2015 NFC Championship Preview
by Aaron Schatz
The NFL season, or at least it's NFC half, is ending exactly where it started: with the Green Bay Packers heading to Seattle to face the defending champion Seahawks. Seattle pulled away from Green Bay in the second half of that game to win 36-16, and by the end of the night it looked like the Seahawks would be completely unstoppable in 2014. It didn't quite work out that way. Seattle's 78.6% DVOA against Green Bay in that game ended up as their best single-game performance of the entire season. They faltered a bit over the next few weeks, starting the season just 3-3 with their defense looking almost human at times. But the Seahawks turned things around later in the season. After allowing at least 20 points in six of their first ten games, the Seahawks finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak and allowed a touchdown or less in five of those games. By the end of the season, Seattle had risen back to the No. 1 spot in our DVOA ratings for the third straight season.
Meanwhile, the Packers were certainly better than they looked that first night in Seattle. They finished the season 12-4, just like Seattle, and ranked No. 1 in offensive DVOA. But while Seattle is known for its extra-strong home-field advantage, it was Green Bay that truly built its numbers on its eight home games. At home, the Packers were 8-0 with 38.3% offensive DVOA. On the road, they were 4-4 with 11.4% offensive DVOA. No team had a bigger gap between its offensive performance at home and on the road. And now, if the Packers want to make it to Super Bowl XLIX, Aaron Rodgers will need his best road performance of the season despite a lingering calf injury. The Packers need to somehow win in Seattle, where the Seahawks defense matched the Packers offense with the highest gap betwen defensive performance at home and on the road -- although Seattle actually had a better offensive DVOA on the road (20.1%) than at home (13.2%).
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Please remember that all stats represent regular season only, except for weighted DVOA and anything else specifically noted. All game charting for these two teams is now complete; any game charting data that appears with an asterisk appears courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information Group. This preview has two different week-to-week charts for each team, one for offense and one for defense. Because defensive DVOA is opposite of offensive DVOA, the defensive charts are flipped upside-down; thus, the higher dots still represent better games.
Green Bay at Seattle
All readers can click here for in-game discussion on our message boards. If you have FO Premium, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.
WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
OK, kids, go on and bring out your strength vs. strength clichés.
This game brings us the No. 1 offense according to DVOA, which improved in the final two months of the season, against the No. 1 defense according to DVOA, which also improved in the final two months of the season. Green Bay isn't just the No. 1 offense overall, but also the No. 1 offense on first down and on third-and-long. Then again, the Seattle defense also led the league in DVOA on first down and on third-and-long.
The best time for the Packers to have success might be when passing the ball on second down, where they ranked second in DVOA but the Seattle defense was somehow only 19th. It was the only down/play combination where the Seahawks did not rank in the top five.
And the best place for the Packers to throw the ball if they want to have success is, of course, to the left side of the field, away from Richard Sherman. You'll notice very little difference in the Seahawks' defensive DVOA against left-side passes compared to right-side passes, but that's because of all the success of all the other players on their defense. Our charting stats on defensive coverage suggest two things: first, that Sherman is clearly better than Byron Maxwell, and second, that Sherman is not infallible.
|Seattle Cornerbacks, 2014|
Maxwell primarily lines up on the offense's left, and Sherman on the offense's right, although the Seahawks did finally start moving things around at times this year. Sherman switched sides to follow the other team's best receiver against three opponents: Dallas (Dez Bryant), Carolina (Kelvin Benjamin), and Kansas City (Dwayne Bowe, in which case we're talking about "only" receiver rather than "best"). As for the other cornerbacks, Burley was in the slot for the first half of the year but hasn't played much since Lane and Simon returned from injury at midseason. Lane is now the primary slot guy, while Simon tends to play outside when Maxwell is injured (for example, Week 8 against Carolina) or ill (for example, last week against Carolina; apparently, Maxwell is allergic to Jerricho Cotchery).
These stats certainly suggest who to go after in the Seattle secondary. In the Week 1 game, the Packers kept Jordy Nelson almost exclusively on the left side of the field and he caught 9 passes for 83 yards. The Seahawks could change their strategy and use Sherman to track Nelson around the field, but Rodgers certainly won't mind going after Maxwell with passes to Davante Adams if Adams is playing as well as he did against the Cowboys last week. Cobb had six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Week 1 game, but he only caught one pass when covered by Jeremy Lane before Lane got hurt in the middle of the game. Seattle had -8.0% DVOA with 61 percent catch rate allowed against "other receivers" (usually slot guys) in the first half of the season, then -28.2% DVOA and 51 percent catch rate allowed after Lane's return in Week 10.
It's very unlikely that Green Bay can go another whole game without targeting Sherman even once; in fact, our charting says that was the only game all year where Sherman was never thrown at. Looking at who had success against Sherman, the best strategy seems to be either a) physical receivers with height (Kelvin Benjamin, Dez Bryant) or b) routes that cross guys to mess up Seattle's Cover-3 (Keenan Allen). Jordy Nelson is actually taller than Bryant, but he's not really that type of receiver, and neither is Adams, so it seems like (b) might be the better option here for the Packers.
Of course, Earl Thomas is behind everyone at free safety, basically updating the old joke about how two-thirds of the earth is covered by water and the other third by Garry Maddox. Seattle has allowed a league-low four touchdown passes that gained at least 10 yards. That's the fewest since the 2009 Jets allowed three in Rex Ryan's rookie year. (Green Bay allowed 14, which also happened to be the league average.) Thomas tied Charles Woodson for the league lead among safeties by making 57 tackles (or assisted tackles) after receptions
The Seahawks are comparatively weaker when covering tight ends and running backs, and rank 18th in DVOA against each, but even there we see the effect of some of their early-season defensive struggles. The Seahawks went from 4.5% DVOA and 70 percent catch rate for tight ends in Weeks 1 to 9, to -8.5% DVOA and 55 percent catch rate in Weeks 10 to 17. And they went from 10.9% DVOA and 79 percent catch rate for running backs in Weeks 1-9 to -12.3% DVOA and 69 percent catch rate in Weeks 10-17. Eddie Lacy was one of the best receiving backs in football this year, finishing fourth in receiving DYAR and ninth in DVOA with 42 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns. But the Packers tight ends are decidedly unexciting. They catch some of the passes that need to be caught when it is time to go to the tight end, such as in the red zone, but nobody is going to game-plan with them in mind. Andrew Quarless had -0.3% DVOA (25th out of 50 tight ends) and rookie Richard Rodgers had -11.3% DVOA (36th). Quarless is more of a red-zone guy (15 passes in the red zone, average pass length of just 5.7 yards), while Rodgers runs the seam routes (only six passes in the red zone, and average pass length of 7.9 yards).
The issue of Rodgers throwing to his tight ends in the red zone gets us to the biggest, clearest weakness of Seattle's defense in 2014, and the biggest difference between this year's Seahawks (best defense of the year) and last year's Seahawks (one of the greatest defenses of all-time). The Seahawks' defense wasn't good in the red zone this season. I don't mean that they were average, as opposed to being fantastic elsewhere on the field. I mean, they were actually very bad. The Seahawks ranked 28th in DVOA in the red zone. They allowed 5.2 points per red zone visit by opponents; only New Orleans and Indianapolis were worse.
The good news for Seattle is that this is the weakness that got fixed when the Seahawks went on that dominating six-game winning streak to close the season. This table appeared in my ESPN Insider piece earlier this week, but it's updated here with some of Jim Armstrong's drive stats as well:
|Seattle Defense in Red Zone, 2014|
It will be interesting to see if Seattle might choose to blitz Aaron Rodgers more because his is less mobile due to the calf injury. One of the problems with the Seattle defense in the first half of the year was that they brought less pressure than last season. Last year, Seattle put the quarterback under duress on a league-high 34.4 percent of pass plays. This year, it was 24.9 percent, barely above the NFL average of 24.4 percent. But in that six-game winning streak to finish the season, the Seahawks brought pressure on 30.8 percent of pass plays.
