This game is so unpredictable that I find myself debating whether it really is unpredictable. There is an outstanding offense facing an outstanding defense. There is a great running game facing a weak run defense, but also an great pass rush facing a rookie quarterback and unproven line. Ball control, meet fast break. A historic franchise meets one still trying to make history. Look left, and you will find Yin. Look right, you will see Yang. Acid, meet Base. The Sunday before a memorable Monday, there are a few things rattling around in my head that approach hunches. This match-up is too complex to confidently predict much of anything.
Beware The Bandit
The Seahawks feature a defensive package they refer to as “Bandit.” This group is comprised of three safeties, one linebacker, three lineman, and four cornerbacks. The mix of corners and linebackers can change depending on the coverage talent of the linebackers. It can be a coverage-heavy defense with seven defensive backs on the field, but is really meant to create pressure from every angle. Corners and safeties blitz from all over. Winston Guy is a key addition to this scheme, as he can approximate a linebacker, has skill as a blitzer and has coverage ability. Do not be surprised to see this more on Monday than we have so far this season. It will dare the Packers to run, and maximize what looks Gus Bradley can give Aaron Rodgers. Guy was robbed of a forced fumble in his first game against Arizona when the replacement official blew the whistle far too early. Look for him to make his presence felt on Monday, one way or another.
Losing The Slots
Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receptions a year ago, and was the first undrafted player to accomplish that feat since the NFL/AFL merger. He has three receptions for 13 yards through two games. He nearly made a heroic touchdown reception in Arizona, but has generally be an after-thought so far. He is questionable on Monday with a shoulder injury after suffering through a hamstring injury in camp. It is just a hunch at this point, but one has to wonder if the combination of a short slot receiver and a short quarterback will not work. Golden Tate is the same height as Baldwin, but plays on the edge of the field. Baldwin makes his money in the middle. Logically, that should be the most difficult place for Wilson to see a receiver, especially a shorter one. Charly Martin, who is 6’1″, could push Baldwin if this truly is an issue. There is no doubt about Baldwin’s talent, but the combination with Wilson has not clicked so far. Nobody will work harder than those two at figuring it out. In the meantime, that is a huge hole that must be filled.
A Win Means More Than A Loss
Nobody doubts the Packers are Super Bowl contenders. Everybody doubts the Seahawks are. Wilson is starting just his third game. Truthfully, the Seahawks should not be ready to win a game against a team this talented offensively. The most likely script is that the Packers show the Seahawks what they need to be ready for down the line. The national press and some local fans will jump off the Seahawks bandwagon. The team would be 1-2 in that scenario with plenty of tough games coming up. Seattle is going to improve significantly on offense as the year moves on. This team will be a force to reckon with in the last half of the season regardless of Monday’s outcome. If, however, they beat the Packers tomorrow…all bets are off. It would be a significant over-achievement that would signal their arrival far earlier than scheduled. Games against the Patriots, Lions, and 49ers start looking far different.
St. Louis More Important Than Green Bay
Seattle already choked away a division game in the season opener. They cannot afford to lose another. The Rams are no joke, and will give every team they face everything they can handle. A 10AM game on a short week against a confident division foe is nothing to scoff at. No matter the outcome against the Packers, it will test the Seahawks mental resolve to get equally up for the game against the Rams. Division records can very well decide whether a team makes the playoffs. Let’s not start 0-2.
Don’t Over-think The Offense
The passing game has looked remedial for Seattle so far. Many are openly asking whether the Seahawks will “open it up” against the Packers on Monday. The logic is that the Packers will put up points no matter what, and the Seahawks could surprise them by coming out throwing after running so much the past few weeks. Avoid the temptation to be cute. The Packers run defense is not good. Their pass defense is damn good, and is where nearly all of their turnovers come from. Clay Mathews cannot sack a running back lowering a shoulder into his gut. Charles Woodson cannot intercept a handoff. Aaron Rodger cannot throw a touchdown without the ball. The Seahawks passing game will have it’s day to shine. This is not a great opponent to try it against.
Beating The Blitz
Most are following the logic that Arizona beat the Seahawks because they blitzed and the Cowboys lost because they did not blitz enough. The truth is that the Seahawks offensive line was in disarray the first week. Tom Cable made changes heading into the Cowboys game, and they were far more effective. Still, defenses will continue to blitz the Seahawks until Seattle proves that is a bad idea. Hitting a big play or two against the blitz would put things on tape that future defensive coordinators will have to think about.
Earl Owes Rodgers
Earl Thomas played his first professional snap against the Packers and Rodgers. That very first play saw Greg Jennings go deep down-field off of play-action, and Rodgers hurl the ball 50-60 yards to his diving hands. Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Thomas. You could see the shock on Thomas’s face. Nobody beats Thomas over the top. It was the perfect learning experience, and it was possibly the last time Seahawks fans have seen a team challenge Thomas deep. Symmetry demands revenge tomorrow. Bring one home, Earl.