The Seahawks and Packers open the season tonight in Primetime. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Ok. So. Let's quickly look at some matchups that might be key in this one:
1) Jeremy Lane vs. Randall Cobb: If I'm the Packers, I'd be going here as much as possible. Lane talked a big game about being able to stop Cobb this week...
"I'm pretty sure I can hold him," Lane said. "Just because I go against one of the best guys every day in Percy Harvin. With Doug Baldwin, those guys are pretty good. I feel like they're two of the best in the league. If I go against them every day and am pretty successful, I'm pretty sure I can do it against Randall Cobb."
...But I think the truth is that this is the most vulnerable spot in the pass defense, particularly when Seattle goes in man coverage. Lane is fast, has experience, but the fact of the matter is -- it's very hard to play man-to-man in space. Extremely hard. Look for the Packers to try manipulate the Seahawks into man-coverage vs. Cobb, then attack that. I think the Seahawks will play a lot of zone with Lane, though, so look for him to be dropping into the flats or blitzing as well.
2) OLB Clay Matthews/Julius Peppers vs. RT Justin Britt: This is a fun test for the rookie in his first NFL game. If it's not Matthews, one of the fastest pass rushers in the NFL, it will be Julius Peppers, one of the most savvy. Britt will have his hands full, for sure, and the Seahawks may look to help him out with Zach Miller more often than not. Britt's lucky to have been practicing against Cliff Avril--because Avril's get-off is among the best in the NFL.
3) RB Marshawn Lynch/Eddie Lacy vs. the Packers/Seahawks nickel defenses: Both teams will likely utilize a lot of nickel defense this week because both teams highly favor 11 Personnel, or three-wide (or more) formations. The Seahawks have been known to run a lot of base stuff vs. spread looks too, but I'm not sure if that's what they'll try this week with Bruce Irvin just now returning to action. It's something to watch. Either way -- if Green Bay and Seattle find themselves going against nickel defenses, this opens up the opportunity to run, and both Lynch and Lacy are bruisers.
4) NT Brandon Mebane vs. C Corey Linsley: Linsley, a rookie, will not only have to deal with the crowd noise in the CLink (I'm sure they'll do silent counts, but it's still tough), he'll have to line up across from Banger and hope to contain him. Mebane will look to get early penetration with great initial push at the snap, and hopefully disrupt the Packers run game and pressure Aaron Rodgers.
5) DE Cliff Avril vs. RT Bryan Bulaga: Bulaga got pwned pretty hard in the Seahawks-Packers 2012 matchup and was part of the problem in the first half as the Hawks got 8 sacks. There's a lot of water under the bridge since then, though, and he'll have a shot at a little redemption. I think Cliff Avril is going to have a monster year, especially lined up next to Michael Bennett in nickel packages, so look for this matchup to be important.
6) TE Luke Willson vs. A.J. Hawk/Brad Jones: The Packers have a lot of team speed on defense, but if there's a weak link to attack with Seattle's own team speed it might be their interior linebacker group. Jones is a good athlete but is coming off of a quad injury, and while Hawk too is a great athlete, I think that Willson's speed up the seam could be a real weapon to exploit. Look for Seattle to run play action and drop the ball over the Packers linebackers' heads.
7) WR Percy Harvin vs. Micah Hyde/Sam Shields/Tramon Williams. Whoever gets the man-to-man matchup with Harvin in the slot (if the Packers play that scheme), they will have to be ready to run with Harvin, who has looked very fast this preseason (and especially fast on the CenturyLink field turf).
That's what I got for right now--what matchups are you watching?
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