The Seahawks' percentages for sending four, five, or six pass rushers are roughly equal to the NFL average, with the standard four pass rushers about two-thirds of the time. But the difference in yards per play as they sent more and more pass rushers was extreme. Seattle this year allowed 7.5 yards per pass with three pass rushers, 5.8 with the standard four, 4.7 with five, and 3.7 with six.* (Not six or more, as ESPN Stats & Information never recorded a 7-man pressure from the Seahawks.) And although opponents didn't often blitz against Aaron Rodgers this year -- only four starting quarterbacks faced more than four pass rushers less often -- he got successively worse with more pass rushers, with 8.2 yards per pass against four but 6.7 against five and 6.4 against six or more. Rodgers had no problem against DB blitzes (8.7 yards per pass) but that's a strategy Seattle rarely uses (5.5 percent of passes, 30th in the NFL).*
The Packers will mix things up with the run from Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and they are usually efficient when they run the ball, but the Seahawks' front is stalwart against opposing running games. Green Bay was sixth in run offense DVOA, including second on first downs (behind only the Seahawks), but Seattle was second in run defense DVOA (including third on first downs) and fifth in Adjusted Line Yards. In particular, there's a danger that the Packers will see a lot of first-and-10 runs turn into second-and-10s, as the Seahawks stuffed opposing runners for a loss or no gain 23.7 percent of the time (sixth in NFL) while Packers running backs were stuffed 21.0 percent of the time (22nd). And the Packers' "power" success rate on offense matched what Seattle allowed on defense at 59 percent; that's lower than the league average of 65 percent, although not by very much.
Directionally, the Packers' running game doesn't stand out anywhere, but the Seattle defense sure does. The Seahawks are far more susceptible to runs on the left side than the right side, especially right end. Running backs only carried the ball 24 times during the regular season on runs listed as "right end." They averaged 2.0 yards per carry with -24.4% DVOA. Five of these runs lost yardage and another five were stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Only three of these runs gained more than five yards and only one, an 18-yarder by Jonathan Stewart of Carolina, gained more than eight.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle's offense is not only very good, but also very consistent. You may have noticed in the graph to the left that the Seahawks had one horrendous game when they lost to Dallas back in Week 6, but otherwise they had only one game all season where the offensive DVOA was even slightly negative. You also might notice that Seattle's second-best offensive game of the entire season came way back in Week 1, against the Green Bay Packers.
In fact, the Seattle offense is part of the secret of the greatness of the Seattle defense, and why they look even better in standard stats than they do in our advanced stats. By sustaining drives and limiting turnovers, the Seattle offense limited the number of times it forced the Seattle defense to play a short field. Therefore, the Seattle defense began its average drive with the opposing offense needing a league-high 74.8 yards to go for a touchdown.
If you have read a lot of my NFL analysis over the last few years, you have gotten used to my constant insistance that the passing game is more important than the running game. Here's the exception you've all been waiting for. A Seattle offense built around one of the best running games of the last 25 years is about to take on an opponent whose main strength against the run is the ability to stop backs after they have already gained 10 yards.
The Seahawks had 29.9% rushing offense DVOA this season, the fifth highest figure going back to 1989, and were one of only two teams (Houston was the other) with more runs than passes (after adjusting for kneeldowns and spikes). The Seahawks were only fourth in Adjusted Line Yards, in part because ALY doesn't account for all those Russell Wilson keepers, but they were also fourth in Second-Level Yards (5 to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage) and 11th in Open-Field Yards (11-plus yards past the line of scrimmage). The Seahawks converted runs on 81 percent of short-yardage tries, tied with Philadelphia for the best figure in the league. And while we haven't finished our count of broken tackles for the whole league, we can remind you that the Seahawks led the league in broken tackles last year, and we can show you
this play where Marshawn Lynch basically pushes the entire Raiders defense into the end zone for a 3-yard score.
The Packers, on the other hand, were 24th in run defense DVOA, though that improves to 20th if we only look at Weeks 10 to 17. They were even worse in Adjusted Line Yards, ranking 26th. ALY numbers suggest that the Packers are better stopping runs to the right side or up the middle, so they maybe might be a little bit better at stopping Seattle's running backs, who are also best when running to the right side or up the middle. Unfortunately, "better" in this case means "close to league average" in Adjusted Line Yards, as opposed to "good." Meanwhile, the Seahawks led the league in ALY on runs around right end and were fifth in runs up the middle.
And any suggestion that run direction makes a difference sort of presumes that the Packers know who has the ball and where the run is going. The Seahawks, of course, love to use the read option on running plays. ESPN Stats & Information recorded the Seahawks with 177 read-option runs this year, third in the NFL, and they led the league with 5.55 yards per carry on these plays. And Dom Capers and the Packers defense famously have a massive problem with the read option. The 49ers destroyed Green Bay in the 2012 Divisional Round with 323 rushing yards, including 176 on the read option. When the Seahawks and Packers played in Week 1, the Seahawks gained 49 yards with a touchdown on seven read-option runs. The Packers allowed 4.88 yards per carry on read options this season,* 20th in the NFL, although because of how their schedule worked out they haven't faced a team that uses the read option since playing Philadelphia in Week 11.
The hope might be that the tackling in the Green Bay secondary can literally keep the Seahawks from running away with this game. The one big strength of the Green Bay run defense was stopping long runs, and the Packers led the league by allowing just 0.42 Open-Field Yards per carry. Lynch gained 21 yards on a carry back in Week 1, but that was one of just six runs of 20-plus yards against the Packers during the regular season. None of them have come since Week 8, although DeMarco Murray broke that streak with runs of 26 and 30 yards last week.
All this running should set Seattle up for the play-action pass, but the Seahawks aren't as good on play-action as you might think. Seattle used play-action on 31 percent of passes, second in the NFL behind Philadelphia, but averaged only 7.4 yards per pass compared to 6.6 yards per pass the rest of the time. That gap of 0.8 yards is actually smaller than the NFL average of 1.3 yards.* (Apologies, but we don't have DVOA set up with the game charting data yet, just yardage.)
And the Seahawks somehow ranked 31st in DVOA on second-and-short (1 or 2 yards to go) this season. Only Chicago was worse. The Seahawks only gained 3.9 yards per carry on these downs, and, very oddly, the Seahawks never threw a single pass on second-and-short until Week 13. In six plays over the final five weeks they had a 12-yard completion (and fumble), a 22-yard completion, three incomplete passes, and a sack. The Seahawks make up for this by ranking third in the NFL in DVOA on third-and-short.
(In case you are curious, the Seahawks had two second-and-2s last week and Lynch ran for 1 yard and then 3 yards; Green Bay's defense ranked 18th on second-and-short, then 15th on third-and-short, and the Packers were average on defense against play-action passes.)
The Seahawks are going to need to pass the ball, and the best hope for the Packers defense is to get the Seahawks into a third-and-long situation. Seattle's passing DVOA drops from seventh on first down to 11th on second down to 22nd on third down. It seems like Seattle's running game should set them up for a lot of short third downs, but actually the Seahawks averaged 7.47 yards to go on third-down plays this year, longer than the NFL average of 7.19 yards. (These figures are for third downs only, with fourth downs removed.) The problem is that Seattle's running game gets sort of counteracted by the Seahawks' biggest offensive weakness: their penchant for flags. Seattle led the league with 130 accepted penalties this year, far ahead of the NFL average of 106 or the Green Bay total of 92. Half of those flags came on offense (only Tampa Bay had more accepted offensive penalties), making this four straight years the Seahawks have ranked first or second in offensive penalties. The biggest problem, as it seems to be every year, was false starts. Seahawks led the league with 29 false starts on offense, with no other team over 23.
