2020 NFC Divisional Round Game
Seattle Seahawks (11-5, 7-1 Away) vs. Green Bay Packers (13-3, 7-1 Home)
Date: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2019
Time: 6:40 p.m. EST
Venue: Lambeau Field — Green Bay, WI
Seahawks vs Packers Spread and Odds
Moneyline: SEA: (+165) | GB: (-195)
Spread: SEA +4 (-105) | GB: -4 (-115)
Total: 46.5 – Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages via oddsFire: SEA: (53%) | GB: (47%)
What a Wild Card Weekend! It certainly was a memorable slate of games, with two overtime thrillers, two major upsets, three 40-year-old quarterbacks (all losing) and one unforgettable Josh Allen no-look backhand lateral while being tackled. It really was one of the great Wild Card slates in recent memory.
All that is in the past now, though, and we’re moving on to the Divisional Round for another excellent set of matchups, with each game featuring one well-deserving Wild Card team and one well-rested home favorite coming off a first-round bye. In the past decade, 30 of the 40 Divisional Round games have ended with the 1 or 2 seed moving on to their respective conference championship game, meaning the trends are certainly against these road underdogs.
In the final game of the weekend, the Seattle Seahawks head to the “Frozen Tundra” to take on the Green Bay Packers. Currently, the Packers are 4-point home favorites, according to MyBookie Sportsbook. Let’s jump into it.
(2) Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Hey, you’ve heard it from Packers nation, this team is a contender, despite the fact that they don’t boast the astonishing offense that they usually do. It hasn’t been a pretty 13-3 season, but who am I to turn my nose up at 13 wins? Finding ways to win is an important characteristic pf a Super Bowl team, but at some point this team will need to show they have another gear. They head into the playoffs on a hot streak, with five straight wins, including one against the Vikings, after being humiliated by the 49ers. The Packers have top tier talent in quite a few places, so let’s dial back the disrespect. These guys can play.
What are they good at?
No offense, Aaron Rodgers, but defense is the Packers’ bread and butter. The ninth-overall scoring defense in the NFL has been pivotal in getting the Packers to where they are, and no two players are more important to driving the defense than the Smiths. Za’darius and Preston Smith, who aren’t actually brothers, have teamed up to form the scariest pass rushing duo in the league. With Za’darius at 13.5 sacks and Preston at 12, quarterbacks will never be able to get comfortable back there. They are an absolutely game changing duo and you will be hearing their names all night when one of them is able to disrupt a play somehow.
Defensive tackle Kenny Clark is excellent at collapsing the pocket from the inside. He racked up six sacks and 62 tackles from the middle, but there is an enormous question mark hanging over his availability for the game. His practice on Thursday was what Matt LaFleur called “really limited” which does not inspire hope in is ability to get out there and perform. He started all 16 games and has been one of the most reliable players on the team, so if he can’t go, there’s no telling how much the team will suffer.
Jaire Alexander turned into a star this year at corner. He’ll likely be assigned to shut down the volatile Tyler Lockett while the tall and talented Kevin King will draw the equally tall and talented DK Metcalf. The cornerback matchups look even going in, and whoever wins them will obviously affect the game a great deal. The Packers have the personnel to win these all-important matchups, but they’re going to be fun battles to watch unfold.
The Packers intercepted the third-most passes this season, and King led the team with five. They get help in pass coverage from a deep corps of players in the secondary, as well as linebacker Blake Martinez. This pass defense is extremely dangerous, even if they do bend sometimes.
Okay, let’s get into the offense. Rodgers is a legendary quarterback who can make some truly exceptional throws, but he didn’t have his best season this year. His 62.0 completion percentage wasn’t at the same level as his best seasons, and his yards/attempt of seven couldn’t match his career average of 7.7. Bottom line, he was more inaccurate and less explosive than we know he can be. Of course, his world-famous ability of avoiding the big mistake was still there, with only four interceptions on the season. A lot of blame has to fall on his receiving corps, which I’ll elaborate on in the weaknesses section, but Rodgers was not at his best this year. But underestimate him at your own peril, the guy is Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Jones took a leap into stardom this season. He was responsible for 1,558 total yards and 19 touchdowns, giving the Packers one of the best offensive players in the league this year. His efficiency and versatility will make him a weapon on every single play.
