Preview: Banged-up Packers feeling confident vs. Seahawks
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Two weeks ago, when the Green Bay Packers were scuffling along at 4-6, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a bold proclamation.
“I feel like we can run the table,” Rodgers said on Nov. 23.
With victories over Philadelphia and Houston the past two weeks, the Packers are one-third of the way to that target. Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX) looms as by far the biggest barrier.
Green Bay (6-6) remains two games behind Detroit in the NFC North but has gotten back into the wild-card chase, where it trails Tampa Bay (7-5) by one game.
“I think there’s a lot of confidence in the locker room,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I think guys really believe that this team has the potential to make a run. We’ve shown it the last two weeks — a tough road win and then holding serve at home.
“But, obviously, this is a little bigger game with the opponent. As every game progresses, there’s more on the line of us to play for. So I’m confident in the guys that we’re up to the challenge.”
With Dallas (11-1) running away in the NFC race for home-field advantage, Seattle (8-3-1) is battling Detroit (8-4) for a first-round bye. The Seahawks have won four of their last five games, including a blowout of Carolina on Sunday night in which Russell Wilson threw for 277 yards and Thomas Rawls ran for 106 of the team’s 240 rushing yards.
While the Seahawks appear to be surging, they did suffer a significant loss when safety Earl Thomas sustained a broken leg against the Panthers. Steven Terrell is expected to replace Thomas.
The Seahawks are still confident that the beat will go on for a defense that is trying to lead the NFL in points allowed for the fifth consecutive season, which would be unprecedented in the Super Bowl era.
“A team that’s not great, they try to have everyone lift their play and do more than what they’re supposed to do,” said Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who returned last week after missing five games with a knee injury. “When you’ve got people behind them, you expect them to do their job. We expect whoever plays where Earl is, they’re going to do their job.
“Nobody’s going to try to do more than what they’re supposed to do, and that’s how you play great defense.”
The Packers no doubt will test Thomas’ replacement, but within reason.
“The way he plays the position is extraordinary,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He has tremendous range, anticipation and he’s a big part of their leadership of the football team.
“You have to look at how the new guy’s going to fit in, but we’re not going to drop back and throw 50-yard post routes all day because they’ve got a new free safety. I don’t think that’s practical.”
Injuries will be a major storyline for the Packers, too. Starting outside linebacker Nick Perry, the team’s leader with eight sacks, has been ruled out with an injured left hand.
Fellow starter Clay Matthews, to use McCarthy’s words, was “extremely limited” against the Texans with an injured shoulder. Starting inside linebackers Jake Ryan (ankle), who returned last week from a two-game absence, and Blake Martinez (knee), who has missed the past two games, are ailing, too.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is battling a hamstring injury — not particularly good news for the Packers, considering Seattle ranks fourth in the league with 31 sacks.
After a relatively slow start to the season, Rodgers is heating up in the nick of time. In the past seven games, he leads the NFL in touchdown passes and 100-plus rating games.
“We’ve watched him all year,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s being what he is. He’s an extraordinary football player, a great leader, an amazing competitor, such a creative player.
“This isn’t a new guy to me. We played him back when he was in college a lot. Feel very familiar with him and have watched his career. If you want to break it up this season by what he did early and what he did late, he’s a great football player and, because of that, he’s going to wind up showing you that if you watch him enough.”
SEATTLE (8-3-1) at GREEN BAY (6-6)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Seahawks by 2 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Seattle 6-5-1, Packers 6-5-1
SERIES RECORD — Packers lead 11-8
LAST MEETING — Packers beat Seahawks 27-17, Sept. 20, 2015
LAST WEEK — Seahawks beat Panthers 40-7; Packers beat Texans 21-13
AP PRO32 RANKING — Seahawks No. 5, Packers No. 14
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE — OVERALL (15), RUSH (20), PASS (14)
SEAHAWKS DEFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (14), PASS (9t)
PACKERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (24), PASS (10)
PACKERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (9), PASS (17)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Seahawks seeking first win at Green Bay since 27-7 victory on Nov. 1, 1999. … Seattle can clinch NFC West with win and Arizona loss or tie, or Seattle tie and Arizona loss. … With win this weekend, Russell Wilson would move one behind Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (56) for most victories in any quarterback’s first five seasons. … Seahawks have averaged 173.0 yards rushing last three weeks, including season-high 240 last week against Carolina’s second-ranked rush defense. Return of Thomas Rawls from injury a factor. … WR Doug Baldwin needs 168 yards to become fifth player in franchise history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. … Defense is first in league in scoring (14.9 points per game), 27th in third-down conversions (42.6 percent). … LB Bobby Wagner has NFL-best 127 tackles, 68 solo. … Packers third in league in 10-play drives (26) and fourth in 10-play touchdown drives (12). … QB Aaron Rodgers has league-high 19 touchdown passes since Week 7. … Rodgers tied with Saints’ Drew Brees for most red-zone passing TDs this season (23). … WRs Jordy Nelson (10) and Davante Adams (eight) only teammates with seven-plus touchdown catches. … WR Ty Montgomery averaging 94.3 yards from scrimmage over last four games. … LB Julius Peppers has sack each of last three games. … Defense stands 28th in league in red-zone conversions (65.6 percent). … Fantasy Tip: Rawls, who ran for 106 yards and career-high two TDs against Carolina, faces defense maligned by injuries at linebacker. Nick Perry out with hand injury, while Clay Matthews bothered by shoulder injury.