NFL Season Opener
It’s been anticipated for a long time but it’s finally time for the NFL season opener on Thursday September 4th, 2014. This is a matchup many consider as a potential NFC Championship game. As the Seahawks come off of a Super Bowl victory, many consider the squad to be the favorites once again in the NFC. Some may not remember, but these two franchises have a significant history against each other. The game that Packers fans have as a more favorable memory of is when the Packers took down the Seahawks in 2004 when Al Harris took an interception to the endzone to send the Packers to the next round of the playoffs. The most recent memory unfortunately, was the result of one of the most controversial plays in NFL history. Just for a reminder, the replacement refs(that were in the midst of a strike due to compensation and benefits disagreements) were the cause of one of the most controversial games in NFL history as the Packers were given a loss when two officials disagreed on what was the correct call. While the television provided millions of viewers with what would seem to have been the correct call, the incorrect call was indeed made, and the Seahawks were given a victory. As a biased writer, I realize this may not seem as though I am being objective. I am simply agreeing with the majority of analysts and NFL reporters’ opinions as far as the correct result of the play.
Moving on from the previous meeting, which has no meaning now, the Packers have a lot to prepare for. While I do not believe the Seattle Seahawks have a top 5 offense in the NFL, the defense is nothing to take lightly. They have stars at every position on defense. I consider Earl Thomas the best safety in the league because the guy is fearless, and rarely gives up the big play. The rest of the secondary does benefit from an elite pass-rush but I still struggle to take anything away from what they have done the past few years. Richard Sherman’s tenacity is unmatched, and he is clearly an elite athlete in the league. While I will argue that there are better overall corners in the league than Sherman, his performance this past year has given me reason to believe I may be wrong about how good he actually is.
Now I would like to talk about the phenomenon that is Russell Wilson. My strong dislike for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks probably takes away from how good Wilson actually is. I’m not ready to call him elite and make ridiculous comparisons like ESPN is, but I will give the guy a chance since he has only been in the league two full years. He has benefitted from an ELITE defense but he still had to perform well enough to be able to win a Super Bowl. As much as I hate to admit it, he played well enough to help his team to the promise land. His top 5 offensive line, and an elite running back in Marshawn Lynch have helped him along the way but I will give credit where credit is due.
The major issue coming into this matchup is the Packers defense. While BJ Raji’s injury hurts, the Packers need to generate a pass-rush in order to compete with the Seahawks. The loss of Johnny Jolly is also a major issue. Julius Peppers obviously is not what he used to be but hopefully he frees up some space for a healthy Clay Matthews to get after Russell Wilson. When Wilson gets out of the pocket, he can run just as well as Aaron Rodgers, which will cause problems for the Packers. The Packers have proven to be poor against quarterbacks that get out of the pocket in the past few years. If they can keep Wilson in the Pocket, Green Bay will have a better chance of winning this game.
The past few years, Green Bay has gotten a bad rap for their secondary. Personally I like our guys back there, they have just been punished by a very poor pass-rush. A team can have a solid secondary but with no pass-rush, there will be big plays given up, and poor results overall. I think Sam Shields and a healthy Casey Hayward can shut down big time receivers, provided that the guys up front can do a sufficient job putting pressure on the quarterback. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is expected to be a play-maker immediately, as the Packers desperately need a physical presence in their secondary. The Seahawks don’t necessarily have a “big time” receiver but Percy Harvin’s speed will be the main issue as far as receivers go. The main focus on defense will be shutting down a dominant Marshawn Lynch. While the Packers held Lynch to under four yards per carry in their previous meeting, they will still have a tough time defending one of the top running backs in the league. Missing several pieces like Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly will be reasons why there could be a potential struggle in defending the run (the major asset of the Seattle offense) on Thursday night.
The Packers clearly have a superior offense with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy as weapons on offense. The issue will be whether or not the defense can stand up against a relatively average offense. I think the Packers will quiet the Seahawks fanatics with a 28-14 victory Thursday night.