The Grudge Match: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Friday, September 18, 2015
Who really should have won the NFC title game on January 18, 2015? The Seattle Seahawks, by virtue of the worst (almost) full game by quarterback Russell Wilson (14/29 passing, 4 interceptions, 1 touchdown) managed to pull out a win for the ages in the final minutes against the previously dominant Green Bay Packers. Everyone knows this. The Packers are sick of being asked about it. Likewise, the Seahawks are sick of being asked about Super Bowl XLIX.
But now, as the two again would-be conference champions face off in an early season matchup Sunday, Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, the old news from January is fodder again. Because this week two tilt isn’t just another game. So, let’s go — once more, with feeling. We’ve got some issues to work out on the football field.
Exorcising demon ghosts
There are more than a few haunts from last season looming over the Seahawks and the Packers. Both teams’ seasons ended sourly and surprisingly after being in perfect position to clinch victories in championship games. The Seahawks blew their chances at a second consecutive Super Bowl ring with one disastrous play call.
In contrast, the Packers blew their chance at the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth by coming up with new and unique ways to fritter away a double-digit lead in the game’s waning minutes. If the Seahawks’ season death was a shotgun blast to the chest, the Packers’ self-administered immolation was as a result of about a dozen stab wounds, mostly by their own hands.
One of the Packers’ bugaboos in the NFC title game was a blown onside kick attempt. The offending culprit, one Brandon Bostick, eschewed his assigned duties and decided to try to field the bouncing ball instead of block his man. The ball doinked off his helmet and into the arms of the Seahawk (opportunistic Chris Matthews) he was supposed to block. The rest is haunting history in Packers lore.
Bostick is now an ex-Packer, as is his former boss, Packers erstwhile special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Fortunately for the Packers, they were presented with an opportunity to exorcise this ghost by having to field a crunch-time onside kick attempt in the waning moments of their week one game against the Chicago Bears.
This time, to the Packers’ great relief, the player replacing Bostick on the onside kick attempt, rookie linebacker Jake Ryan, correctly fulfilled his duties and went straight about blocking his man. The result: Wide receiver Davante Adams (replacing the injured Jordy Nelson) easily fielded the fluttering ball and the game was over.
The Seahawks were also presented with a prime opportunity to exorcise their 2014 season-ending gaffe in last week’s game against the St. Louis Rams. Trailing in overtime, facing fourth-and-one, the Seahawks made the obvious choice to hand the ball off to Beast Mode to collect the needed gain to continue their drive toward the goal.
This time, the inevitable Lynch handoff was stopped in its tracks, as were the Seahawks’ hopes for a week one victory against a division rival. Demon ghost not exorcised. But oh what fun it’s been to contrast that play with the season-defining final offensive play from last season. Seahawks fans will have to understand that I’m using the term “fun” rather liberally in this instance.
What’s on the line
This time around, as the Packers and Seahawks meet, the stakes are considerably lower, but still quite significant. The Packers were able to emerge victorious over a division and conference foe, even without their No. 1 receiver (Nelson) lost for the season. Though they were able to overcome the loss of their receiving star against the Bears, how it will impact the rest of the season remains to be seen.
Previous Packer and once-again newcomer James Jones, after a year in exile (Oakland) returned to lead the Packers with two receiving touchdowns. He does not have the stretch-the-field abilities of Nelson or other current Packers receivers (Randall Cobb, Adams) but he does have one thing Nelson had: The confidence of Aaron Rodgers. Two clutch touchdowns and a third called back by a dubious penalty will do that for you.
The Packers, despite exorcising the ghost of onside kicks, still have a more significant and troublesome ghost to exorcise, that being the Seattle Seahawks. The blue birds of the Pacific Northwest are their fiercest bugaboo team of late. The Seahawks have won three in a row, dating back to 2012 (Fail Mary game). This is what’s most on the line for the psyche of the Packers, with the extra mustard of needing the advantage in possible playoff seeding scenarios.