Davante Adams is the Packers receiving corps. Him and Jones. He’s an established star and will be a mismatch for any Seahawks that have to guard him. Don’t be surprised to see double-digit targets head Adams’ way tomorrow. He is perhaps the single most important player on the team besides Rodgers himself.
What are they bad at?
Nobody else can play wide receiver! Besides Adams and Jones, the next most dangerous receiver right now would be Allen Lazard, who impressed down the stretch with some circus catches and has started to earn Rodgers’ trust. If he can show out, the Packers will be in a much better spot, but although he’s shown he can do it, it’s absolutely no sure thing. Two of Lazard’s final four games ended with under 20 receiving yards. After him, who do you trust? Jimmy Graham? Geronimo Allison? Jamaal Williams has been a red zone threat, but not much more than that. If Adams is slowed down by a double team, then someone else will need to make their presence felt. Lazard is your best bet, but no one is a particularly great bet. Rodgers will need to make some throws in tight windows that he’s struggled making most of the season.
The Packers are a sieve against the run. A season of 4.7 yards per carry is what a star running back hopes for, and the Packers allowed that on average to whoever they faced over the whole season. On average, the Packers will turn your running back into a superstar for a game. Whether the Seahawks can exploit this is another story, but the Packers have left the door open.
Besides Za’Darius and Preston Smith, no one else really contributes at all in pressuring the quarterback besides Clark up the middle. Nobody else has more than three sacks, which makes what the Packers are doing relatively predictable. If Clark can’t go, that only makes the Smiths’ jobs harder, and if they struggle and start giving Russell Wilson time, everyone else will struggle along with them. Of course, it’s easier said than done to slow down two of the top pass rushers in the league.
(5) Seattle Seahawks (12-5)
A contender for the top seed in the conference for most of the season, Seattle dropped three of their final four games and plummeted down to the fifth seed, thanks to the division rival 49ers claiming the NFC West. You could say the Seahawks didn’t have the most momentum heading into the playoffs, but they escaped an ugly game in Philly and lived to fight another day. The Seahawks have the pedigree. They’ve seen plenty of success over the years, but they come into this game missing key pieces, and the big question is how long they can survive playing how they’ve played over the past month and a half.
What are they good at?
Quarterback Russell Wilson may have to go another year without winning MVP, but his name was being thrown around for most of the season. Eventually, it became clear that Lamar Jackson was going to win the award, but Wilson has a case for second place. Wilson dominated in 2019 and was responsible for 4,452 total yards gained through both the air and the ground. His 34 total touchdowns tied for second in the league, behind only Jackson. His reputation as a Houdini-like playmaker is reaching legendary status, and it’ll eventually follow him into the Hall of Fame. Wilson should never be counted out of a game because he never counts himself out of the game. One way or another, he will find a way to put points on the board and make a game competitive.
DK Metcalf has been one of the top offensive rookies in the league and has the look of a player that could be unguardable someday. Already he is on a handful of plays per game. He’s way too fast for his size, and has shown he has better skills than many thought he did heading into the draft. With Tyler Lockett’s inconsistency, Metcalf has really grown into a bigger role as the season has gone on.
But speaking of Lockett, he is a great player when he has his games. The first half of the season belonged to Lockett. His 767 yards and six touchdowns through the season first nine games had him as a potential All-Pro candidate, but in the end, he wasn’t even voted to the Pro Bowl and barely even cleared the 1,000-yard mark. It was a shockingly sudden change in production, and the team suffered, hence all the games they lost late in the year.
