Packers face the Seahawks in a matchup of teams looking to stay in the postseason hunt
"Thursday Night Football" makes its way to CenturyLink Field this week as the Seattle Seahawks (4-5) host the Green Bay Packers (4-4-1). When these two teams get together you can throw out the records as they seem to always play a dramatic game in Seattle. This should set up FOX/NFL Network nicely as Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are two superstar quarterbacks who will draw in casual fans to check this game out which will pay off in a nice ratings bump.
The Seahawks put up a great fight down in Los Angeles against the Rams as they lost a hard-fought 36-31 contest last week. Rashaad Penny had a breakthrough performance back in his native Southern California as Penny rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown. Penny showed a lot of the flashes of potential against a tough Los Angeles defense that prompted Seattle to use a first-round pick on him in the 2018 draft. Mike Davis also chipped in 58 yards as the Seahawks' offensive line did an excellent job of run blocking as part of a 273-yard performance on Sunday. Tyler Lockett continues to show the NFL that he is a clutch playmaker with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Wilson almost worked his magic on the last drive, but the Rams rose to the occasion and held the Seahawks out of the end zone.
Green Bay snapped a two-game losing streak, routing Miami 31-12. The Packers responded nicely after losing to the Rams and the Patriots by getting back to basics. Aaron Jones led a powerful rushing attack with 145 yards and two touchdowns. This took some pressure of Rodgers as he didn’t need to win the game by himself, and it paid off as Green Bay scored 31 points taking pressure off the defense. Speaking of the Packers defense, it had its way with Brock Osweiler as the Dolphins could not generate enough big plays in the passing game all day long. Now the question for Green Bay is, can it take this formula on the road? The Packers are 0-4 so far this season away from Lambeau Field.
Green Bay at Seattle
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network
Spread: Seahawks -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' offensive balance
The ability to continually run the football, especially in the month of November and December is going to set the tone for the rest of the Seattle offense this season. Whether it's Chris Carson, who is quickly establishing himself as a running back that you don’t want to tackle when he is healthy, or the combo of Penny and Davis, running the football must come first for the Seahawks on Thursday night. This will set up Wilson in the play-action passing game to really go to work against a Packers secondary that is beat up right now due to multiple injuries. Also, getting Wilson out in space to use his legs running the ball will be important as well as he will need to get some first downs against the Green Bay defense with his legs to counteract guys like Mike Daniels along the defensive front. Daniels had a field day last year against the Seattle offensive line as he had 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss and four quarterback hits on Wilson.
2. Protecting Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy leaned heavily on the running game against the Dolphins and will need to do more of the same against the Seattle defense. The Packers have some uncertainty health wise at wide receiver as it’s not a guarantee that Randall Cobb will be back this week as he is still battling a hamstring pull. Two young rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown will need to continue to emerge as top targets for Rodgers to throw to in the passing game. Scantling has caught 23 passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns and will probably be matched up against Shaquill Griffin or Justin Coleman on Thursday night. Offensive line play has been an issue in the past for Green Bay in Seattle as the crowd helping propel the defensive line to create extra pressure on Rodgers. Thursday night should be more of the same as the Seahawks fans will be amped up ready to go with plenty of crowd noise. So look for a potential use of tempo if the Packers can stay on schedule on offense and not give up unnecessary sacks to Frank Clark and the rest of the Seahawks defensive line.
3. The "Thursday Night Football" effect
Both teams come into this game with plenty to play for as Green Bay is not out of the NFC North race let alone the NFC Wild Card picture. Seattle needs to hold serve at home against the Packers and try to steal one next week in Carolina to get to 6-5 heading into a very home-heavy slate of games in December. Overall, home teams have fared very well on Thursday Night Football this season as they are 8-2 and have often blown out their opponents especially over the last couple of weeks. This means it is beyond critical for the Seahawks to get off to a fast start this week as they are a team that feeds off momentum especially at home. For Green Bay, they need to get over the mental hurdle of being winless on the road this season in 2018. If the Packers can start well or even just keep the game at a 10-7 type of score in the first half, it will allow Rodgers and the offense to settle in and try to win it late as Seattle has had issues finishing games out this season.
These two teams should provide a rare competitive Thursday Night Football game for the nation this week. Wilson will do just enough in the passing game to keep Green Bay’s defense on its heels. The running game will continue to be very effective for the Seahawks, and defensively they will be giving up yards but do enough in the red zone to slow down the Packers and win a one-score game.
Prediction: Seahawks 28, Packers 24
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.