The Seahawks face no such psychic wound when squaring off against the Packers in Lambeau Field. Their concerns are more visceral: Do not start the season 0–2. Coming out of the gate with two losses would not necessarily be fatal to the Seahawks’ chances to once again take the NFC West crown, but it certainly won’t be easy to overcome. Every other NFC West contestant already has a one-game lead on the Seahawks.
Should the Seahawks emerge from Lambeau Field victorious, they will gain not only playoff seeding advantage over the conference’s other presumed heavyweight, they will also be out of the NFC West doghouse.
It would be foolish to assume we know the identities of both the Packers and Seahawks after just one game each. More tricks will certainly be pulled out of their sleeves. Which, if any, ghosts will haunt these two cousins may very well determine who wins on Sunday night.
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How will the Ducks fair without Mariota?
The Ducks have been extremely fortunate to have had one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football leading their offense over the past few seasons. But with him now in the NFL there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period. Can the Ducks overcome losing the reigning Heisman trophy winner? Only time will tell.
Will the Beavers finally be able to step out of the Ducks’ shadow?
Over the past few seasons the Beavers have been commonly referred to as the Oregon Ducks’ “little brother.” It’s been close to 8 years since the Beavers last defeated Oregon in the Civil War, and it’s been even longer since they’ve had the type of success the Ducks have recently experienced. Although this year’s Civil War will be played in Eugene there’s still a chance that they could pull off an upset over the Ducks.
Will the Ducks’ receiving core live up to expectations?
This year’s receiving core is deep, fast and tall. There’s no doubt that the Duck’s receivers could give almost any team’s secondary headaches if they can put it all together on the field. If Devon Allen and Bralon Addison come back healthy, and Darren Carrington decides to stop smoking marijuana before big games, the sky’s the limit for the Ducks’ offense.
Who will take more snaps between Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams?
One of Oregon’s most prized offseason acquisitions is Vernon Adams Jr. Although he hasn’t been around the team as much as Jeff Lockie has it’s still possible that he wins the starting quarterback position. Both quarterbacks have pros and cons when it comes to starting. The only difference is that Oregon’s coaching staff knows what Lockie’s pros and cons are while they have almost no idea what Adams’ are. We’ll have to trust Mark Helfrich when it comes to who starts on September 5th.
Photo via Vernon Adams Facebook page (image cropped)
Who will take the scoring load with Joseph Young now in the NBA?
Joseph Young was an offensive force last season for the Ducks’ basketball team. He not only led the team in scoring, he also won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. He had a tendency to come up with big plays just when his team needed them the most. With him now in the NBA the team desperately needs someone to step up and take over where Young left off.
Will Russell Wilson and the Seahawks agree to a new contract before the start of the regular season?
One of the Seahawks’ biggest question marks is whether or not they will be able to agree on a new contract with Russell Wilson. Wilson has led the team to 2 Super Bowl appearances and apparently wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. The only issue is that the Seahawks don’t want to fork up that kind of cash. If this remains unsettled heading into the regular season it could provide plenty of distractions for the team.
Can the Seahawks move past their Super Bowl blunder?
Obviously the Seahawks’ last play of the Super Bowl didn’t turn out the way that they would’ve liked. The bigger issue is the fact that losing a game of that magnitude can have lingering affects on a team. Will the Seahawks let that loss affect them this season, or will they use it as motivation moving forward?
How will Jimmy Graham fit in with the Seahawks’ offense?
One of the Seahawks’ biggest offseason acquisitions was Jimmy Graham. Seattle brought in the former Saint to help Russell Wilson and the rest of the receiving corps this upcoming season. It’s no secret that the receiving core was one of the team’s weaknesses last year, so hopefully the addition of Graham will help the team make it back to the Super Bowl.
Photo via Jimmy Graham Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Marshawn Lynch begin slowing down?
Running backs have a tendency to break down rather quickly in the NFL. It’s rare that you see a running back continuing to be effective well into their 30’s. With Lynch recently signing a new contract Seattle must believe that he can be effective for the next 2-3 years. By the time his contract expires he will be 32.
