packers meet the Seahawks this Sunday at Lambeau Field, one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries in recent memory will make a comeback. Both the last game these two played and their last playoff clash were beyond dramatic, and both teams are amongst the league’s very best, as has been the case throughout the last decade.

Those teams shouldn’t be defined by their respective seeding in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks went from being tied at the top of the NFC West to losing three of four to close out the regular season. What had way bigger playoff implications was, however, losing their top rusher Chris Carson due to an injury, taking away one of Seattle’s prime threats. Last week’s Wild Card win over Philadelphia showed a focus shift in the Seahawks offense – Marshawn Lynch didn’t take center stage in the running game, while D.K. Metcalf had a flying start to his postseason career.

Green Bay lost a Sunday Night game in November to the 49ers, which questioned if the Packers could handle “big” games. Despite their dynamic defensive unit carrying them all season long, they controlled their own destiny and didn’t make any mistakes en route to winning the last five meetings of the year to secure a first-round bye. Now, fresh off the bye and at home, the Packers are ready to rely on what they do best to top Seattle.

These two teams produced a fascinating NFC Championship Game back in 2014. The Packers led 22-9 at one time, only to blow that lead and lose to the Seahawks in overtime. Then fast forward to 2016, when the Pack bested Russell Wilson, who threw 5 picks in Green Bay, and to 2018, a 27-24 Seahawks victory in these two teams’ last game.

Neither of them looks even a slight bit similar to a little more than a year ago at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. That’s the fact that both teams had losing records at that time, to begin with, implying just how impressive both teams’ resurgence back to contention has been.


Keys to the game

Aaron Jones vs. SEA rushing defense

Aaron Jones has been what the Aaron Rodgers-led offensive unit desperately needed for many years. He’s been the ultimate catalyst that Green Bay has used to win games by doing just barely enough. The Packers are nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack offense in both yards per game and points per game but have managed to win 13 games this year.

To show how involved Jones is in various types of formations and tactics for the Packers, you don’t need to look further than the box score. He’s recorded four 100-yard rushing games and has caught for 50+ yards through the air on three occasions. And while he could be a threat on short passes out of the backfield, Jones might very well end up getting the majority of the workload on the ground. This is due to Seattle struggling against the run, ranking 11th in rushing yards surrendered.

Russell Wilson on the ground

Many in the NFL believe that the Seahawks wouldn’t be a winning team, let alone a playoff hopeful, with anyone else under center. Wilson confirmed that he intends to carry his MVP form well into a playoff run, taking matters into his own power with team-high 45 rushing yards from 9 carries.

With Pete Carroll seemingly wanting to use Beast Mode only as a red-zone weapon, the Seahawks are facing running problems that put their chances of succeeding in the postseason in jeopardy. Russell Wilson has done the same with the air raid – the SEA O-Line ranks tenth in allowed sacks (48), yet Wilson still manages to extend plays and put up a 100.0+ passer rating week in and week out, such as the 108.3 in Philly with 325 yards through the air.

However, while the Packers aren’t solid against the run, their track record shows that Seattle’s lack of rushing threats will be a problem. Green Bay has allowed the third-fewest yards to QBs, despite facing run-heavy playmakers like Mitch Trubisky and Daniel Jones. Could Travis Homer and Lynch go off if they get an increased workload with the Packers running defense being a weakness? If they don’t get that going, Wilson will be forced to throw constantly under pressure.


D. K. Metcalf could continue his success

Kevin King is likely to be assigned to Tyler Lockett, the Seahawks’ top target through the air. King has seen an impressive improvement in his numbers, decreasing his allowed QB rating from 94.3 in 2018 to 84.6 this season, in addition to intercepting 5 passes, one short of the NFL leaders. Lockett was really quiet after catching 4 passes for 62 yards early on so he could face problems being covered by King.

However, Metcalf has suddenly turned into a very dangerous WR2. He had 160 yards in receptions in his playoff debut at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers’ CB2, Adrian Amos, hasn’t been much worse than King with 85.5 allowed passer rating when targeted but Metcalf’s recent success on long and 50/50 balls sees him as an unpredictable matchup for the Packers’ secondary, which is 14th in allowed passing yards.

Seattle need to put pressure on Rodgers

Putting pressure is something the Seahawks need to improve and haven’t done very well, despite the offseason acquisition that was Jadeveon Clowney. The Dolphins are the only team that has sacked opposing quarterbacks fewer times than the Seahawks’ 28 sacks. Their rushing defense hasn’t been great, so stopping the air raid may balance it out.

While Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best QBs under pressure, as noted by Pro Football Focus in November, putting pressure on him could not only stop the passing game but force turnovers out of Rodgers, who has been the best at not giving the ball away this year.

Rodgers’ secondary options through the air

Obviously, Devante Adams is key to Rodgers’ passing success, nearing 100 yards in each of his last three efforts. However, Jimmy Graham and Marquez Valdez-Scantling have been disappointing this season, and Allen hasn’t recorded more than 70 yards in a game since making a statement at home vs. the Giants in Week 14.

It’s a real possibility Aaron Jones becomes a top chuck of the weaponry out of the backfield. Jamaal Williams has, meanwhile, slowed down after an active start to the season catching throws through the air.

Flashbacks: Last Five Meetings

2018 Week 10: Seattle won 27-24

2017 Week 1: Green Bay won 17-9

2016 Week 14: Green Bay won 38-10

2015 Week 2: Green Bay won 27-17

2014 NFC Championship: Seattle won 28-22 (OT)


That has the makings of a pretty close game between teams with some similar strengths and weaknesses and teams, which aren’t perfect either. However, the Seahawks’ running game has disappeared in Carson’s absence and shows no signs of life, even against the Packers’ mediocre running defense. In the meantime, Aaron Jones outplays a poor Seahawks D against the rush.

Green Bay enters the game as a 5-point favorite, and rightfully so. Prediction: 28-24 Packers

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