Welcome to another edition of Opposition Research, where I’ll be taking a look at the penultimate Packers opponent for the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks. In light of the holiday season (and the fact that the Seahawks have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs), news on this match-up has been sparse. But just because the Seahawks may phone it in this week doesn’t mean that we will, so let’s get started.
Coming into this game, the Seahawks… are really sad that Mike Holmgren didn’t come back to Seattle. Like, really sad, because their team is struggling and they could use some good news after becoming only the second team to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL guys devoted a grand total of 26 seconds to highlights from the 24-7 loss, where the only real highlight for Seattle was a 29-yd TD by TE John Carlson (which should have been challenged). The athletic tight end was QB Matt Hasselbeck’s top target on the day, catching 7 passes for 86 yds and SEA’s lone score. Carlson also scored SEA’s only points in W14’s 34-7 thumping by the Texans.
The fans at home are… sizing up potential replacements to President/GM Tim Ruskell, who resigned earlier this month. The names floated (and careers dissected) thus far include Steve Keim, Player Personnel Director for Arizona, and Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting for Baltimore. With Holmgren now settled in Cleveland and out of the Seattle picture, some fans look at how Seattle might benefit from the new arrangement.
With the team sitting at 5-9, fans are also now figuring out where to point their fingers. According to some, the blame for Seattle’s downfall shouldn’t be placed on HC Jim Mora or Hasselbeck. Instead, these people believe that the problems center on personnel – fire the GM, the president, and clean house.
Understandably, the 12th man booed and left the stadium early. Then the 12th man expressed his disgust on sports-talk radio stations: ‘Jim Mora sucks. Deion Branch sucks. Matt Hasselbeck sucks. Patrick Kerney sucks. The offensive line sucks. Greg Knapp sucks. Marcus Trufant? He’s sucked this season too.’
I’m coming at this from a totally different perspective because I enjoyed the 24-7 loss to Tampa Bay. How’s that possible? Easy, I had the Bucs and the points. Why? I’ve lost faith in Mora and don’t think the Seahawks are talented enough to be favored by 6 1/2 over anyone anymore.
(I know, can you believe that this guy wants to SAVE Mora’s job? Odd.) In response to the above, some fans think sparing the coach and QB a foolish idea (firing Mora feels so right!), and the pitchforks are coming out (this last one is pretty awesome).
When looking at the Packers on film… it’s clear that a win for Seattle would rely heavily on QB Matt Hasselbeck’s ability to bounce back from a 4-INT outing against Tampa. He knows that Green Bay won’t give many of those turnovers back. The team’s official preview compares Ryan Grant’s performance in the 2007 playoff game to a sled dog and gushes over Clay Matthews’ flowing blond locks. (They mention a few other things as well, but these were particularly noteworthy.)
Hasselbeck is golden in interviews. His views on how the Steelers made plays in the Packers secondary are fantastic. Asked about Charles Woodson, he admitted the following:
I don’t know if he’ll do anything special for us. I don’t know what, necessarily, would scare them about us that they would have to change up what they do with Charles Woodson.
What We’re Up Against: When injuries (and the will to win) are factored in, there doesn’t appear to be a match-up that the Packers shouldn’t be able to win. At 34, Matt Hasselbeck is still crafty and smart, but he’s also getting beat up (9 sacks in last 3 games) and getting picked off (5 INTs in last 2 games). His only games with a 100+ passer rating came at home, against the Jags and 49ers. He plays well in the cold (93.9 career rating with 21-40 degree temp), and can make great plays. Still, Football Outsiders puts him at 31st among passers, behind both Aaron Rodgers (10th) and his own backup, Seneca Wallace (26th).
WR TJ Houshmandzadeh hasn’t been worth the $40 million he was paid to leave Cincinnati, and WR Nate Burleson (Holly’s fantasy team class of ‘04) is still nursing an injury. Rookie WR Deon Butler has an opportunity to show his worth against a secondary exposed by Big Ben in W15. RB Justin Forsett has been a revelation in relief of ex-Cowboy Julius Jones, but he’s no Ray Rice. I know the Packers DL will be banged up, but with Forsett getting most of his yards on the outside, it’ll likely be up to Clay Matthews and company to stuff him in the backfield.
