By Andrew Kahn
The last time these two teams played, it was one of the more important regular season games in recent memory. You may remember the “touchdown” pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, tabbed the Inaccurate Reception, that essentially ended the referee lockout. That was way back in Week 3 of the 2012 season, and despite both teams reaching the playoffs the last two seasons, they haven’t met since. While the NFL tries to create high-profile match-ups to kick off the season, appearing in this game doesn’t guarantee success. In the 10 previous seasons, the opening Thursday night match-up has produced two playoff teams just twice; four times neither team has reached the postseason. That being said, it seems only major injuries could derail these two NFC powers.
When Green Bay has the ball:
When training camp opened, Mike McCarthy said the offensive line could be the best he’d had in his nine seasons in Green Bay. That was before a spate of knee injuries: center J.C. Tretter will miss at least a month; Aaron Adams and Don Barclay will likely miss the entire season.
Running back Eddie Lacy emerged last season in Aaron Rodgers’ absence, but he’s a patient bruiser, not a burner, so a shaky offensive line won’t do him any favors. This is always going to be a pass-oriented team though, and Rodgers’ scrambling ability can make up for protection deficiencies (provided those deficiencies don’t lead to Rodgers taking too many hits).
The Packers added a potential breakout star through the draft in Fresno State receiver Davante Adams. He joins an impressive cast of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin.
Of course, moving the ball against Seattle is not easy. The Seahawks led the NFL in most defensive categories last season and shouldn’t miss a beat in 2014, despite losing some key players. Pete Carroll, who could simply recruit his way to 10 wins at Southern Cal, clearly can coach, too.
When Seattle has the ball:
Seattle’s second snap of the Super Bowl was an end around to Percy Harvin, who ran for 30 yards. Later in the quarter, on a similar play, he ran for 15. He opened the second half with a nail-in-Denver’s-coffin kickoff return for a score, juking and accelerating for 87 yards and reminding fans why he is among the game’s elite playmakers. Whether he can remain healthy for a full season remains to be seen, but we’re only previewing Thursday’s game here, so expect him to have an impact. This could be the season when Seattle’s offense makes major strides to catch up with its dominant D.
For Green Bay, the signing of Julius Peppers has the potential to be one of the most important of the offseason. The Packers are smaller across the defensive line, but they are hoping they are quicker and more versatile. We’ll find out if they can hold up against Seattle’s ground attack, which features a mobile quarterback, a punishing running back in Marshawn Lynch, and Harvin at times.
Prediction: Seattle 24, Green Bay 21
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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