Tight end Jacob Hollister has been a nice find for a team that needed a replacement for Will Dissly after his injury. He has become more reliable than anyone expected of him, and is a valuable third piece in a passing game that may need it. And he is the ONLY other weapon. The next two receptions leaders on this team are Dissly and Chris Carson, neither of whom will be active for the rest of the season.
The Seahawks have some individual talent defensively. Bobby Wagner is a Hall of Fame linebacker and one of the great tacklers of the era. He led the league in tackles this season with 159, defended seven passes, forced a fumble and had three sacks. He can do it all, and will be a huge piece in whether the Seahawks can stop the Packers offense.
Jadeveon Clowney didn’t put up eye-popping statistics, but he’s a force that will keep the quarterback on his toes and has become an excellent defender of the run. His seven tackles for loss was tied for the team lead with Wagner, and his four forced fumbles led a team that finished tied for 4th in the league in forced fumbles.
The Seahwks do get a lot of interceptions (and turnovers in general). They tied for fifth in the league with 16 interceptions. Quandre Diggs has been nothing but exceptional since joining the team and has injected some life into a defense that needs it. His three interceptions tied for the team lead and he only did it in five games. Linebacker KJ Wright and corner Tre Flowers also have three interceptions apiece.
What are they bad at?
TEAM DEFENSE. Very much like the Texans, despite the individual talent they possess, Seattle can’t stop anyone from doing anything. Like I did with Houston, I’ll list where they rank in most major defensive categories. They are:
26th in total defense (381.6 YPG)
22nd in scoring defense (24.9 PPG)
27th in passing defense (263.9 YPG)
28th in yards allowed per carry (4.9)
T-29th in sacks (28)
They do force turnovers at a high clip, however, which gives them a fighting chance, but with Rodgers famously never turning the ball over, it isn’t something the Seahawks should rely on. But they might need to, because the Packers by all accounts should scorch this defense that sits in the cellar in some critical statistics..
Every year since 2015, Wilson has been sacked at least the third-most ties in the league. This year, he was #1. For as long as Wilson has been on the team, there has not been an offensive line to protect him. He does quite a bit of gymnastics to avoid pressure, but a lot of the time that results in him running into a sack.
The Seahawks lost their top THREE running backs, with Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and CJ Prosise all gone for the season with various injuries. Travis Homer and the resigned Marshawn Lynch will be tasked to expose the Packers pitiful run defense. Can they? I’m not sure they can. Homer was held to just 1.1 yards per carry against the Eagles and Lynch was held to 1.2. The Eagles were far better at stopping the run than the Packers, but those are numbers you never want to see out of a professional running back, much less TWO professional running backs. The Seahawks may have run out of options when it comes to running the ball, but the Packers should allow them to try at least. It will be bad running against bad run defense. What will win out? Only time will tell.
The Packers have an offense reliant on only a few people, but the Seahawks don’t have the personnel to take them out of the game. With the Seahawks getting gashed on the ground, Aaron Jones should extend Packer drives and tire out the defense. Assuming Rodgers doesn’t get bit with the turnover bug, he’ll have time to throw and he should have a dominant game, with Davante Adams getting open often, with no one good enough to cover him on their own. You can’t count Russell Wilson out, but with the Smiths coming in hot around the corners, the Seahawks line should collapse and give Wilson a difficult time finding Lockett and Metcalf downfield against some solid corners. If Kenny Clark is good to go, the problems will only get worse. Seattle’s lack of a running game won’t be able to expose the Packers’ lack of a run defense enough to make a major difference, and despite Wilson’s heroics, Rodgers will win this rematch from 2014 by a score.
Final Score: 27-21 Packers
Enjoy the playoffs! I hope your team comes out on top My hometown Patriots are already out of it, so I’m just hoping for some great games. And I think we’ll get them; the playoffs are stacked this year. I’ll be back next week to analyze both conference championship games, which will be a bit easier than writing four 2,000+ word research pieces in a six-day span. But hey, no regrets.
I’m ready to talk more football if you are. Just hit me up on Twitter.