Lambeau Field will be at a fever pitch on Sunday afternoon as the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers will open the 2017 NFL season against each other. These two teams look to be serious contenders meet in the NFC Championship Game if they can stay healthy all season long.
For Seattle, the Seahawks will be looking to end a seven-game (including playoffs) losing streak at Lambeau Field that stretches back to 1999. The good news for Pete Carroll’s team is that it is much healthier heading into this matchup as the Legion of Boom is back to full strength with Earl Thomas recovered from the broken leg that ended his 2016 season early. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett also is expected to be ready to go on Sunday, which will be an added boost not only for the Seahawks’ offense, but their return game as well.
Green Bay is coming off of an NFC Championship Game appearance last season as the Packers fell short against Atlanta. Most of the usual suspects are back for Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball to led by Jordy Nelson. Ty Montgomery is going to cause some fun matchup problems for the Seahawks as the featured running back/wide receiver hybrid player. Defensively, there are still plenty of concerns as they were absolutely shredded by Matt Ryan last January in the Georgia Dome.
Seattle at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 10 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Green Bay -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers
These two MVP candidates should put on a show for NFL fans if their respective offensive lines do their jobs.
Wilson is back healthy and that is a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL, as he looked leaner and more agile in the preseason. Thus, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell should be able to give Wilson the green light to run anytime he sees fit. Also, the number of weapons for Wilson to work with in the passing game is going to be fun to watch as wide receiver Doug Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham will cause matchup issues for opposing defenses.
In his career against the Legion of Boom, Rodgers has had his share of success, posting a 68.5 percent completion percentage in his last five games against the Seahawks. On the other side of the equation, Seattle has done a nice job of getting pressure on Rodgers with three sacks per game over that same span. It will be very intriguing to see how Rodgers chooses to attack Seattle this time because he won’t be able to completely throw in Richard Sherman’s direction. Rodgers is going to have to get the ball in the hands of tight end Marcellus Bennett early and often to stress the linebackers and keep them on their heels.
2. Seattle’s defensive line vs. Green Bay’s offense line
With the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson late in the preseason the Seahawks have a very frightening defensive line if they all play to their potential. Richardson alone had 18 sacks over his last four seasons with the New York Jets. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril have combined for 64.0 sacks over their last four seasons and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So if the defensive line can get Rodgers out of rhythm and force him to get rid of the ball in the 2.2-second range that could make things difficult on the Packers’ offense. The loss of T.J. Lang and JC Tretter in free agency has led to shakeup of sorts along Green Bay’s offensive line which could play into Seattle’s hands in this game. Lang was the fourth-best guard in pass-efficiency blocking last season according to Pro Football Focus.
3. Eddie Lacy and the Seahawks’ running game
Running the football early and often to establish the line of scrimmage needs to improve for Seattle in 2017. Eddie Lacy signed a one-year deal in free agency and gets his first hot in a Seahawks uniform against this former team. He didn’t have a particularly strong preseason, but he has done well with meeting his weight goals and staying in “football shape.” But Lacy will need to produce when his number is called as running back depth is not an issue for Seattle. Thomas Rawls (game-time because of ankle injury) and rookie Chris Carson figure to get some opportunities if Lacy can’t get the job done, and C.J. Prosise serves as a change-of-pace option that also can make plays in the receiving game, provided he can stay healthy.
This game should get to the fourth quarter still in the balance as it will be a fun chess match with plenty of momentum changes on both sides. If Seattle can create a nice balance on offense than the Seahawks will have a great shot of picking up a big road win. But in the end, Seattle’s offensive line struggles again on the road. Look for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to get another clos win over the Seahawks, but it will not come easily.
Prediction: Packers 27, Seahawks 23
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.