A number of publications are picking the Seattle Seahawks to beat the Green Bay Packers Monday night.
My official prediction will come either Friday or Saturday as part of my things to watch preview done every week (for what it's worth, my record for picking games in 2012 is 0-2).
But even if my prediction goes Green Bay (not sure yet), there are certainly ways the Seahawks can win this game. They are more simple than you may think, too.
In watching the Seahawks' first two games of 2012, the following trends emerged that could pave the way for a Seattle win over Green Bay Monday night.
1. Let RB Marshawn Lynch dominate first and second down
Russell Wilson is a rookie quarterback, and the Seahawks treat him as such. On most early downs, Wilson is simply handing off to Marshawn Lynch to help set up manageable third downs. It's a sound plan for a young quarterback, but there's a lot of three-and-outs that are tied into drives where the offense doesn't get much on first and second down.
If Seattle does get to third-and-manageable, Wilson has shown the ability to complete short to intermediate throws that move the chains.With that in mind, forcing him to convert difficult third down situations Monday night might be the key for the Green Bay defense.
The task essentially starts and ends with containing Lynch, who may be the most physical running back in the NFL right now. If Green Bay attempts to tackle him high, there's going to be a lot of ugly missed tackles Monday night. According to Pro Football Focus, Lynch leads the NFL in missed tackles created with 14, and the tape completely backs that up.
The Packers were gashed on the ground by the 49ers to open the season, allowing 186 yards on 32 carries. To be fair, however, the Seahawks are not as talented or tough along the offensive line and the weapons out wide are mostly limited.
But if the Packers can't stop the run better early Monday night, the Seahawks should be able to accomplish a lot of the same things San Francisco did in the opener.
Minimizing space for Lynch and bringing him down on first contact will both go a long ways in keeping points off the board for the Seattle offense.
2. Give the Seahawks short fields with turnovers and special teams mistakes
The Seahawks have scored points on eight of 21 offensive drives this season, and six have come off turnovers or big special teams plays. In fact, only two drives that resulted in a score have spanned more than 60 yards (both vs. Dallas).
The "easy" scoring drive breakdown:
- 27-yard field goal (ARI). Set up: Cardinals fumble at Arizona 42. Scoring drive: Seven plays, 33 yards.
- 10-yard touchdown (ARI). Set up: Leon Washington, 83-yard kick return. Scoring drive: Five plays, 24 yards.
- 47-yard FG (ARI). Set up: Richard Sherman interception. Scoring drive: Four plays, five yards.
- 39-yard FG (ARI). Set up: Washington 52-yard punt return. Scoring drive: Four plays, -4 yards.
- 21-yard FG (DAL). Set up: Felix Jones fumble. Scoring drive: Seven plays, 20 yards.
- 25-yard FG (DAL). Set up: Washington punt return to Seattle 44. Scoring drive: 11 plays, 52 yards.
This list doesn't even include a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter against Dallas.
Simply put, both the Cardinals and Cowboys handed Seattle points on a golden platter with silly turnovers and special teams blunders. Green Bay can't allow the same, especially on the road. The encouraging part here is that the Packers have limited turnovers under Mike McCarthy (at least historically), and the special teams are probably the best they have been in Green Bay for quite some time.
The Packers have to ensure the Seahawks are traversing long fields, much like they did against Chicago. The Bears started drives past the Packers 35-yard line on just two of 12 opportunities Thursday night, with Aaron Rodgers' fourth-quarter interception setting up one. Overall, punter Tim Masthay pinned the Bears deep and Mason Crosby allowed little in terms of kick returns. A repeat performance is warranted Monday night.
3. Abandon the running game
The Packers have faced two of the better run defenses in football the first two weeks, but it doesn't get any easier Monday night. The Seahawks are currently second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (46.0/game), and it's no secret how they stuff things up inside.
Everything upfront is anchored by defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who has graded out as PFF's top run-stopping defensive lineman through two weeks. Six other Seahawks defenders have graded out positively against the run, including linebacker K.J. Wright and safety Kam Chancellor. At every level, the Seahawks have players that can put a stop to the running game.
As Aaron Nagler (the aforementioned founding father) tweeted below, the Seahawks have the horses up front to get McCarthy to abandon the run, much like he did against the 49ers in Week 1.
@cecillammey SEA secondary so good. Doesn't take much to get Mike to abandon the run, which SEA's D-line will do. Plus, just a tough stadium
— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) September 19, 2012
McCarthy can't do that. While the Seahawks have just two sacks, PFF rates their defense as the best at creating pressure against the pass. Overall, Seattle is averaging almost five quarterbacks hits and 15 hurries a game in 2012.
Eliminating the run means Seattle can pin its ears back and attack Rodgers. It also means the Seahawks can play their safeties back in a more traditional two-deep look, again helping to eliminate the Packers' threat of a big play down field.
Having some kind of commitment to the run helps in both areas.
The last thing the Packers need Monday night is to become completely one dimensional against a defense that can attack against the pass.