Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers: Revenge for 2014?

The Conference Championship game from 2014 will forever be remembered as either the greatest come back or the worst collapse, depending on whether you are a Seattle Seahawks or a Green Bay Packers supporter. Whilst the majority of the Green Bay offensive players were not playing in that game, you can know for sure that Aaron Rodgers will want to make sure each and every one of them know what it will mean to beat Seattle this time around.

This game has the potential to be just as exciting, with both teams having shown sparks of excitement, but also plenty of inconsistency this season. This game may well be one of the toughest to call all season, as both teams have their superstars and both teams have their injuries. Ultimately this game is likely to come down to which team’s superstars shine the most come Sunday

Green Bay Packers

A Passing Offense Under Scrutiny

Seattle Seahawks Green Bay Packers, NFC Championship game 49ers Packers

Aaron Rodgers has had plenty of critics this year when it comes to his performances. 2019 has seen him put up his lowest QBR, 95.4, and his lowest completion percentage, 64%, in the last four years. However, that does not tell the full story. In Matt LaFleur’s new offense, Rodgers has at times acted more like a game manager than a true superstar, as the Packers have relied heavily on their exciting running back duo to control the pace of the game.

Additionally, Rodgers has been playing with a depleted receiving core at times this season. Even when Rodgers has his full set of wide receivers healthy and on the field, the only name to really write home about is Davante Adams. We expected big things from some of the young receivers breaking through in Green Bay before the regular season began, but between Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Allen Lazard; they only had a handful of notable games. Despite all of that, the Packers passing offense still ranked 11th in the league in DVOA. A big reason for that is the connection between Adams and Rodgers.

When Adams has been healthy, he has been the stand out receiver with 997 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. Considering he missed 4 games and was likely hobbled for a couple more, this has been a solid, if unspectacular season. Adams, like a lot of WR1’s in the league has to face double coverage a lot of the time, even more so when the defenses realize that the other receivers aren’t doing much for them to worry about. However, the Seahawks do not have anyone in their secondary that the Rodgers and Adams combination should be frightened of. Unless Adams is heavily bracketed in this matchup, he should be a key go-to option for the Packers offense on a regular basis.

The Effective Running Back By Committee

The deadly duo of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have been the go-to weapons on this offense all year. Prior to the season, there were a lot of calls for Matt LaFleur to see sense and make Aaron Jones the workhorse back. Although he has out-snapped Jamaal Williams in all but two of his games this season, there has been a much more even split of the backfield than many expected. LaFleur opted for a running back by committee system in Tennessee, and it was not a popular decision, but he seems to have made it work to positive effect in Green Bay. This season, the Packers running game ranks fourth in DVOA, behind just Baltimore, Arizona and Dallas.

Between the two backs they had 431 total touches and finished with 2,271 total yards and 25 TD’s in 2019 (Aaron Jones: 1,558 total yards and 19 TD’s; Jamaal Williams: 713 total yards and 6 TD’s). To put that into context, Christian McCaffrey had 2,392 scrimmage yards and 19 TDs on 403 touches. Both backs have been efficient carrying the ball, which is why LaFleur chose to stick with both of them instead of preferring just one. To give you some context into how efficient Jones has been,, he ranks joint fourth among running backs in Pro Football References approximate value rankings, despite ranking 15th in rushing attempts. Williams himself has been a solid contributor, averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season.

With Seattle’s defense ranking 26th in the league in rushing DVOA, the Packers one-two punch at running back could be a key part of helping the Packers win this game.

Seattle Seahawks

The Surprisingly Effective Passing Game

Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 2019 NFL MVP, Ryan Tannehill, Seattle Seahawks Green Bay Packers

Russell Wilson has had a pretty impressive season considering his long-time lead receiver Doug Baldwin had to retire due to injury and his offensive line ranked in the bottom-five in the league in pass block win rate. Wilson has thrown the least interceptions of his career this season, whilst also throwing over 30 touchdowns for the third straight year. His 2019 QBR of 106.3 is lower than last season, but it still places him fifth at the position. Another indicator of just how good Wilson has been when it mattered most this season, is that he leads the league in game winning drives (5) and fourth quarter comebacks (4). Despite ranking 28th in PBWR and Wilson being the most sacked quarterback in the league, the Seahawks passing offense is the fourth best in terms of DVOA this season.

Wilson has managed to integrate rookie receiver DK Metcalf into his offense with minimal teething problems as well as transitioning Lockett into a new role as the team’s leading receiver. Metcalf has demonstrated his superior athleticism this season, with both his speed and ability to out jump most defensive backs. Considering it was his rookie year and he was playing second fiddle to Lockett, he managed to rack up 900 yards and 7 TD’s. Not a bad rookie campaign at all. Lockett was thrown in at the deep end this season with the retirement of Baldwin, but he did not shy away from this task one bit. The Seahawks lead wide receiver showed us what he could do last season with his pace and his ability to make side line catches with the best in the league. This year was no different, as Lockett had some outstanding catches once again, none more so than the Week 5 toe tapping grab in the end zone against division rivals LA Rams. Lockett has become accustomed to double coverage at times during this season, which is a standard for players in his position. It has made it difficult for him to create the separation he usually does; however, this is only his first season in this role and with 1,057 yards and 8 TD’s it was an impressive one. With the Packers pass defense ranking 10th in DVOA, the role of Metcalf and Lockett could be extremely important in this game.

Is Beast Mode Ready to Deliver?

Last but not least we come to the Seahawks running game. Both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were strong runners this season, but both of them are now on the IR. Carson and Penny helped the Seahawks to have the sixth best ranking in rushing DVOA, with Carson racking up over 1,200 yards rushing. However, their injuries meant that the Seahawks had to scramble in Week 17, and that has led to the return of Marshawn Lynch to this backfield. The fan favorite has been eased back in to the NFL with a total of 18 carries across two games. Although now Carroll has informed the press that the big man at the back is ready for a much heavier workload, this could be the difference against Green Bay who have been susceptible to giving up yards on the ground, ranking a mediocre 23rd when it comes to rushing DVOA. Does Lynch have a couple more monster playoff performances left? It would be a lot of fun if he did.

However, it isn’t all about the star players this weekend. The Packers will be pleased to get Bryan Bulaga back from the concussion protocol, which should ensure their impressive offensive line is at full power. Injuries are the problem for the Seahawks, who have guard Mike Iupati, offensive tackle Duane Brown set as questionable, and defensive end Ziggy Ansah still an unknown following his neck injury he sustained during Sundays win against the Eagles.

This looks like a game you will not want to miss on Sunday night. I am leaning towards the Seahawks slightly right now, but with a bit of snow and some Rodgers magic and it could go the other way.

Ari Markides

NFL Analyst

Ari is a 29 year old father of one from Liverpool with a passion for sports. He started following the nfl six years ago and is seahawks fan. He Recently created Football Fanatics UK to offer a UK perspective on all things NFL, connect the British and US fans and to raise awareness of the British American Football game worldwide.

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Image credit: Seattlefans.com, Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports, Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports