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-Divisional Playoffs: Seahawks vs. Packers
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer
January 10, 2008
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Game:  Seattle Seahawks (11-6) vs. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Where: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, WI)
When: 4:30 PM EST
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (FOX)
"Brett Favre, Lambeau Field."


It's great to see not only the Packers playing well again this season, but well at Lambeau Field. The fans of Green Bay used to take so much pride in their team being able to defend the frozen tundra, but that hasn't been the case the past couple of seasons. Even the last time the Packers made the playoffs in 2004, their home record stood at 4-4. This year, the Packers went 7-1 at home, with their only loss coming to the Chicago Bears, a team that simply had their number this season. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks will try to get the monkey off of their backs from the last time these two teams met in the postseason. After Hasselbeck's infamous "we want the ball and we're going to score" quote prior to overtime starting, he threw a game-ending interception.

Let's get to the preview for the showdown between the Seahawks and the Packers...

OFFENSE

Category Seahawks Packers
Points Scored 24.5 (9th) 27.2 (4th)
Passing 247.8 (8th) 270.9 (2nd)
Rushing 101.2 (20th) 99.8 (21st)
Total Offense (yards) 348.9 (9th) 370.7 (2nd)

DEFENSE

Category Seahawks Packers
Points Scored 18.2 (6th) 18.2 (6th)
Passing 219.1 (19th) 210.4 (12th)
Rushing 102.8 (12th) 102.9 (14th)
Total Defense (yards) 321.8 (15th) 313.3 (11th)

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Quarterback
It's tough not to give a postseason edge exclusively to the legendary Brett Favre, but the underrated Matt Hasselbeck has had the best passing season of his career. Favre has historically been a quarterback to heave the ball up and hope somebody on his team comes down with it. That hasn't been conducive to the Packers the past several years, forcing Favre's touchdown to interception ratio to be poor. Favre has adjusted his style this season slightly and has identified roles for the playmakers on his team. Hasselbeck's ability to throw the ball as matured through not having a running game to work with. He also has four receivers that could be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 guy on most teams in the NFL. Favre may have a little more postseason experience, but with all the division titles the Seahawks have won the past several years, he's a seasoned veteran as well.
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Running Back
Shaun Alexander -- where has the league's top running back gone? Although his 3.1 yards-per-carry average wasn't flashy last week, there were pros and cons to how the Seahawks handled their ground game. Seattle wisely chose to run creative draw plays most of the time when the defense settled on the past. In other instances though, Alexander was still stuck trying to reverse his direction in the backfield despite three defenders about to take him down. The Packers' running statistics are skewed in a way, because their ground game really didn't take off until Ryan Grant became the starter. Grant nearly compiled 1,000 yards in ten games. One of Grant's biggest assets is his ability to hit the big run. Grant had long runs of 24, 12, 30, 23, 31, 62, 26, 24, 66, and 27 yards since becoming the starter each week.
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Receiver
I've been calling for Greg Jennings to be named one of this year's breakout players. After a fairly impressive rookie season, Jennings was known for his big play ability this season, recording 12 touchdowns on the season. It was a little surprising to see Donald Driver take in only 2 of Favre's 28 touchdown passes, but he still remained his go-to-guy to take the team down the field. The Seahawks are extremely versatile at the receiver position -- Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Deion Branch, and D.J. Hackett are all nearly interchangeable at the starting position. For some teams that's a bad thing, but Hasselbeck has chemistry with all of them.
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Offensive Line
Favre's experience and willingness to get rid of the ball helped him get sacked less than once per game this season. Hasselbeck wasn't ridiculously, but the line still isn't as impressive as when they had Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson leading the way all-around several seasons ago. It's tough to accuse the Seahawks' offensive line of being less superior than the Packers' offensive line when blocking in the running game, especially when you consider Maurice Morris' 4.5 yard-per-carry clip compared to Alexander's average of one full yard less. However, Grant excelled with a 5.1 average on the season, and the Packers' line weren't liable for many errors this season. Still, they'll have their hands full trying to defend the Seahawks electric pass rush, as will the Seahawks with the Packers' defensive ends.
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Defensive Line
Patrick Kerney has seen a revival -- perhaps more of a rejuvenation -- since leaving the Atlanta Falcons. Kerney was a force all season on opposing quarterbacks, just as he was a force last week knocking Todd Collins around just as he was trying to get rid of the football. Where the Seahawks excel with Kerney though, the Packers can attack from both sides of their line with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman. Together, they recorded 21.5 sacks this season. Both teams are nearly identical at stopping the run, but with the Seahawks relying on their passing game more often this season, Hasselbeck will be dropping back often, exposing himself to the Packers' pass rush. Favre will drop back a lot as well, but I envision the Packers running plays to try and isolate Kerney away from the point of attack.

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Linebacker
Both teams have seen impressive play at the linebacker position this year, but it's tough to argue that many teams are better than the Seahawks. Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson are the leaders of the group, and one of the things they'll have to key in on are the Packers running screen plays. Grant wasn't on the receiving end of many screens during the season, but the Packers may want to take advantage if they feel Seattle pushes to be more aggressive in their rush. Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are very good tacklers for the Packers, but tend to create less of an individual impact than the Seahawks' veterans do. In the Packers scheme though, that's not really a problem.
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Secondary
You couldn't have asked for better play from the Seahawks' secondary last week, because they capitalized on all of the mistakes that the Redskins made. It wasn't so much mistakes from Todd Collins as it was mistakes from the receivers finding the football and hanging onto it. Unfortunately, the Packers are more equipped to take advantage of the matchup problems caused by the absence of Deon Grant in the secondary. Favre's arm is stronger than Collins, and Jennings has been catching the deep ball on opposing teams all year. With Al Harris and Charles Woodson both healthy, the Packers won't have trouble in press coverage against two-receiver sets. What will happen when the Seahawks bring out their four-receiver sets though?
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Special Teams
Josh Brown clearly holds the postseason experience over Packers kicker Mason Crosby. Brown continued to be on the money last week too, drilling a 50-yard kick against Washington. Crosby had his share of difficulties kicking from long range in the regular season: he made 9/14 kicks between 40-49 yards, and 3/5 kicks from beyond 50 yards. The Packers also failed to have an explosive kick returner this season (they did have two punt return touchdowns), while the Seahawks can still count on the nifty returns from Nate Burleson. Burleson was on fire on punt returns last week, averaging 14.0 yards on six returns.

FINAL PREDICTION:
Green Bay Packers 31, Seattle Seahawks 24.
Teams need to be able to have a relatively balanced offensive attack to win in the postseason. The Seahawks did it last week with the effective use of draw plays, but the Packers are more suited to frustrating opposing quarterbacks with tight coverage. If they try and run the ball, Alexander hasn't shown the ability to get his motor going this season. Favre and the Packers need to get out to a quick start though, something they've been more than capable of doing most of the season. Just imagine: if you ignore the monkey that was the Chicago Bears, the only team they lost to was the Dallas Cowboys.
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