[ad placeholder 3]
When the Packers get the Seahawks into third-and-very-long situations, 10 or more yards to go, they probably want to bring the house as much as possible. In 2013, Wilson excelled against the blitz to an absurd extent, including 8.2 yards per pass against five pass rushers, 8.2 yards per pass against six or more pass rushers, and 9.9 yards per pass (second only to Philip Rivers) against DB blitzes. This year, Wilson was still excellent against those five-man pressures (8.6 yards per pass), but he wasn't so great against the big blitzes (only 5.0 yards per pass) or the DB blitzes (6.2 yards per pass).* The problem seems to be more pressure allowed by the offensive line. In 2013, ESPN Stats & Info recorded duress (or a sack) on 37 percent of pass plays with five rushers and 40 percent with six or more. This year, that went up to a league-leading 50 percent of pass plays with five rushers and 68 percent with six or more.*
In addition, the Packers' pass defense was much better when it brought more pressure. The Packers allowed just 3.5 yards per pass when they brought a big blitz (six or more) and just 4.8 yards per pass with a DB blitz.* (Oddly, the Packers were excellent on DB blitzes without actually pressuring quarterbacks -- ESPN Stats & Information has them putting the quarterback under duress on only 30 percent of these plays, the second-lowest figure in the NFL.)
I wrote in last week's preview about the weird left/right dichotomy of the Green Bay pass defense, where the Packers had the best defense in the league against passes on the offensive right even though left cornerback Tramon Williams had poor charting stats compared to the other Green Bay cornerbacks. Last week's game against Dallas certainly backed up the conclusion that Williams' poor charting stats are a more accurate representation of his performance than the "DVOA by sides" numbers, as Williams got dinged for two pass interference flags and gave up a 38-yard touchdown pass when he completely whiffed on an attempt to tackle Terrance Williams after a short 5-yard hitch. This issue becomes even more important this week because Seattle once again this year had the most right-handed passing game in the NFL, throwing a league-leading 46 percent of passes to the right side of the field -- although unlike last year, Wilson was just as good throwing to the left and middle as he was throwing to the right.
It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks react to losing Paul Richardson to a torn ACL. Richardson ran a lot of the shorter patterns that used to be Percy Harvin's after Harvin was dealt to the Jets. Richardson (-15.1%) and Harvin (-32.2%) were the only Seattle players with negative receiving DVOA and at least 20 targets this season, which is perhaps indicative of the design of those routes in the offense -- they seem to set up other things Seattle wants to do rather than being terribly efficient on their own. Ricardo Lockette (50.1% DVOA on 15 targets) might be the replacement in the lineup, but he's really much more of a deep threat, not a versatile slot player.
Both Green Bay and Seattle were generally mediocre on special teams this year, but a longer-term view suggests that Seattle does have an advantage here.
[ad placeholder 4]
The Seahawks had ranked in the top five for special teams DVOA in both 2012 and 2013, and not because of Percy Harvin. Although the Seahawks employed the same kicker (Steven Hauschka) and punter (Jon Ryan) as years past, they declined from recent years in net punting value and, to a smaller extent, both net kickoff value and efficiency on field goals. It's the punts that will be most interesting, if the Green Bay defense can force Seattle to punt. Seattle almost never allows a punt return. That's a little different than saying that they are great on punts, because Ryan had plenty of punts this year where the returner called for a fair catch because the punt was just too short to be worth the risk of a return. However, 44 percent of punts were returned this year once we filter out blocked and aborted punt attempts. Against Seattle, that number was a league-low 28 percent, or only 17 punts.
The Packers have one strength on special teams: Micah Hyde. He may not be the fastest return man in the game, but he has exceptional start-stop speed and sees his blockers well to get to holes instead of just running into piles. Hyde tends to share return duties with Randall Cobb, who has never had the success returning punts that he has enjoyed returning kickoffs. Though Hyde only returned 14 punts this year, two of those were for touchdowns and four others went for 15 yards or more. Seattle only allowed four punt returns longer than 10 yards all season, though one was a touchdown by Stedman Bailey of the Rams. Hyde and Cobb also returned kickoffs last week rather than the usual regular-season kick returner, third-string running back DuJuan Harris.
When they are kicking or punting instead of returning, the Packers' special teams are decidedly poor. Mason Crosby has been average or worse for years, on both kickoffs and field goals. Tim Masthay was worth an estimated 9.7 points worth of field position below average in our gross punt measures, the third-worst figure in the NFL behind Michael Koenen of Tampa Bay and Drew Butler of Arizona. The punt coverage, led by Jay Elliott and Sean Richardson, is less of an issue.
Seattle's overall mediocrity on special teams this season had more ups and downs than Green Bay's, as the Seahawks ranked 29th in variance. Part of that came from Hauschka having one particularly bad day when he missed three field goals of 47, 50, and 52 yards indoors against Arizona in Week 16. (If that week never happened, Hauschka would have finished sixth in weather-adjusted field-goal value this year, not 13th.) Another part of the issue was Pete Carroll's weird punt return experiments. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman were worth a combined -1.75 points of value on three punt returns, but the main punt returner, Bryan Walters, was worth -0.61 points of value on 27 punt returns.
Nobody is sure who will return kickoffs for the Seahawks after rookie Paul Richardson tore his ACL against the Panthers last week. Doug Baldwin returned a few punts this year when Walters was inactive and could do it; Carroll even said that third quarterback B.J. Daniels could return kickoffs after the Seahawks activated him off the practice squad.
AND NOW, FOR SOME HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS
Here's one thing I didn't mention above, because it applies to both teams on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks this year, on both offense and defense, played better after halftime. The Packers, on both offense and defense, played worse after halftime.
|Green Bay and Seattle DVOA by Quarter, 2014|
|Team||Q1||Rk||Q2||Rk||Q3||Rk||Q4/OT||Rk||1st Half||Rk||2nd Half||Rk||Late and Close||Rk|
|Green Bay offense||36.3%||1||40.7%||1||3.4%||15||10.2%||6||38.5%||1||6.7%||10||12.0%||8|
|Green Bay defense||-12.8%||4||-5.3%||12||-0.7%||16||13.6%||30||-8.6%||9||6.5%||24||5.3%||24|
This trend certainly didn't hold up in every game this year. In fact, it didn't hold up at all in last week's playoff games. The Seattle offense had almost exactly the same DVOA before and after halftime, while the Seattle defense went from -19.2% DVOA and 4.2 yards allowed per play before halftime to 20.5% DVOA and 6.9 yards allowed per play after halftime. Meanwhile, the Packers offense went from 0.2% DVOA and 4.6 yards per play before halftime to 76.0% DVOA and 8.9 yards per play after halftime.
There's a reasonable theory that perhaps Aaron Rodgers had a Toradol shot at halftime of last week's game, which is why he seemed more mobile and his throws more steady in the last 30 minutes. If he does the same thing this week, then the Packers offense will be better after halftime, just as it was last week. But it's also more likely that the Seahawks will get better later in the game, closer to how they played during most of the regular season (and in the Week 1 game between these two teams). It's something to watch for.
The Seattle defense is fantastic, but so is the Green Bay offense. Aaron Rodgers had a reasonable game against the Seahawks when these teams first played in Week 1, especially once we adjust his stats for the strength of the opponent. But he's going to have to overcome his calf injury and play even better than that in Sunday's game, because the Seattle offense is very likely going to manhandle the Green Bay defense on the ground. The Packers are going to need Rodgers to play one of his best games of the year, and a couple of big plays from Lacy. There will be a couple of drives where the Seahawks inevitably false start, hold, get stuck in third-and-15, and then are forced to punt. When the Packers get the good field position after those -- and a nice long Micah Hyde return would be an added bonus -- they need a touchdown every time. But even with that, they probably need a couple of big defensive plays, big turnovers or stops even after the Seahawks get into third-and-short or down into the red zone. I just don't see those plays as very likely.
DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.
Team DVOA numbers incorporate all plays; since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, the average for passing is actually above 0% while the average for rushing is below 0%.
SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.
Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list red zone DVOA and WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).
122 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2015, 1:01pm
#2 by coltrane23 // Jan 16, 2015 - 1:17pm
I definitely expect the Seahawks to win this game, but as a fan I don't expect to be comfortable watching it until midway through the 4th quarter. As long as Aaron Rodgers is their QB, the Packers always have a chance. If the Packers had a good TE, I'd be more concerned, because short passes to the backs and TEs are the best way to attack this defense.
#3 by jtr // Jan 16, 2015 - 1:25pm
I thought GB's gameplan in week 1 was clever, putting some crappy third or fourth receiver out wide on Sherman's side so Nelson and Cobb could work on Seattle's more mortal corners. Of course, Seattle should be prepared for that now and they have certainly been more willing to move Sherman around as the season has progressed. Can't feel great about GB's chances in this one if they only put up 16 pts in week 1 using a clever scheme that Seattle should be adjusted to this time.
#63 by blarneyforbreakfast // Jan 16, 2015 - 5:14pm
A lot of teams tried the "bad receiver against Sherman" approach this year. The problem is that then Earl Thomas and the rest of the defense can focus on back-stopping Simon/Lane. GB is better off putting Nelson on the right to force ThomasIII to be aware of a potential deep threat.
As a Seahawks fan I think this one will be a blowout. Only a dominant pass-rushing performance by the Packers could keep this one in striking distance. And just a note from last week is that it was crazy to watch how Seattle didn't even use the usual playground football--expect to see more of that this game.
#66 by dank067 // Jan 16, 2015 - 5:37pm
I'd certainly like GB to at least try to match up with Nelson on Sherman on the outside this time for the reasons you noted. Barnwell pointed out though in his preview this morning that Rodgers isn't throwing toward the sideline nearly as much since the injury. Nelson does most of his work out there and he only had 2 catches on 5 targets last week. (Granted, he got plenty of catches/targets, mainly in the middle of the field, vs. TB and DET). Anyway, I have a feeling Sherman will get zero-to-very-few targets again this week just by virtue of that. Hopefully though putting Nelson out there would still constitute enough of a distraction.
#70 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 5:46pm
Sacrificing Nelson to Sherman would be even worse than sacrificing Boykins, and now Adams. I don't know why teams keep trying to challenge Sherman deep. He is worse against literally every other route, so attack him with ins, crossers, outs, comebacks, curls, anything other than fades. Despite Seattle's reputation, Sherman doesn't play press that often, so I think Green Bay can have some success putting Cobb on him and running some angle routes to take advantage of Sherman's relative lack of fluidity.
#71 by dank067 // Jan 16, 2015 - 6:01pm
Well, comebacks and back shoulder throws from Rodgers to Nelson along the sideline have been a huge part of the offense. But if Rodgers doesn't think he can hit those throws against Sherman in his compromised state, and there's some evidence that this is the case, I'd at least hope they still show Nelson out there (and certainly try it before giving up on it) just so they don't end up creating an obvious tendency that tips the defense off, which is what ultimately happened last time.
#30 by Aaron Schatz // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:10pm
The weights go like this, backwards: 100% for the last four weeks, then 95% for four weeks, then 70%, 70%, 70%, 67%, 20%, 20%, and then 0% from then on.
I last did a study to try to update the weights a couple years ago, and I check them every couple of offseasons to see if I can find a series of weights that are more predictive.
#7 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 1:46pm
If Rodgers were healthy, I'd expect Seattle to win this 70% of the time, but in an interesting, competitive, fashion. If Rodgers has the same mobility that he displayed last Sunday, I'd expect the Seahawks to win this game 95% of the time, and in a pretty boring, utterly predictable fashion. The only chance the Packers have in this scenario is if the Seahawks just get ridiculously sloppy with the ball. With Rodgers hobbled, the Seahawks defense has a very wide array of options available to them, but I guess they'll take Jordy Nelson away via different methods, and will also be able to account for Lacy, because they won't have to worry about accounting for Rodgers leaving the pocket. It's kind of a shame for those of us who don't really care who wins. If Rodgers can't move, my guess is Seahawks in the high twenties to low thirties, and the Packers with no more than 14, even with a late garbage td.
#9 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 1:58pm
The Green Bay offensive line has been playing at a pretty high level. If Seattle is getting to Rodgers it will be mostly likely because the line failed and not directly tied to any mobility issues. And in that scenario GB loses every time because the success of late has been centered on the line handling everything the defense does up front.
Against Buffalo GB was able to run as the Bills typically had only six guys near the line of scrimmage. GB lost because Rodgers had his worst day in forever even though he wasn't touched until the very end of the game.
Seattle's defense is better than Buffalo's but on the front seven the Buffalo line has the advantage while the Seattle linebackers are light years better. If GB can block THAT line I have a sliver of hope that the Packers can manage to hold their own against Seattle.
All I want is for Rodgers to have a chance on the bulk of the pass plays. If he gets the time he did against the Bills hobbled or no I am going to think a positive outcome will be more likely.
Yes, I dare to dream
#13 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:07pm
I really like the Packers' line, but I really don't like immobile qbs against extremely good defenses in playoff games, in a place where a silent count will be the norm. I hope I'm wrong, because, all kidding aside, I really do want to see a good game.
#25 by Turin // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:50pm
GB had a rookie center making his first start and the no-longer-on-the-roster Derek Sherrod playing at RT for 2/3rds of the game in week 1. Their O-line will be substantially better this time around.
However, the game still probably comes down to whether or not the Packer's defense can stop Seattle from running the ball. It will be damn hard for GB to win if Seattle can dominate field position and limit the number of possessions.
#28 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:03pm
All of that about the line is true, and more than overshadowed by their HOF qb not being able to do all the stuff he normally can which makes him so dangerous. The Seattle dbs and lbs not having to worry about Rodgers running downfield, if Rodger indeed cannot do so, makes pass defense a lot less complicated.
#38 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:45pm
BB's worst game of his career was at Seattle. And he has always struggled against Avril back to when Cliff was in Detroit
For a guy that the other lineman consider the best of the bunch (which I think is lunacy as Sitton is clearly the best) I hope he plays like it
#11 by oaktoon // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:02pm
I am going to say it again-- the Rodgers "hobbled" meme has gone way overboard... He is now vintage Brady or Manning-- and actually a bit MORE mobile than each-- and as Jack Nicholson said in "Mars Attacks",. that ain't bad. Look at the TD to Richard Rodgers-- the gamewinner vs Dallas-- and tell me that man is hobbled... Pretty adroit steps to get out of the pocket and then a bullet into a miniscule window for the score.. He can't run for FDs-- OK-- not the end of the world. Wilson's mobility may be the key in this game on the other side of the ball...
#15 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:11pm
If a very, very, good defense, with outstanding defensive backs, doesn't have to account for Rodgers running for a first down, pass defense gets much, much, more simple. I suspect they'll want to find out early how much mobility he has regained pretty early, and take it from there.
#108 by SuperGrover // Jan 18, 2015 - 1:21am
Except Brady and Manning never leveraged mobility to the extent Rodgers has. One of the primary reasons GB has the #1 offense in the league is because of his ability to move in the pocket. Without it, he and GB simply aren't as good. I thought that was pretty evident the past two games myself.
#12 by peepshowmopguy // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:03pm
And since PC lead Seahawks teams rarely play sloppy and usually win the turnover battle, Green Bay may have a tough time keeping it close. Especially in Q4 when they are worn down and Seattle starts landing haymakers to put the game away.
That being said, I try to never underestimate the capable heroics of an MVP caliber QB like Rogers/Brady/Manning/Brees.
#37 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:44pm
I don't know why you're that down on Green Bay. Rodgers hobbled still got Green Bay a 30% offensive DVOA against Dallas, and even with him being immobile he got loads of time in the pocket on most plays.
#42 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:54pm
Because playing a bad defense in Lambeau, with your qb not being able to do everything he normally can, is rather dissimilar from playing an extremely good defense with the best HFA in the league, with your qb in that condition?
#44 by oaktoon // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:00pm
Precisely... No Derek Sherrod any more... Linsley with a full season under his belt.. same for Adams and Richard Rodgers... I would be more than surprised if the Packers are held below 17 pts-- I think they'll probably score 20-24...
