Seattle QB Russell Wilson has been on the shelf since injuring his throwing hand in the third quarter of the Seahawks game against the LA Rams on October 7th. This weekend, he’s finally back.
The Seahawks travel to Green Bay this Sunday to take on the Packers and begin what they hope will be a deep run toward a playoff berth. To do it, they will have to start by knocking off the reigning MVP (unless he’s not there) and a Green Bay team playing well despite critical injuries on both sides.
Wilson will be out there and hopefully will be able to knock the rust off quickly, and he’ll have to do it in some unusual conditions for mid-November. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid-30s, with snow possibly falling on the field. Wilson played his super senior (5th year) of college ball for Wisconsin, so he’s no stranger to cold weather. But one has to wonder if the bite of the cold will cause some discomfort with his surgically repaired hand? We’ll find out.
Aaron Rodgers will also be making his return to the field on the opposite side, although it’s for a much different reason. Rodgers tested positive for Covid-19 the day after Halloween, and due to the league’s policy on unvaccinated players, he was forced to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. Rodgers has a chance to play this weekend – as long as he passes Covid-19 protocols on Saturday and is cleared for action – which is not a given. Suppose Rodgers plays, even with a couple of weeks of rust to shed (and participating in the game plan virtually due to being quarantined). In that case, he gives this team a much better opportunity to score than his understudy Jordan Love, who struggled against a very aggressive Kansas City defense a week ago.
If this is a matchup of Wilson vs. Rodgers, it should be entertaining throughout as both sides have challenges on defense and receiving threats that can puncture even the best-laid plans for preventing airstrikes. If Love is forced to step in for Rodgers, I would expect there to still be some big plays regardless of who takes snaps at QB for the Packers, given their talent on that side of the ball. Still, it’s much easier to rattle a QB in their second game as a pro as compared to a guy that has been lighting up defenses for 13 years now.
You’ve likely heard many recent tellings of the revival of the cover-2 defense, and you shouldn’t be surprised if both teams use it to bring the opposing side to a grinding halt on offense, especially if they struggle to run the ball. The best way to beat man or zone with a two-high safety look is to run the ball and get big plays out of play action while taking check-downs and short routes. Running forces the defense to drop a safety closer to the line of scrimmage and gives them one less defender to protect the second and third levels of the field. Completing many short and intermediate passes also forces the defense to think about subbing another player into coverage and taking a linebacker off the field, which usually opens up the running game even more.
World-class speedster receivers Tyler Lockett and Marquez Valdes-Scantling love to run deep routes, and they can even break away against double coverage. But you don’t want to count on it, plenty of high octane offenses have been brought down to earth thanks to conservative defense this season, so it will take a lot of patience from both QBs to take what the defense gives them before going for a big strike just when they aren’t ready for it.
Seattle and Green Bay both lack a true shutdown corner (at least Green Bay doesn’t have one healthy with Jaire Alexander out), so it will have to be a group effort against all-pro receivers Davante Adams and DK Metcalf, as each player has the size and speed to make any corner or safety look foolish if they try to take them on one on one. Adams is 4th in receptions and yards but has just three touchdowns so far. Metcalf is 18th in yards (Lockett is 19th) and 2nd with 8 TDs. Adams has 13 catches of at least 20 yards and three plays where he exceeded 40 yards. Metcalf has been making big plays all season, but he hasn’t been making the field stretching plays yet, posting just seven plays of 20 yards or more. Lockett has ten plays of at least 20 yards, so the fact that the defense has to look at two different players to stop them will be helpful. Adams is the only major threat for Green Bay, so if Seattle finds a way to slow him down, they might not have a lot of trouble with his teammates who have struggled to stand out so far this season – despite plenty of opportunities.
RB Chris Carson is still on injured reserve with a neck injury, and he might not be ready in time for Sunday. As of Friday evening, he was still a game-time decision, but the neck is not something you want someone playing through if they can risk further injury. Better to let Alex Collins handle the lead back duties if Carson would benefit from another week off. If it’s just pain and there’s no risk of Carson further injuring himself, then let him go nuts against a weak Green Bay run defense.
Green Bay all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is not likely to be active for the game, but Elgton Jenkins has done well covering for him, so don’t expect the Seattle pass rush to break through just because the Packers are putting backups on the offensive line. They have been playing backups most of the season and, due to some very clever game planning by their coach, have not had many issues aside from their week one disaster at New Orleans in Jacksonville (yes, you read that correctly). That doesn’t mean guys playing out of position will hold up forever, but so far, it has worked, especially with defensive coordinators showing apprehension toward sending the kitchen sink at Rodgers if he’s back there. Even with a terrible Johnny Utah-inspired haircut (does he need a raise? Just get some clippers at CVS, brah), Rodgers can dice up opposing defenses if he spots a breakdown in coverage.
This is Seattle’s first game out of their bye, and their first chance to prove the first two wins with Wilson were not a fluke but something to build on. At 3-5, they are just two games below .500 and five games out of first place in their division. It’s not likely they can catch 8-1 Arizona, but stranger things have happened in this league. With three wild card spots up for grabs, Seattle should focus on catching 7-2 LA before they worry about Arizona, but beyond that, they need to worry about 5-3 New Orleans and 3-5 Minnesota, as both teams beat them head to head. Not many folks see 4-4 Atlanta as a serious threat, but you can’t rule them out either.
Before Seattle can worry about who is ahead of them in the standings, they need to first worry about Green Bay, who is the second seed in the NFC right now. They may have lost to a 5-4 team last week (even if they are the defending AFC champions), but they could have won that game and probably would have prevailed if they had a more experienced QB playing. Even if Love starts this week, don’t expect him to be as easily rattled this time, as he will have an entire week to prepare with his entire offense as they were missing Adams and Allen Lazard all but one day last week, which severely limited their practice time, and for three guys who have very little history, that wasn’t ideal going into the second most intimidating stadium this side of the Mississippi (Seattle being the first). This time he’ll be at home, with his fans and an entire game of nerves behind him. Don’t expect to see Love out there, but if you do see him, expect to see a more composed Love.
Vegas has this game favoring the Packers by 3.5, and if you’re familiar with spreads, you know that three points for the home team is essentially a push – in “coin flip” matchups, they give the host team a field goal advantage to account for the home field. But if Rodgers is cleared to play, they might move it back to 5.5 where it started, although I wouldn’t count on it.
Win or lose, I expect Seattle to come out guns blazing, trying to make a statement that they didn’t just get rusty on their bye week. Wilson will want to prove he came back because he’s ready and not because he thinks he’s supposed to. If he experiences any discomfort with this throwing hand, it could mean wayward passes on a snowy afternoon, and you don’t need to look further than the Tennessee game in Green Bay last season to see how that might go. This contest has all the makings of a shootout, with two future HOF QBs at the controls and a winter wonderland backdrop to go with it. Will we get treated to that epic of a matchup?
You’ll just have to tune in to find out. The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1:25 pm this Sunday.
While I expect both teams to give it their all, for some reason, this matchup is reminding me of one in late November in Green Bay against New England in 2014. Green Bay was 8-3 going into the game and used very creative play calling on both sides to win a nail-biter 26-21. This game could be very similar, with both teams using their superstars to get big plays and excite the crowd on a cold and snow-dusted field. We’ll see how it goes, but if Rodgers plays, I’m predicting Green Bay wins 38-34. If Rodgers sits, I’m predicting Seattle wins 31-24. Either way, it’s going to be fun.