As far as defense is concerned, the Patrick Kerney of 2007 has since had 3 shoulder surgeries and is long gone. He’s still a tough customer, but with the heavy rotation that Seattle employs along its DL to make up for shortfalls in talent, the Packers OL may actually have a chance to open some holes. RDT Colin Cole, an ex-Packer, thinks he might get a mix of boos and cheers when he returns to Lambeau Field with the Seahawks. With LB Julian Peterson now on the Lions and LB Lofa Tatupu gone with a torn pectoral muscle, the linebacking corps will rely on David Hawthorne (103 tackles, 4 sacks) and rookie Aaron Curry (61, 2), who may not play. The secondary hasn’t changed much since we saw it last, and RCB Josh Wilson will likely be the guy making plays – he’s returned each of his picks to the end zone.
On special teams, ex-Packer P Jon Ryan continues to play well. Damn it.
The JS Online preview notes that, with all the upheaval sure to come, it’s not a pleasant time to be a Seahawk. Pete Dougherty talks to some scouts around the league and comes away with the assessment that “the Seahawks are in decline in all areas.” Meanwhile, Bob McGinn notes that DC Gus Bradley’s defense is “semi-vanilla on third down,” and when going against the league’s best in that situation…well…something’s gotta give. Houston’s Matt Schaub was able to predict the predictable playcalling – drop in coverage, and if that doesn’t work, blitz – before he and WR Andre Johnson carved up Seattle’s secondary in W14.
The ESPN intel report lays it all out:
If the Seahawks somehow force at least 3 GB turnovers, hold Ryan Grant to under 75 rushing yards, and Hasselbeck throws no INTs, then Seattle has the slight 55 percent edge.
Finally, I’m going to be honest: I kind of love the way that Brandon Funston (Yahoo!’s fantasy guru) puts things:
The [Seattle Seahawks] team has been bad enough on the road to begin with. With frustration and resignation now the prevailing sentiments surrounding this club, don’t let your fantasy hopes and dreams anywhere near this soul-sucking squad.
- Who doesn’t love reliving the “we want the ball, and we’re gonna score” game? Or maybe the 2007 playoff snow-romp? SEA and GBP have a rich history. (Update – apparently Brett Favre has quoted the line from 2003 back to Hasselbeck during the coin toss of each game where they’ve played each other.)
- When Holmgren announced his retirement at the end of the 2008 season, the team chipped in to buy him a Harley. Now that Holmgren is coming back to take over the Browns, Matt Hasselbeck would like to know whether he’ll be getting a partial refund on that retirement gift. (On Twitter, Hasselbeck says he’d also call it even if he could take a spin on it.)
- Jim Mora said he wanted more “dirtbags” on the offensive line. Well, Dirtbag Records took that as an invitation to send the team gear…which the OL now wears.
So, I’m no therapist (clearly), but I think this week is fairly straightforward. The Packers are feeling pretty low after letting a win escape them at Heinz Field (and giving up twice as many yards as they normally allow). They need a shot in the arm (not a bite, Darryl Tapp) as far as confidence. What I prescribe is a good old-fashioned ass-kicking. In much the same way that playing Detroit has cured the ills of many a team in recent years, this W16 match-up with the slumping Seahawks could be just what the doctor ordered.
I mean, yes, the Packers still need to show up, and yes, fans might have a heart attack if Derrick Martin is announced as the starting FS, and yes, it could be the Wynn-Raji-Montgomery show on the DL, but I still think the Packers can handle this. They are the better team, this is their last home game of the season, and they know they need to win out to make the postseason. More than that, though, they need to kick someone’s ass, especially on defense, and Sunday’s game presents a perfect opportunity. What say you?
Happy holidays to all who celebrate!