The reason I believe Seattle wins is the combination of Lynch and Wilson and back-breaking 3rd down conversions against a Packer defense which has improved, but is a far cry from the one time-- in 2010-- they had playmakers all over the field and could actually stop teams-- as they did in every game save Atlanta on the SB run-- with the ball at the end of the game. The Bryant "catch" is a perfect illustration of the difference-- in the end, the Packers didn't stop them (same for end of 1st half Dallas foibles), it was the Cowboys and the rules (and yes, Shields made a nice play to disrupt Bryant-- but Dez still came down with the ball).
#8 by tammer.raouf // Jan 16, 2015 - 1:53pm
One thing that has bugged me about the Seahawks and the story about their momentum is the fact that their schedule was an absolute JOKE after the first few weeks. Since week 7, their schedule looks like this
@ Stl, L 26-28
@ Car, W 13-9
v Oak, W 24-30
v NYG, W 17-38
@ KC, L 24-20
v Ari, W 19-3
@ SF, W 19-3
@ Phi, W 24-14
v SF, W 17-7
@ Ari, W 35-6
v Stl, W 20-6
I mean, these teams were either dealing with some strange circumstances or flat out bad. They played Arizona with Ryan Lindley and Drew Stanton, the Eagles with Sanchez (who, thank GOD, everyone seems to have realized is actually terrible, Chip Kelly system or not), the 49ers, twice, while they were facing a lost season and rumors that their coach(es) were jumping ship, and the Rams, who were fielding Austin Davis and Shaun Hill (and they lost to Davis!). People like bringing up the fact that they gave up 39 points over their last 7 games, but look who they gave them up to.
They're a great team, and DVOA says so, but DVOA also is assuming that the two wins against the Cardinals were against the team that featured Carson Palmer and went 9-1. DVOA also thinks they played the Eagles team that featured Foles or a passably competent Sanchez, who Mark was quick to remind us doesn't actually exist.
Just wanted to remind people that the Seattle defense got "hot" at exactly the same time they started playing a slate of truly awful teams/teams with nothing to play for. Remember, this is the squad that lost to Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders. People keep saying they've held their opponents to fewer than 20 points in the last 6 games, failing to recognize that THEY HAVE ALSO BEEN HELD TO 20 OR FEWER IN ALL BUT 2 OF THOSE GAMES! And of those two, one of them was against the Ryan Lindley led, Andre Ellington-less Cardinals (Lindley threw 44 passes for 216 yards and a pick and Stepfan Taylor ran 11 times for 19 yards).
Packers are obviously head and shoulders above any of the teams the Seahawks handled so easily, and are playing much better than they were at the beginning of the season (pre Aaron Rodger's R-E-L-A-X). Call me crazy, but at home or not, I think the Seahawks being a 7.5 point favorite is too much.
#20 by jacobk // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:23pm
Two points: (1) DVOA adjusts for opponent strength and shows a marked improvement in the last eight weeks. (2) Mind the hindsight bias. Heading into Thanksgiving the story was "watch out for the red-hot 49ers" and most of the media was predicting a 3-2 result out of the SF-ARI-SF-PHI-ARI stretch of games, with 4-1 being considered "optimistic."
Also, the claim that the Seattle defense can only smother patsies and withers when forced to play against MVP-caliber quarterbacking has been falsified quite a few times in the last calendar year. It's a little strange to me to see the statement "the Seahawks beat those chumps from _______ last week, but they face a real test from the _____ this week" get rolled out every week with different teams used to fill in the blanks.
#26 by RickD // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:56pm
DVOA adjusts for opponent strength, but it doesn't do so perfectly. You'll notice that the better teams tend to get their best DVOA games when they beat up on the weak competition. (If opponent adjustments were perfect, then a team's best DVOA performances would be uniformly distributed across all opponents.)
I say this not to say that the Seahawks shouldn't be favored: they should be, esp. with Rodgers injured. But I'll say that this version of the Seahawks doesn't look quite as tough as they did twelve months ago. And beating up weaker teams down the stretch doesn't completely undo the damage that the home loss to Dallas and the road loss to the execrable Raiders did to their reputation.
#50 by Pen // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:18pm
What's interesting is that 12 months ago all anyone talked about was how vulnerable the Seahawks look and how shaky their offense seemed. And it's the same meme now.
Also, all this talk about the weakness of the QB's they've faced. This defense is undefeated vs Super Bowl QB's. They've stopped Manning twice, Rodgers twice, Brady, Brees twice. Couple more wins in there somewhere I can't think of off the top of my head.
#64 by Flounder // Jan 16, 2015 - 5:23pm
The article asserts Seattle as an overwhelming favorite, and the comments on this article all reflect, even among GB fans, and even among GB fans that think their hopes are being sold a bit short, that Seattle is more likely to win.
Where, precisely, is the meme?
#27 by ammek // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:00pm
DVOA also is assuming that the two wins against the Cardinals were against the team that featured Carson Palmer and went 9-1.
DVOA was no more impressed by the early-season Cardinals than it was by the Stanton/Lindley incarnation.
this is the squad that lost to Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders.
I must have missed that.
Down the stretch, Seattle held the Niners to their two lowest offensive yardage outputs of the season; held the Cardinals to their lowest and third-lowest (by one yard) offensive outputs; and held St Louis to its lowest rushing output while forcing a season-high number of turnovers. With Sanchez at quarterback, the Eagles' offense averaged 419 yards per game in his seven other starts, but gained only 139 yards against Seattle.
You are underselling the Seahawks' dominance on defense.
#32 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:24pm
In particular, the Seahawks are dominant against the type of qb uber-centric offense which is so prevalent today, which is a credit to the people who put the roster together. Now, where I could be wrong about the Packers is my perception that their running effectiveness is in good measure a by-product of d-coordinators, especially d-coordinators with mediocre coverage personnel, living in mortal fear of playing the run, when Rodgers so easily manipulates mediocre coverage personnel away from who he wants to throw to, and then can squeeze balls into tight windows even when they don't fall apart completely. If the Packers o-line is more like the Cowboys o-line, confident in their ability to run efficiently against any defense, in just about any formation, then the Packers can have success even with Rodgers not being able to do everything he normally does. I don't think the Packers o-line, while good, is quite at that level, however.
#40 by Arkaein // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:49pm
I think the general points of your assessment are pretty good, but there are some pretty fine degrees which could make a big difference in the game.
The Packers O-line is not quite as good as the Cowboys at run blocking, though they're good enough to have some success this weekend as long as they stay out of too many obvious running situations. They were able to shred the Lions and Bills run defenses early in those recent games, and those are good defenses, though both were definitely focusing on stopping the pass first.
With Rodgers calf, if he looks like he did in the first half against Dallas, the Pack is in fairly big trouble. I'd say that GB's line is probably better than Dallas in pass protection, and have generally improved during the season, especially since Bulaga got healthy after the first few games, so Seattle won't just be able to tee off on Rodgers every play.
If Rodgers can move even as well as he did in the second half against Dallas, though, then GB has a good shot at success on offense. Difficult to say what will happen Sunday, but the optimist in me likes to believe that the improvement was partly due to Rodgers getting some game speed experience playing with his injury limitations, as well as playing it a bit safe early on in a home game where GB is favored. I don't think Rodgers will scramble much past the LoS, but I can see him moving around a bit to buy time for his WRs.
GB really just needs everyone on offense to do their jobs. WRs need to make catches and not allow INTs off deflections, and the pass protection needs avoid serious breakdowns. If GB can combine this with a clean special teams performance and prevent giving up big plays on defense, they can definitely win. It's a fairly tall order, but bigger upsets happen all the time.
#46 by oaktoon // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:03pm
He moved around pretty well the 2nd half against Detroit too-- amazing those what those warm locker rooms can do :)
Best sign for me is 15 out of 16 ESPN beat writers picking Seattle-- just wish it had been all 16 (and no, it wasn't Rob Demozvsky-- who covers GB-- it was the Tampa Bay guy!)-- 2001 Super Bowl, anyone?? Or 1997 Super Bowl (more painfully)
#49 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:18pm
Against Detroit they had most of their success on their first drive, when Detroit was focused on the pass. They had 62 yards on that drive, all on the ground, and then only averaged 3.0 yards per carry after that. Buffalo doesn't actually have that good a run defense, and in any case, running well didn't help the Packers passing game at all. Unless your run defense is really bad, it's better to continue to play the pass and wait for a run stop or an offensive penalty than to concentrate too much on stopping the run and get burned deep through the air.
