Here’s a look at the Seahawks’ Thursday night game against the Packers, set to kick off at 5:20 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.
Few figured the Seahawks and Packers to be a combined 8-9-1, neither hosting a winning record, when this game was set for a Thursday night — the first time the Seahawks have played an in-season Thursday night game against a team not from the NFC West. But there’s still plenty of marquee value with a matchup of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson — who have the two highest career passer ratings in NFL history – and two teams that have been perennial playoff participants in the last decade. Only the winner of this game is likely to remain having a chance at the postseason after Thursday night though.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Green Bay RB Aaron Jones vs. Seattle run defense.
Seattle struggled to contain Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley the past two weeks (granted, most teams do) and have fallen to 18th in the NFL in rushing defense at 118.6 but 29th in yards allowed per carry at 5.0. Now comes another back quietly having a good year in Jones, a second-year player out of UTEP who is averaging 6.77 yards per attempt, the best in the NFL of any player with at least 70 attempts, and coming off a 145-yard outing against Miami. The Seahawks need more consistent play up front and better tackling all around.
PLAYER TO WATCH
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WR Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin has been back for five games after missing two due to a knee injury but has yet to consistently put up Baldwin-esque numbers — he has nine catches for 142 yards in the last three games and has yet to catch his first touchdown of the season. But Baldwin did have receptions on all five of his targets Sunday against the Rams and could be on the verge of a breakout — he appears healthy, not having been on the injury report all week. “I told him I thought he looked really good in that game (against the Rams),’’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said this week. “…. I’m not worried about Doug. Doug is going to be fine. I think he’s starting to feel good, and that’s good for us.”
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
How will the Seahawks divvy up the carries at tailback?
Chris Carson is healthy again after sitting out the Rams’ game with a hip injury. In his absence, rookie Rashaad Penny had a breakout game with 108 yards while Mike Davis also had 58 yards and four receptions. All three have at least one 100-yard game this season, making Seattle the only team in the NFL with three tailbacks to all hit the century mark. Carson is the listed starter, and Schottenheimer said he will return to that role against the Packers. But what happens after that? The Seahawks will for sure want to continue to get Penny carries, and Davis has been the primary third-down/two-minute back all season. Seattle coaches were vague this week on how it will all work out. “There’s not a pecking order,’’ Schottenheimer said. “. … the main thing for us is we want to win. We want to get back to that and whoever carries the ball, whoever has to produce, we expect that they’ll do that and it’s just a credit to the entire unit, not just the backs.’’ What could happen is Carson and Penny switch off by series (or maybe every two series) with Davis continuing in the third-down back role. And 2016 third-round pick C.J. Prosise? He appears again the odd man out with his long-term future with the team murkier by the week.
That Pete Carroll prime time magic.
The Seahawks in prime time under Carroll have been like Macklemore looking for a come up in a thrift shop — pretty, well, awesome. Since Carroll became the coach in 2010 Seattle is 22-5-1 on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, outscoring foes 721-400. That includes a 7-1 record on Thursday. But like a lot of things, the record has been shakier of late — Seattle is 1-2 in its last three primetime games over the last 12 months including a 24-17 loss at Chicago in September. The one win, though, was a Monday nighter against the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles last December, which made Seattle 14-2 on prime time at home under Carroll.
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Right guard D.J. Fluker.
Okay, so Fluker is hardly a wild card or a surprise at this point. But we have to at least mention that he is expected back in the starting lineup after sitting out against the Rams with a calf injury. Seattle got a surprisingly good performance out of second-year player Jordan Simmons in his place, rushing for a season-high 273 yards, the most for Seattle in any game since 2014. But the pass protection was an issue with Wilson sacked four times and Seattle now faces a Green Bay team that is tied for the lead in the NFL in sacks with 31. Sacks aren’t solely the fault of the offensive line — Carroll said Wilson could have maybe avoided a costly strip sack last week if he’d stepped up in the pocket more quickly and Carroll also said Wilson could have avoided a few of the four sacks he took the week before against the Chargers. But maybe a healthier Fluker will also help steady the line — Wilson has been sacked only nine times in the five full games Fluker has played this season.
That’s Seattle’s record since 2012 when the Seahawks have led by four or more points at halftime, including playoffs — the Seahawks are 27-39 otherwise. That might surprise those who recall all of the team’s second-half comebacks through the years and Carroll’s famous quote that you can’t win the game in the first three quarters but you can in the fourth. Much has been made this year of Seattle’s inability to pull out close games — 1-5 in games decided by eight points or less. But the trick during a lot of the LOB era is that the Seahawks also won their share of blowouts, and despite their rep, weren’t just coming back in the second half all the time. Seattle has trailed at the half in four of its five losses this season, and was tied in the other, while it has led in three of its four wins, each by at least 14 points. The only game Seattle has played in this season in which the team that trailed at the half got the victory is when the Seahawks rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit to win at Arizona.
THE FINAL WORD
Seahawks 27, Packers 17.
As noted, the Seahawks have had a knack for rising to the occasion in prime time under Carroll. And while Sunday’s loss to the Rams was a tough one to take, another effort like that would be good enough to beat Green Bay, especially with the Packers having to travel a long way on a short week. But Seattle’s run defense has to start getting better, otherwise Rodgers will be that much harder to stop.