Packers vs. Seahawks: Playoff push continues in Week 14

Aaron Rodgers believes the Green Bay Packers can run the table.

I don’t know why it is, but when Rodgers says something publicly it often comes to fruition. Packers fans certainly don’t mind the sudden surge in play by their beloved team. Logic says: Why didn’t you say this sooner Aaron?

Next up on the “win out” campaign is the streaking 8-3-1 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle invades Lambeau Field this Sunday in attempt to better their huge lead in the NFC West standings.

What do the Packers need to do to pull off the upset and continue their run to the playoffs?

ANALYSIS: Identifying the X-Factor in Packers-Seahawks

FANTASY: Start, sit advice for each Week 14 game

For Rodgers to publicly back his slumping team when the rest of the NFL and its fans had given up on them was a big deal. It almost seemed like it was just a statement to get the public off his back. We should have known better Mr. Rodgers. Our bad.

Saying that, this week provides a huge challenge for the Packers. Seattle has only lost three games all year and they are coming off a shellacking of the defending NFC champs, 40-7.

They bring the NFL’s stingiest defense—who allow an NFL-low 16.2 points per game—a lot of momentum and swagger Packers fans have learned to hate. We all remember the “Fail Mary” play back in 2012.  No sense reliving that fiasco, but it did start a pretentious rivalry between the two teams.

Seattle did get bad news last week when star defensive back Earl Thomas suffered a season-ending tibia break. That being said, no one should feel too sorry for the Seahawks defense. They are still loaded with many great players like Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor.

Seattle’s offense brings back home former University of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, as well as explosive running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls is coming off a 15-carry, 106-yard and two-touchdown game against the Panthers. Look for Seattle to utilize his talents all afternoon, especially if the weather is miserable as expected.

Seattle’s receiving group has its stars as well in Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and reemerging tight end Jimmy Graham.

DRAFT: Top prospects at each of Packers’ positions of need

Unlike Green Bay’s quick pass offense, the Seahawks like to spread the field and go for the long pass play. Their receivers and tight ends all roam the field deep and make plays.

The Packers are finally getting some much needed momentum on offense lately. Rodgers has looked more confident in his receiver crew and has lit up some very good defenses in the Eagles and Texans. Rodgers completed 30 of 39 passes at Philadelphia for 313 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles defense that had not allowed a 300-yard passer all year.

Rodgers followed up that game with a solid 20/30 for 200 yards and another two touchdowns last week against Houston.

Different receivers have led the charge of late, which only helps the Packers’ chances of pulling off the upset this week. Between Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and new favorite target Jared Cook, there’s plenty of receiving talent available to Rodgers.

Nelson posted 118 yards and a touchdown on eight catches last week. Adams had five catches for 113 yards and two scores against the Eagles while Nelson had eight grabs for 91 yards. In a losing effort against Washington three weeks ago, Cook had six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown while Randall Cobb collected three passes for 84 yards.

The offense is clicking and they will need more of that if they wish to win over Seattle.

The Packers’ running game must do enough to keep the pesky Seattle defensive backs honest and away from crowding the line of scrimmage, in order to give Rodgers the time to work his magic. Look for Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael to get some chances in the backfield.

Each team has an X-Factor that may be a difference maker for their teams.

For the Seahawks it is Jimmy Graham. Last year, Graham seemed out of place in Seattle’s offensive scheme. He had low production for the most part and was almost forgotten about in the upper NW.

That has changed this year.  We are now seeing the Jimmy Graham of old. Entering Week 14, he has 57 receptions for 769 yards and five touchdowns, rekindling his effectiveness as a receiver. The Packers have had trouble with tight ends this year, giving up 64 yards to Jacksonville’s Julius Thomas, 69 yards to Detroit’s Eric Ebron, 124 yards and a touchdown to Tennessee’s Delanie Walker and 79 yards to Washington’s Jordan Reed.

Look for Graham to have his way against a banged up Packers secondary and linebacking core.

Look for the Packers to give an increased role to former Seattle running back Christine Michael.  He had six touchdowns for Seattle this year and played fairly well for them. Then the young guys got hot and Michael got shown the door.

Thin at the running back position, the Packers picked him up. How excited do you think he is to play the team that cut him in November?

Michael must be a contributing factor on offense with the desire to show his old team that they made a mistake. Granted, all of this is relative to how often Coach McCarthy gets him on the field. But don’t think for a minute that Michael won’t be lobbying for more touches.

This should have the makings of a great game in Green Bay this Sunday afternoon.

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