#41 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:53pm
THEY HAVE ALSO BEEN HELD TO 20 OR FEWER IN ALL BUT 2 OF THOSE GAMES!
If they had kicked a field goal at the end of the first Arizona game, and at the end of the first San Francisco game, and at the end of the St. Louis game, they would've been held to 20 points just once. Judging offenses by the number of points they scored in double-digit victories is not very accurate.
Also, are Kyle Orton's Bills so superior on offense to Seattle's opponents?
#76 by Jimmy Oz // Jan 16, 2015 - 9:25pm
Kam Chancellor was still recovering from hip surgery, and missed weeks 9 & 10, returning for the Chiefs loss. Bobby Wagner also missed 5 weeks in the middle of the year, returning the week after the Chiefs.
The return of those two is the reason for the defense's return to form.
#109 by SuperGrover // Jan 18, 2015 - 1:27am
And Green Bay's for comparison (same start point):
I am sorry, but Seattle's schedule is much more difficult than what GB faced. They played 4 road games since GW 7 against 3 lousy teams and Buffalo (who they lost to). SO not sure why you are picking on Seattle in this context.
#10 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:02pm
Now that I think about it, I'll root for the Seahawks because 1) Why not be a frontrunner? and, more importantly, 2) It'd be nice to see Kevin Williams repeat Matt Birk's career arc, and see a longtime Viking and HOF candidate (Williams being a better candidate than Birk) get a championship while playing pretty well deep into his 30s. I see he's been on the field for 59% of the Seahawks defensive snaps, with 3 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 19 tackles and 12 assists. Not bad for a 34 year old tackle on a good defense.
Go Hawks! Woo Hoo!! The 12th man is AWESOME!!!! Rodgers' commercials STINK!!!!!!
#16 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:12pm
It will be interesting to see if Peppers can play at a high level two weeks in a row. I know GB has cut his snaps but I am certain the week off was a big plus.
The Seattle offensive line is not flawless. Wilson has been hit/sacked a fair number of times. GB needs a Herculean effort from its pass rush assuming they can get Seattle into passing situations.
#21 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:27pm
This is where I sometimes wonder about Capers and McCarthy's confidence in him.
Peppers is 34 years old. That is pretty old in football terms and ancient in defensive line/linebacker terms. Peppers was on the field for 70 percent or more of the snaps way too much and when he disappeared against the Falcons line it was very clear that Peppers legs were failing him. He had no edge rush among other things.
It took until the Tampa game for the Packers to cut his snaps and from what I heard Peppers had to go to the coaches not vice-versa.
Now, it's helped. But my gosh the lack of awareness is pretty striking
#23 by dank067 // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:42pm
Reluctance to take Peppers off the field probably betrays a lack of confidence in Nick Perry and Mike Neal. Seems like there was a midseason stretch where Perry barely played (although I think he was banged up?) Both guys have showed up occasionally the past few weeks though, particularly in pass rush. A good team defensive performance probably involves someone like those guys stepping up and making a play.
#24 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:47pm
It might be kind of interesting to compare Williams and Peppers on Sunday, to see if Williams has noticeably more spring in his step. I entered the wrong inputs, and see Kevin Williams only had 45% of the defensive snaps, or 437 (which means he really was quite productive on a per play basis), whereas Peppers had the 74% you mention, for a whopping 808 defensive snaps. Depth really starts paying dividends come January.
#47 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:04pm
The Seattle offensive line is not flawless.
I can't imagine anyone saying that they are. But recently Wilson has somewhat mitigated their issues by getting the ball out really quickly. I was a bit surprised that Rodgers didn't do more of that against Dallas, but one of the later scoring drives that featured a lot of passes to the running backs seemed like a good way to beat Seattle. Run some deeper crossing routes to pull back the shallow zone defenders and get the running backs in space; San Diego chewed Seattle up with it.
#17 by jacobk // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:15pm
One other defensive wrinkle in the Seahawks backfield not described in the write up is the lineup with Simon on the outside and Maxwell in the slot. I'm not sure if it's something they would go to against the Packers. It seems to depend on the nature of the slot receiver. If it's a really quick/shifty guy they like to have Lane in the slot and Maxwell outside. If it's a bigger guy then they run Simon/Maxwell out there. I recall seeing it quite a bit in the Eagles game against Jordan Matthews.
#48 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:09pm
It'll be interesting to see how they split the snaps with Maxwell and Simon. The First Green Bay game was Maxwell's worst game this year, while the Philadelphia game was his best, and Simon just came off his worst game, although apparently he's been great in the regular season. Also, if Green Bay chooses to run a lot of no-huddle, they can prevent Seattle from substituting their corners, and maybe get Cobb on a good matchup.
#19 by Steve in WI // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:20pm
It's impossible for me to judge this matchup since I so desperately want the Packers to lose, but I just don't see why so many people are saying that the Packers don't have a chance. If Rodgers is not knocked out of the game or hobbled like Manning was, they have a chance.
Yes, I think anyone can look at this matchup and say that the Seahawks should be favored, and have some level of confidence that they will win, but if I was a gambler I'd probably take the Packers +7. I definitely think it'll be close.
#22 by dank067 // Jan 16, 2015 - 2:30pm
I think the biggest problem is that Seattle appears to enjoy a massive, massive advantage over Green Bay in the run game. It's not impossible to imagine the Packers finding the right matchups/playcalls on offense to grind out a decent performance—even with Rodgers hurting, I'm optimistic they can do at least a little bit better than they did in Week 1. But if they can't improve their performance against the run from their awful showing last time it just seems like it will be too much. They just really need the defense to play out of their minds.
#31 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:12pm
The reason I think the Seahawks cover pretty easily, if Rodgers runs as well as he did last Sunday, is that the Seahawks are simply physically superior in a large majority of the physical matchups, once we account for the homefield noise being a hindrance for the Packers o-line, and that the Packers need Rodgers to have his full array of weapons to counter that.
Now, maybe on the first drive, the Seahawks don't account at all for Rodgers running, and he promptly runs for 25 yards. If that happens, then the game changes completely.
#34 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 3:40pm
Green Bay lost to three incredibly tough defenses on the road: Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo
In the latter two the officiating played a big role in that both sides were allowed a large amount of contact with few flags. Buffalo didn't care if their receivers were held because Buffalo wasn't seriously trying to throw the ball. At Detroit it took GB a half to adjust by which time they were behind and playing pretty much at a draw.
If that is the case Sunday that certainly plays in Seattle's favor in a big way.
I doubt the game is called tight. So GB will be fighting uphill in a variety of different ways.
#45 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:03pm
I would be shocked most of all, compared to ANYTHING else, if the striped shirts call a tight game in the defensive backfield in that stadium on Sunday. I'd be happy if they just achieved relative balance. I fear they are going to call things very, very, loosely.
#53 by Pen // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:28pm
I don't get why Green Bay fans state they'd think this was their greatest upset if they beat Seattle. This is a very good Green Bay team led by a future HOFer and all time greAT QB. Their defense vs the pass is top 10. Seattle's Oline is terrible at pass protection and their defensive line is missing Mebane and Hill. It showed vs Carolina. Green Bay should be able to run the ball better than most expect.
I understand SEattle should be favored, but this is not going to be a cakewalk IMO unless Rodgers is just unable to perform and we saw last week that he can still play.
#57 by oaktoon // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:44pm
The win over the 49ers At SF in 1997 is the other major contender but they were the defending champions who would then be hugely favored to win over Denver in the SB... This is a game where roughly 90% of the experts think they will lose-- in one of the most hostile environments in all of pro sports, with their best player nursing a leg injury. So I'd say it would be the Packers' greatest upset-- none of the Lombardi-era wins were huge upsets... Not sure GB was ever the underdog-- though maybe at Dallas in 1966...
