Cardinals and Cowboys and Packers, Oh My!
At first glimpse at the Seahawks schedule, the opening game against the Cardinals was thought to be a cake walk and the next two match-ups were going to be real tests.
Three weeks in, the Cardinals are 3-0 (defeating impressive opponents such as the Patriots and Eagles) and the Seahawks are 1-1 coming off of a trouncing of the Cowboys in week two.
This Monday night Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers come to Century Link field for an NFC match-up that has surprisingly high stakes for an early season game.
A Seahawks victory would put Seattle at 2-1, tied for second in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers who proved Sunday they are in fact human. A victory for the Packers would put them at 2-1 as well, a start at burying the doubts of the fans who are not sold on Green Bay’s chances at a title in the 2012-2013 season.
If Seattle can continue their dominance of Monday Night Football games (Seattle is 17-8 all-time and hasn’t lost a MNF game since 2004), they will prove to the nation they are a formidable opponent in the NFC West, and the NFL in general.
Hide the Belt
Green Bay has Mr. Discount Double-Check himself at the helm of their offense, making the Seattle secondary an obvious focus if the Seahawks want a victory Monday night.
It is no mystery that the Hawks boast the top safety duo in the NFC, and arguably the entire NFL. In order to slow down Rodgers, free-safety Earl Thomas and strong-safety Kam Chancellor will need to continue to live up to their hype and play like the pro-bowlers they are.
Cornerback Brandon Browner has started the 2012 season right where he left off last year, finding ways to be in the right place at the right time for quarterback miscues and still finding ways to disappoint in coverage.
With Greg Jennings questionable (he said today he’ll play, but, if he doesn’t…), Browner will need to grow a pair and man up the larger receivers (Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley) and jam them when possible.
When playing a potent offense like the Packers, controlling the clock is key.
The less Rodgers has the ball in his hands, the better chance the Seahawks have coming out on top.
Marshawn Lynch made the Cowboys look like Lingerie Football League players with his massive stiff-arms and explosive runs. Seattle can run on Green Bay, who stands at 27th in rush yards per game in the league.
If the beast is unleashed, Seattle can manage the clock and keep building time of possession, creating a formula for victory.
Russell Wilson, Show Your Colors
While the Packers’ rush defense is damn near pitiful, they do have the top pass defense in the NFL. This makes their defense a mismatch for most modern offenses.
Luckily, Pete Carroll refuses to follow the status quo.
Carroll has instigated an old school football genre in Seattle, fortifying a dominating defense and a punishing rushing attack.
The fact that Green Bay is dominant in pass coverage may put difficulty on Seattle’s Russell Wilson. A rookie quarterback facing the league’s top passing defense is never a combination to look forward to.
Fortunately, Wilson has a trump card in the beast that is Marshawn Lynch, and studies tape more than Roger Ebert.
Wilson showed signs of youth in his first half against the Cowboys, but came out in the second half with adjustments and confidence that eventually led to a dominating victory. If Lynch gets his game going and can set up the play-action for Wilson, he can very well have another conservative yet impressive outing in Seattle.
Many argue that Greek Mythology is an array of mere fairy tales, but the outside linebacker in Green Bay shows proof that the Greek god Zeus and his wife Hera did give birth to a half-man, half-god.
However, his name is not Hercules, it’s Clay Matthews.
The former USC Trojan has begun yet another confounding campaign for defensive player of the year, with 6 sacks in only two outings.
He is an animal on the defensive line, and bodes all sorts of issues for Seattle if he can not be contained. The return of LT Russell Okung will be immense in keeping Matthews away from Wilson.
Unfortunately, Matthews roams both sides of the line. This is the time RT Breno Giacomini needs to shine, simply getting in Matthews way and giving Wilson time to make his reads.
Cedric Benson is Still Alive
The Packers’ run game has not been effective since Ryan Grant’s break-out season in 2007. Since then, Grant has fallen off, James Starks has failed to maintain a starting role, and the Packers have reincarnated the corpse that once was Cedric Benson.
Benson showed what was expected week one, rushing for 18 yards on 9 carries. A typical outing for the former Cincinnati Bengal. Week two he showed a surprising burst of production, rushing for 81 yards and adding 35 receiving yards.
This rushing attack gave the Packers some offensive life, something that has been lacking in their 2012 season thus far.
The Seahawks lead the league in run defense, allowing an astounding 46 yards per game on the ground.
This is including last week’s outstanding performance in limiting the emerging Demarco Murray to an unimpressive 44 yards with a 3.7 yards per carry average.
Seattle has the ability to limit Benson – and Rodgers for that matter – in the running game, making Green Bay one-dimensional. While that remaining dimension is a very dangerous passing game, the Hawks’ defense has the talent to slow it down.
On Monday night in Seattle at Century Link Field, the noise will be maxed and the defense will be hungry.
It is an enticing combination, and may in fact provide another victory for Seattle.