The regular season kicks off this weekend with the bitter archrival Seattle Seahawks coming to Lambeau Field. As students return to college, the Packers face a pop quiz when they would normally be picking up the syllabus.
The two teams have evolved from occasional playoff contests to fierce rivals, beginning with the “simultaneous possession,” ending in the replacement referee year of 2012. The NFC Championship Game in 2015 helped escalate this rivalry to one of the best in the NFC.
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As has been the norm for the past five seasons, both teams come into this game as Super Bowl contenders. Seattle features a suffocating defense and ball-control offense. The Packers provide fireworks on offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has had his share of success in Wisconsin, both as a Badger and as a professional. Wilson is 3-2 against the Packers in his career. However, an uncharacteristic five-interception game last year led to a 38-10 Green Bay victory.
Former Packer Eddie Lacy looks to show his old team why he should have been re-signed. His weight issues were a concern to the Green Bay front office. The Seahawks’ primary receiving threat is tight end Jimmy Graham. The Packers’ linebackers and secondary frequently have trouble with large tight ends.
Seattle’s secondary is the strength of their defense. The Packers’ depth at wide receiver and addition of Martellus Bennett at tight end will be a real test for both units. Bennett’s brother Michael anchors the Seahawks’ defensive line, alongside familiar Packers nemesis Cliff Avril. The Packers’ rebuilt offensive line will face a stern test in the Seattle front seven.
Packers running backs Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams will have their hands full against the Seattle linebackers. Bobby Wagner is a Pro Bowl run-stopper, and Seattle likes to mix up their 4-3 base with a 3-4 look that features Marcus Smith or David Bass at outside linebacker.
On special teams, the Seahawks trot out some familiar faces. Kicker Blair Walsh, the former Viking, and punter Jon Ryan, former Packer, have both experienced success at Lambeau Field.
Both coaches, Pete Carroll and Mike McCarthy, have won Super Bowls and both expect to be contending for the Super Bowl this year. Despite being the first game of the season, this one will have a playoff atmosphere, not to mention playoff implications.
Fantasy-wise, this is the game to start either defense. Seattle’s defense is always one to start, unless you have Pittsburgh or Houston. Running back Eddie Lacy may have a statement game against the Packers, despite their solid run defense last year. He may pile up some late-game yards and touchdowns.
Wide Receiver Doug Baldwin tends to accumulate points against the Packers, last season he padded his stats with a touchdown pass to Russell Wilson against the Eagles. Such trickeration is always a possibility when rivals meet.
Overall, a tight, low-scoring game is likely. This game will most likely be won by the team with the fewest turnovers.
–Mitch Schaub is a Staff Writer for cover32.com/Packers and covers the Green Bay Packers.