#61 by dank067 // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:57pm
Biggest playoff upset... maybe winning at SF in the 1995 divisional round? Otherwise their championship teams have generally all been expected to win, so yeah, this one would probably be one of the biggest, HOF QB notwhistanding. Even when they won the Super Bowl as a 6 seed they were favored in 2/4 of their playoff games. (Take away the standard 3 point home field advantage, and you could say Vegas thought they were the better team in all four games.)
#58 by big10freak // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:45pm
--a great team
--is a well rounded team
--playing at home
--has strengths that play to Green Bay's weaknesses
--Green Bay is not a well rounded team
--Green Bay's best player may not be able to play at peak efficiency
--Green Bay's head coach is known for egregious in-game tactical blunders
Gotta say, Green Bay wins this game............it's an upset
#60 by oaktoon // Jan 16, 2015 - 4:57pm
Can we talk QB legacy for a second? what would winning the next two mean for these four?
1) For Brady, it puts all the cards on the table vs. Montana for GOAT... Does winning 4 and never losing count more than winning 4 but getting to 6?? How do we compare the different eras? And supporting casts? and while the Manning chorus will still be heard from, how can he possibly top either of these two no matter how little or much he bears responsibility for a sub .500 playoff record? Belichick more than his QB will always face a Spygate taint and thus even a 4th title can't top Walsh or Lombardi, IMHO... Maybe Landry and Noll...
2) For Luck, it stamps for all the world to see that this is the next big thing.. he is the heir in waiting, ready to challenge Rodgers and anyone else for best in the sport. But all those picks? what do we make of them? Jury will be out until he can win another, but to win, like Rodgers, a SB in his 3rd year as a starter will elevate him to the upper echelon. At least as pitchman, i would think
3) For Wilson, despite the fact that the other side of the ball will always get top billing, it puts him in a unique historical position-- 2 SB titles in his first three years in the league... Nobody has won that many that fast... Roethlisberger came closest of the recent bunch, but he would have bragging rights over all of his generation, and for that matter the guys just ahead of him save Eli and Big Ben and including Rodgers...
4) And for Rodgers-- partic. if he vanquishes first the defending champs and then the best team/coach/QB of his era-- it would vault him well into the Top 10 all time and, more importantly from a GB perspective, give him an accomplishment that trumps Number Four. He'll never catch the latter on all the longevity measures, but multiple championships will go a long way toward cementing his status as the greatest Packer QB ever-- probably the greatest Packer ever--- and put him squarely in the crosshairs of the GOAT discussion, with the remaining 6-8 years of his career to determine that judgment...
They all have a lot at stake, but particularly Brady and Rodgers...
#67 by PatsFan // Jan 16, 2015 - 5:37pm
Does winning 4 and never losing count more than winning 4 but getting to 6??
Only to fools.
How can getting to the final and losing it in it be considered worse than not even making it to the final?
But that aside, I'm with Will Allen on this "legacy" crap.
#73 by konondrum // Jan 16, 2015 - 7:02pm
As a Packer fan in Seattle I find their bipolar fans to be hilarious. Decades of never winning anything made them cynical, but they get one taste of success and suddenly they are unbeatable. Bandwagons fans are everywhere you look, it's really quite funny.
Seattle certainly deserves to be favored, but the comments around here are just absurd. A 70%-90% chance to win? Good lord! It's like they've forgotten Green Bay has the best player in the sport.
I'm actually really liking the fact that the Packer's are underdogs this year. After the heartbreak of the 15-1 season, it would be very sweet to spoil the Hawk's coronation.
So go ahead Hawks fans, enjoy the ride while it lasts, because it can come to a halt real quick. Just don't go blaming the zebras again like after SB XL.
#75 by Perfundle // Jan 16, 2015 - 8:11pm
Seattle certainly deserves to be favored, but the comments around here are just absurd. A 70%-90% chance to win? Good lord! It's like they've forgotten Green Bay has the best player in the sport.
Who happens to be hobbled. Considering that a 7.5-point favorite is expected to win 73% of the time, I don't know why you find a 70% to 90% chance to be absurd.
#86 by EnderCN // Jan 17, 2015 - 8:37am
Well they definitely don't have a 90% so yeah that line is absurd. If you went a more reasonable 60%-80% I could see someone agreeing.
That 1st half vs 2nd half for the Packers feels more like they had a few blowouts where they 2nd half didn't matter and Rodgers got hurt in the first half in multiple games than anything else. I don't think it is a scheming problem with them where McCarthy is getting out coached or anything.
#79 by Will Allen // Jan 16, 2015 - 10:56pm
Yeah, if "absolutely lethal" entails being, against a bad defense, at home, being, to quote Quick Reads, "midway through the third quarter, he went 11-of-19 for 105 yards and only six first downs (including a touchdown), with one sack and a fumbled snap". If he plays like that (and it was him, as opposed to his teammates, mostly) through two and a half quarters, as he gets warmed up enough to move and obtain normal accuracy, he isn't going to get on a hot streak. He's gonna get whacked, against a really good defense playing on the the best HFA in the league.
No, if Rodgers is as diminished in two days as he was five days ago, they don't have a fighter's chance, because the fighter is starting the fight with a cut above his eye. I have no injury information, and for all I know the guy will be running around undiminished. If that happens, then it's a different game.
#83 by EricL // Jan 17, 2015 - 12:28am
Maybe it will take a few series before they get back up to speed.
It usually does. Look at the DVOA by quarter above. They're a league average defense in the 1st quarter.
I actually expect Green Bay to have a small lead at the half. If the Packers are up by more than a touchdown at half, I think they've got an even money shot at winning the game. Less than that, and I think it's in Seattle's favor. They're that much better after halftime (and Green Bay seems to decline after the half).
If I had to go out on a limb, I'd say 13-10 Packers at half, 27-20 Seahawks final score.
I've been a Seahawks/Mariners fan for 30 years. I'm enjoying the hell out of this run, but I am _always_ waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's happened way too many times. (2001 Mariners, 2005 Seahawks...) Even during the Super Bowl, after the Seahawks topped 30, my wife and I were still nervous about the outcome. We've been conditioned to failure.
I know the Seahawks _should_ win. I expect them to win. But I'd be lying if I didn't say a large part of me fears the opposite.
#110 by SuperGrover // Jan 18, 2015 - 1:35am
The ML is currently running around -330 (higher some places). That converts into a win% of about 76.5% or so, using standard book vig. So seems most gamblers think it's about a 1 in 4 chance. If you are so certain there are more than a few ways to profit of said certainty!
#114 by Will Allen // Jan 18, 2015 - 11:04am
From a wagering perspective, I really hate games where the most important player has big injury question mark next to his name. There is money out there that has more information about the physical condition of that most important player, and I don't like competing against that money.
#89 by konondrum // Jan 17, 2015 - 12:39pm
Just to refute the idea that these Seahawks are some kind of juggernaut, here is a list of every opponent they have faced since their bye week and their weighted offensive DVOAs.
Redskins -22% W
Cowboys 16.2 L
Rams -18.8 L
Panthers -4.3 W
Raiders -21 W
Giants 0.6 W
Chiefs -0.6 L
Cardinals -15 W
49ers -1.8 W
Cardinals -15 W
Rams -18.8 W
They played one team with an above average offense over their final 11 games... and lost... at home. Oh and that team's offense isn't as good as Green Bay's either. And their defense is worse as well. Hmm......
#90 by jacobk // Jan 17, 2015 - 12:54pm
Interesting sample size. If only you could expand it to include some games against MVP caliber quarterbacks. I wonder how the Seahawks defense would do against a healthy Aaron Rodgers. If they had played somebody like a healthy Aaron Rodgers this year, what an informative comparison that would be. Oh well, guess it'll remain a mystery until tomorrow afternoon.
Or you could compare how the teams in your sample performed against the Seahawks compared to all the other games they played. I don't know, might be some information to be mined there.
#92 by ammek // Jan 17, 2015 - 2:10pm
Why are you using weighted DVOA? It doesn't even cover the first few games on this list.
