Six years ago, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks faced off in an eerily similar situation on a very cold and snowy Monday night. Brett Favre was the quarterback for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t in the picture yet. At that time, the major matchup in the game was the fact that another ex-Packer back-up quarterback was playing for the Seattle Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck was trying to lead the Seahawks to victory against his old team and mentor, who he had sat behind for two full NFL seasons. Despite Favre’s 266 yards, the Packers would go on to lose 24-34 to Hasselbeck’s Seahawks.
Much has changed since that 2006 game, and although the game is in Seattle, this week’s game between the Seahawks and the Packers will have a heavy Wisconsin influence. Not only will Rodgers and crew be facing an old foe, they will also be facing an old teammate. Matt Flynn, once the backup for Rodgers, is the back-up quarterback for rookie starter Russell Wilson. Ironically, Wilson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This time around, the Packers don’t have to worry about losing to an old teammate. After signing a $19.5 million contract in the offseason ($10 million guaranteed), Flynn ended up losing the starting job to the rookie Wilson. This game against the Seahawks means more to the Packers than just meeting up with an old teammate. With their record standing at 1-1, it’s time for the Packers to figure out what their identity is going to be. In the first two games, fans and analysts across the NFL witnessed two completely different Packers teams. The first team that played the 49ers was iced on offense and could not stop the ball to save their life on defense. For 60 minutes against the Bears, the Packers had one of the best defenses in the league. Still, the offense was shaky at times and sometimes it looked disconnected. Even Rodgers admitted in an interview that “we [the offense] aren’t playing exactly the way we want to yet.”
With the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears winning on Sunday, this game has suddenly become a must win for the Packers if they want to stay in the division race. If they lose to the Seahawks, they will be at the bottom of the division at 1-2 with the Detroit Lions. Of the teams in the North, the Packers have the most difficult schedule in the upcoming weeks, although it might not seem so on paper. The struggling New Orleans Saints are coming off their first 0-3 season since Drew Brees moved to the big easy and will be looking for blood. After that, the Packers travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts. All of these teams, including the Packers, have one thing in common. They are all offensive teams with struggling, inconsistent defenses. After those teams though, the Packers have Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Arizona before finally having their bye.
There are a few key match-ups to watch during Monday Night’s game. The first is Aaron Rodgers vs. Seattle’s defense. After the first two games, the Seahawks rush defense is ranked second in the league and their scoring defense is ranked third. After “under performing” the past two weeks, Rodgers is ready to lead his team down the field and show the NFL how good the offense actually is. There is no better time to do it than now. Even though the Seahawks’ defense is up and coming, they are young. It will be essential for the Packers to score early and get points on the board, which will relieve the defense of some pressure.
Not only do the Packers have to deal with a disrupted defense, they also have to deal with the crowd. The noise at CenturyLink Field rivals the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings. These two stadiums are considered the loudest venues in the NFL, and the Packers are lucky enough to play in both of them this season. The crowd in Seattle is smart and knows how to use their noise level to their advantage. Communication among the Packers will be crucial, especially with all the penalty problems they have had this season. As long as the NFL replacement refs are in charge of this game, the Packers will have to use the short glimpses of silence to their advantage.
Prediction: Packers 21 – Seahawks 17