Will Damian Lillard be able to lead a young Blazer team?
This was one of the most stressful off-seasons that the Blazers have endured in quite some time. After not knowing LaMarcus Aldridge’s intentions for the past few years he finally made the decision to leave Portland and join the Spurs in San Antonio. With Aldridge officially gone it’s now up to Damian Lillard to lead this young team.
Who will Damian Lillard’s sidekick be?
With Damian Lillard being the lone starter who has seen playoff action he will desperately need someone else to step up. Will it be C.J. McCollum? Meyers Leonard? Or maybe one of the newcomers? If this team wants to experience any type of success this season they need a sidekick for Lillard.
Will the Blazers be able to move past LaMarcus Aldridge?
Whenever a team loses one of the best players in all the NBA there’s no doubt that there’s going to be an adjustment period. Instead of the off having the offense flow through LaMarcus Aldridge it will now run through Damian Lillard. This won’t only be an adjustment that the players will have to grow accustomed to, but also the coaching staff.
Can Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum continue improving?
If there’s one bright spot for the Blazers’ last postseason it’s that Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum showed drastic improvements. Leonard was an efficient 3-point shooter who could draw defenses out on him, while McCollum showed the ability to score the ball at will. Hopefully these 2 guys can continue improving this upcoming season.
Will Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath be able to lead the Thorns to the playoffs?
Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath are coming off of a World Cup victory. After going head-to-head with some of the best teams in the world there’s no question that Morgan and Heath have learned some invaluable lessons that they can share with the rest of the Thorns. It’s fairly uncommon for any club team to have 2 athletes who started on a World Cup team. Hopefully they can use that to their advantage as Portland continues with their season.
Can the Timbers fix their scoring woes?
After starting off the season in a rather sluggish manner the Timbers went on one of the longest winning streaks in franchise history. They currently stand as one of the best teams in the Western Conference even though they’ve had issues when it comes to scoring. If the Timbers have any hopes of advancing into the postseason they need to figure out how to score the ball more frequently.
Will Joseph Young be able to contribute to the Pacers this season?
Joseph Young has the potential to be one of the most successful Ducks in the NBA. He experienced plenty of success in college that made him the 43rd overall selection by the Indiana Pacers during this year’s NBA Draft. The first obstacle that Young must overcome is simply making the roster. Young had an outstanding Summer League that helped increase his chances of playing for Indiana during the 2015-2016 season.
Photo via Joseph Young Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Gary Payton II follow in his father’s footsteps?
It’s almost a guarantee that Gary Payton II has his eyes on the NBA. After all, how could you not when your father was one of the most iconic players to have played for the Seattle Supersonics? If he truly wants to make his dream a reality he has to prove to NBA teams that he has what it takes.
Photo via Gary Payton Twitter page (image cropped)
Will Royce Freeman emerge as a Heisman candidate?
The University of Oregon has been blessed with numerous football players that have turned out to be Heisman candidates. Dennis Dixon, LaMichael James and Marcus Mariota have all been nominated for college football’s most prestigious award. There have already been some rumblings that Royce Freeman could be the next Duck to be up for the Heisman. He had a breakout season as a true freshman. If he continues to dominate there’s no doubt the sky’s the limit for the true sophomore.
Can Marcus Mariota lead the Titans franchise?
Marcus Mariota is one of the most successful quarterbacks to have come through the University of Oregon. With him now in the NFL many are curious as to whether or not he can come in and contribute right away. The Tennessee Titans are in need of a franchise player, and Mariota could very well be that guy. We wont know for sure until this upcoming season.
Will Chip Kelly’s offseason moves pay off?
Chip Kelly made a plethora of off-season moves that have many analysts scratching their heads. He traded away one of the most effective running backs in the NFL as well as his starting quarterback. What he got in return were two players who are both coming off of ACL injuries. If Kelly has a plan it better work out soon otherwise he could quickly find himself unemployed.
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