Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Big Game of NFL Week 2: Seattle at Green Bay

Is there any denying that the biggest game of the second week of the 2015 NFL regular season is that of the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Green Bay Packers? Is there any denying that this game -- so early in the season -- may well go a long way to determining home field advantage in the post-season playoffs? Also, is there any denying that the Packers desperately want to take down this recent thorn-in-the-side Seattle team?

The answer to all of the above, as Captain Obvious would no doubt suggest, is a resounding "No!".

So what's our take on this game? Perhaps a bit more muted than it was earlier in the week. After the Chicago game, we knew the Packers would be without inside linebacker Sam Barrington for the rest of the season because of his ankle injury. That made an already thin inside linebacker group and overall questionable run defense even more so. The inside linebackers now consist of Clay Matthews, third-year player Nate Palmer (who relieved Barrington last week during the game after Barrington's injury and who will get the start today), and rookie Jake Ryan. The Packers do get back defensive end Datone Jones following his one-game suspension and that should help...somewhat. Consider that the Packers' biggest challenge is stopping RB Marshawn Lynch from tearing them up, followed by allowing QB Russell Wilson to remain untouched in the pocket...or out. The challenges to the Packers defense are significant. Seems as if we've been saying that for a few too many seasons now, doesn't it? Geesh.
Packers' slot receiver Randall Cobb can have a big day against a shorthanded Seattle secondary
Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As if that blow to the defense wasn't enough, things then got worse mid-week for the Packers offense: starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga sustained a knee injury. Initially said to not be severe, we soon learned he'd had surgery and would be lost for at least 4-6 weeks. Not good, especially going into a game of this significance. Don Barclay will get the start in his place. Don't forget Barclay's started something like 21 games for the Packers during his previous three seasons with the team, so he's got good experience. But coming off his own injury of last season, Barclay looked overmatched at times during preseason action. Supposedly, he's getting back to his game. But he will need to be fully on his game today in order to give QB Aaron Rodgers the time he needs to work his magic.

While neither the Packers or the Seahawks are the same teams that met during the NFC Championship game, the Packers would seem to have the edge in this game (heck, they had that Championship game won big and gave it away, quite literally). Pundits seem to think so, too, generally picking the Packers to win this game. The oddsmakers have the Packers favored by 3-1/2 points. The projected 49-1/2 points total line for the game is the second highest of this weekend.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are 3-0 against the Packers, defeating the Pack twice last season. Seattle is now the Packers' "white whale," much as Dallas and San Francisco were at different points of time in decades past. The Packers have to get by Seattle. Doing so tonight, in the 2015 Lambeau Field home opener, during primetime, would be a big step to not only the playoffs but home field advantage and further the Super Bowl chances which many hold for the team.

Our Prediction
We haven't talked here much about the Packers offense. With the exception of the loss of Bulaga, the Packers offense is the better of the two offenses on the field today overall. The Seattle Seahawks defense is without several key players from last season due to free agency and a holdout. The Packers will put up points. The key is whether or not the Packers' suspect defense can stop the run and keep Seattle from putting up too many points. If they don't, it will be a tight game and -- as we saw last season -- if the Packers play not to lose...they probably will.

But we are going with home field being a big factor today. And the revenge factor, despite being downplayed by coaches and players alike, has to be a factor for the Packers in this game.

We're calling it...30-27 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!