|Divisional Playoffs: Seahawks vs. Packers
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics Writer January 10, 2008
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...
|Total Offense (yards)
|Total Defense (yards)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.