Week 3 Preview & Game Thread: Packers at Seahawks

The Seahawks have a huge chance this week to prove themselves, although that means completely different things for both sides of the ball.  The defense will be trying to prove they’re one of the best in the NFL when they go up against one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Aaron Rodgers.  Meanwhile, the offense will be trying to prove that they can mount a consistent passing attack to complement their strong run game.

Seahawks Offense v. Packers Defense

Team Pass
Yds/Att
Pass
Att/G
Cmp % Sack % Int % TD %
SEA Offense 5.6 (32nd) 27 61.1 (19th) 8.5 (25th) 1.9 (13th) 3.7 (22nd)
Allowed by
GB Defefense
6.4 (9th) 26.5 58.5 (8th) 17.2 (1st) 7.5 (1st) 5.7 (26th)

At first glance, the Packers appear to have a distressingly strong pass defense.  However, this is one of those situations where averages early in the season are giving us a false positive.  Check out their performances in the two games they’ve played so far:

Team Pass
Yds/Att
Pass
Att
Cmp % Sack % Int % TD %
49ers 8.12 26 76.9 13.3 0 7.69
Bears 4.67 27 40.7 20.6 14.8 3.7

Right now, Jay Cutler is beginning of what is shaping up to be the worst season of his entire career.  So far, he’s thrown 6 interceptions to 3 touchdowns and racked up the 4th worst completion percentage in the NFL (52.7%), the 3rd worst sack percentage (10.6%), and the second worst quarterback rating1 (58.6).  Whatever he might have done in the past, right now Cutler is not a good quarterback.

Alex Smith is also not a great quarterback.  Right now he’s a hell of a lot better than Cutler, but he is nowhere near as competent as Green Bay’s defense made him look.  Just to put it in context, Smith has played 73 career games; his performance against the Packers ranks as his 2nd best career game in terms of completion percentage, his 12th best in yards per passing attempt, and his 4th best in quarterback rating.  If they can make a career backup-level performer like Smith look that good, imagine what they could do for Wilson tonight.

Green Bay’s only real strength on defense its relentless pass rush — even factoring in the Bears’ poor o-line, Clay Matthews is playing like the second coming of Lawrence Taylor this season — so expect them to push Wilson to the limits of his athletic abilities early and often.  However, that kind of all-out assault on the QB comes at a price.  Observe:

Team Rush
Yds/Att
Rush
Att/G
SEA Offense 4.0 (13th) 37
Allowed by
GB Defense
5.1 (31st) 27.5

Attacking the passer like Green Bay does leads to a sort of tunnel vision that gives offenses a great opportunity to slip the running back right past the Packers’ defensive linemen & linebackers.  If defensive backs are all that ends up standing between Lynch & Turbin and the end zone, well, those two are going to have a hell of a lot of fun tonight.

Seattle’s Defense v. Packers Offense

Team Rush
Yds/Att
Rush
Att/G
GB Offense 3.6 (22nd) 21
Allowed by
SEA Defense
2.6 (3rd) 18

The Seahawks are one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL, and the Packers’ featured back, Cedric Benson, is good but not great.  Green Bay’s offense will succeed or fail solely on the strength of Rodgers’ arm, and as we’ve all seen over the last few years they’ve won a lot of games putting all their eggs in #12’s basket.

Team Pass
Yds/Att
Pass
Att/G
Cmp % Sack % Int % TD %
GB Offense 7.1 (17th) 38.5 68.8 (5th) 9.4 (28th) 2.6 (15th) 5.2 (8th)
Allowed by
SEA Defense
6.1 (5th) 38 56.6 (6th) 2.6 (29th) 2.6 (14th) 2.6 (7th)

Rodgers is pretty good at throwing touchdowns, and his completion percentage is just as freakishly high as it was last year.  His performances against San Francisco and Chicago, two very good defensive teams, were virtually identical, and I would expect him to put up similar numbers against the Seahawks.  The key difference between the 49ers’ win and the Bears’ loss was not their defense’s ability to contain Rodgers, but their offense’s ability to beat a suspect Packers’ defense on the ground and through the air.  And you know what?  The 49ers did it by following the same gameplan the Seahawks used against Dallas: pound them until they’re worried sick about stopping the run, then eat up chunks of yardage with passes.  If Alex Smith and Frank Gore can do it, then so can Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.

Special Teams Comparison

Just for the sake of completeness (and because Leon Washington was red-hot last week), here’s how both teams stack up on special teams:

Team Yds/KR Yds/PR Yds/KR
Allowed
Yds/PR
Allowed
FG % Yds/Punt
(Net)
Seahawks 38.3 (1st) 11.4 (11th) 21.8 (11th) 6.5 83.3 (6/7) 42.6 (6th)
Packers 23.5 (14th) 19.2 (2nd) 29.3 (29th) 9.3 100 (3/3) 41.7 (8th)

Kickoff cannot get here fast enough.

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1 In case you’re wondering, first place goes to Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, who only edged out Cutler by three tenths of a point (58.3).

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