It's really difficult to hold a team -- any team -- below 10 points these days. It happened 46 times over the 2014 regular season: Seattle had six of those games. Over the final six weeks, the feat was achieved 17 times; Seattle had five of them. Buffalo and St Louis had two each; no other team did it more than once.
I'm not sure the Seahawks' defense is a "juggernaut" -- even though it is ranked no 1, its DVOA is still closer to average than the offense, which is ranked no 5. Defenses are just less spread out than offenses. That's why the Packers, with their no 1 offense, are not out of contention, if Rodgers is healthy. But Seattle has played exceptionally well defensively down the stretch, and deserves to be heavily favored.
#93 by konondrum // Jan 17, 2015 - 2:25pm
Why are you using weighted DVOA?
Because it was easy and I am lazy. But what difference does it make? Are you seriously going to argue that any of those teams besides Dallas has an even adequate offense? My point was simply that the last time the Seattle defense was actually tested, they lost at home.
#96 by Will Allen // Jan 17, 2015 - 3:36pm
I'm nearly the only one who said something close to a "done deal", and that was only with the rather large caveat that Rodgers spends as much time hobbled by injury in the game as he did last Sunday. Actually, a 95% chance to win isn't even a "done deal"; a 5% chance to win competitor achieving victory really isn't an earthshaking event. I think you are overreacting a bit.
#98 by BJR // Jan 17, 2015 - 3:58pm
I agree with you. The Seattle defence is very good of course, but I'm not convinced it's the historically great model of last season. Carolina moved the ball ok last week, much better than I expected. Provided Rodgers isn't inhibited in his throwing I can see Green Bay's offence having success.
What would concern me more from a GB POV is the glaring mismatch between their run defence and Seattle's run offence. Carolina sold out to stop Lynch last week, and managed it, but got torched down the field several times as a result. I just can't see GB's defence slowing Seattle enough so that anything other than an absolutely stellar game from Rodgers is enough to win. Which is possible, but especially carrying an injury, unlikely.
#105 by Perfundle // Jan 17, 2015 - 9:04pm
I don't think Wilson's 8-8 passing for 199 yards on third down had anything to do with the Panthers selling out to stop Lynch. Wilson converted third downs of 12, 9, 7, 3, 1, 6 and 10, and only two of those are possible running downs.
#106 by EnderCN // Jan 18, 2015 - 12:10am
Actually he did not. His WR corp dropped 6 easily catchable passes which would have combined for over 150 yard had they caught the passes. Those types of games are one of the sticking points on why I think purely statistical models kind of fail in the NFL. Rodgers didn't play his best game of the year vs the Bills but that game was largely out of his hands. With a normal game from his help they win it and have home field advantage and most of us are picking the Packers this week instead of Seattle.
#97 by ammek // Jan 17, 2015 - 3:53pm
Yes, the Giants, Chiefs, 49ers and Eagles all finished in the top half in DVOA. Not great offenses, but adequate ones. (Incidentally, you left the Eagles and the second Niners game off your list of Seattle's opponents since the bye.)
DVOA also suggests that the 2014 Seahawks played a perfectly average set of offenses (the passing units they faced were above average). They were very effective at home to Green Bay and Denver, not so much in San Diego, and had a stinker against Dallas.
#100 by konondrum // Jan 17, 2015 - 6:38pm
Yes I missed the Eagles when I was copying the list, but it doesn't change the calculus at all. They finished the year at %1.9 and were being led by the living legend that is Mark Sanchez.
And talking about league average offenses like San Francisco, Philly and the Giants is a world of difference from an actually effective offense like the Cowboys, or an elite one like the Packers.
#91 by Sid // Jan 17, 2015 - 1:19pm
"Tim Masthay was worth an estimated 9.7 points worth of field position below average in our gross punt measures..."
Is this a mistake?
Also, in the comments, two different people said Derek Carr and the Raiders beat Seattle.
Yes... in the PRESEASON.
#102 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 17, 2015 - 6:59pm
Nope, he really did have a bad year. A couple of blocked punts hurt, and while putting all that on Masthay isn't fair and he should have said "The Green Bay punting unit" Masthay really tailed off the 2nd half of the season. He never outright shanked anything but he had a few 30 yarders, and when asked to short punt when he did land things in the 20, they were just barely in the 20.
I also disagree with the comment that Crosby has been poor for years. The FG unit was -2.9 points three blocks probably was the majority of that. The FG unit was worth 4.0 last year. 2012 was awful, but the unit was 3.9 in 2011 and -0.1 in 2010. Crosby has been average to a bit above average for years with the exception of one of the worst kicking seasons in Packers history in 2012. I would say this year if you take out the blocks the FG unit would probably have been around 4.0 again.
So what all of that says to me, is that while the Packers special teams are bad this year, it generally wasn't the specialists that were the problem. Hyde is a good punt returner. Cobb is averager. Harris can't return kicks, but since Tolzien will likely be active again, he won't be returning kick offs. Mastay has been above average for years, but had a bad 2nd half, him turning it around would not be surprising. It is possible that the rest of the units will not completely suck either. The way they sucked this year was BIG mistakes, not consistently below average. It's funny that they had a low variance though. I think that is because the special teams DVOA rolls all of the units into one rating and in most games it was only one unit that really sucked while the other 4 units were OK. On a unit by unit basis I bet their variance was really high.
#103 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 17, 2015 - 7:14pm
"Tim Masthay was worth an estimated 9.7 points worth of field position below average in our gross punt measures..."
Is this a mistake?
He was 26th in gross average, so this really shouldn't be surprising.
#111 by duh // Jan 18, 2015 - 4:15am
If the weather keeps up the way it is currently here it could have a substantial impact on thee game. Right now there are sustained winds near 20 MPH and gusts well in excess of 30. The forecast calls for more rain and wind. You'd think that would hurt what chances the Packers have.
Cue Belichick's rant about forecasts and weather ....
#112 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jan 18, 2015 - 8:49am
I'm not so sure wind always favors the better rushing team. While I think wind has the biggest impact on a game of all weather effects, I think the quarterback who can still accurately throw a ball in those conditions has a huge advantage. If I were playing the Broncos in heavy winds I would do exactly what the Colts did. Single cover the deep receivers and load up the box and mid range stuff, daring them to throw downfield in awful conditions.
I'd do it against any team actually, you'll see pretty quickly if the QB can still get the ball there, you may or may not have given up a big play to find out, but it's a good risk, because if they can't, then you've got a great chance of controlling the offense. Wilson has a good arm though. Rodgers has played well in nasty winds in Chicago and a few other locations. If Seattle has to defend the whole filed still, but Green Bay doesn't, even with Seattle having a great rushing attack, that actually is an advantage for Green Bay. It still may not matter, but the idea that wind makes it easier on the running team isn't always true. More so if that running team is a running team because the QB simply doesn't throw well, and the wind makes them even worse at throwing. No team runs every play for more than a series or two, and even the worst teams can stop the run if they don't have to defend the pass at all.
#116 by duh // Jan 18, 2015 - 12:56pm
You make some good points. Perhaps my perspective is the result of attending too many games in my formative 'advanced fan' years where teams would be unable to score at all going into the wind. (Think old Meadowlands stadium or old Foxboro stadium type environments) At least it isn't cold here today otherwise it' be miserable.
#120 by Duff Soviet Union // Jan 19, 2015 - 12:30am
I must say, that special teams TD was awful. How do you not just play for the fake there? Who cares if Seattle scores 3 points when they're down 16-0? Just let them, if that's what they want to do.
With that said, I wouldn't say special teams decided the game given some of Seattle's own fails in that are (kick return fumble, long punt return by Hyde into FG range, terrible kick returns all day).
#122 by Sid // Jan 19, 2015 - 1:01pm
I concur. When Seattle lined up to kick the FG, I was surprised. 16 point game with that time left, I thought it was a definite go for it situation.
Field goal still means you need two TDs.
Upside is huge. Downside GB gets bad field position and it's still a 2 score game.
The way Seattle played it with the XP, it was still a 2 score game, but a big difference between 16-7 and 16-3