Seattle at GREEN BAY
Of all the weekend’s games, the Sunday finale between the Seahawks and Packers at Lambeau Field is the toughest to call.
Both teams deserve to be here but have obvious flaws as well as explosive assets that can be the difference.
The Seahawks probably would be the choice had Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny not gone down for the season in the past few weeks. The Packers’ run defense – 23rd on the season and 24th in average gain per carry allowed – has been their Achilles’ heel all season, and one would think the Seahawks’ fourth-rated ground game could have been the difference.
But even though Pete Carroll said earlier in the week that we should expect to see more of “Beast Mode” on Sunday, still only three weeks on the field after a year and a half on the couch, Marshawn Lynch isn’t nearly the threat Carson and Penny are, and Robert Turbin and Travis Homer won’t scare the Packers either.
But Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf will put a real fright into the green and gold defense –14th against the pass, 18th in average gain allowed.
The difference may very well be one of the best pairs of pass rushers in the league in the Smith Brothers, Preston and Za’Darius, versus a Seahawks front that is much improved over recent seasons but still not exactly seven blocks of granite.
The problem with that hypothesis, however, is sometimes harassing Wilson is the worst thing you can do, as few extend plays and improvise as well as he does.
Historically, the edge would belong to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense, but it doesn’t run through A-Rod anymore; it spins off Aaron Jones now, and as great a season as the young running back has enjoyed, there may not be a team better suited to neutralize him than the Seahawks with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Wagner is the top tackling machine in the league, and he and Wright are two of the best four-down linebackers in the game in coverage.
Rodgers may have to reemerge as the point man Sunday – a task we know he is better suited to than anyone else in the game today – and Davante Adams gives him a chance to wake up the echoes. But the lack of a second consistent target in the passing game other than Jones has limited Rodgers and the offense at times this season.
Rodgers, Jones, Adams and “The Smiths” for the Packers, and Wilson, Lockett, Metcalf, Wagner and Jadeveon Clowney for the Seahawks are all capable of taking over a game and dictating the outcome, and whichever one or two does probably will decide the winner.
We can expect each defense to make life difficult for Rodgers and Wilson, but the group that more often gets the opposing quarterback to the ground should win the game.