This divisional-round playoff game between Seattle and Green Bay sets up nicely, on paper, for the Packers.
They have home-field advantage.
They had a first-round bye.
And they have history, and the aura of Lambeau Field, where the Seahawks lost playoff games in 2004 and 2008 and haven’t won, period, since 1999.
Of course, as they say, that’s why you play the game, and that’s what they will do at 3:40 p.m. PST Sunday in Green Bay.
Before then, five things to know about the Packers:
1. Aaron Rodgers has been (mostly) mediocre this season
Measured by traditional statistics, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a fine season. The 36-year-old threw for 4,002 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions.
His 0.7% interception rate was the best in the NFL for the second year in a row.
But he wasn’t particularly sharp this season.
Rodgers’ completion percentage has declined each of the past four seasons, and his 62% completion rate was the second-lowest of his career since becoming the Packers’ full-time starter in 2008.
His QB rating of 95.4 ranked 12th in the NFL, and he ranked 18th in ESPN’s QBR at 53.5.
And according to metrics from Pro Football Reference, Rodgers had the NFL’s No. 1 “bad throw” rate at 21.2% — worse, if you can believe it, than even Jameis Winston (20.6%).
Rodgers was particularly wild in the Packers’ last game, a 23-20 comeback victory at Detroit in their regular-season finale. He was 27 for 55 for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and according to ESPN he overthrew intended receivers 16 times — which tied for the most overthrows by a QB in any game since ESPN began tracking that stat in 2006.
Running a new system under first-year coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers said last week that timing with his receivers has been an issue.
“I think the timing’s been off a lot of the year,” Rodgers said, via ESPN. “I don’t know if that’s going to get fixed. It’s not going to get fixed the next two days, it’s just a matter of finding those concepts where the timing has been good because there’s been a number of concepts where we’ve looked good, the ball’s been coming out on time, I’ve been feeling good about the rhythm and guys are getting open on time.
“But there’s, I think too many concepts that we’ve really tried to hit and keep hitting and make it work and we just aren’t on the same page timing-wise.”
2. LaFleur has been a hit as a rookie head coach
LaFleur was the relatively unknown Rams offensive coordinator before the Packers hired him a year ago.
LaFleur, who turned 40 in November, comes from the same coaching tree as the Rams’ Sean McVay and the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan. All three are close friends, and all three were assistants on Mike Shanahan’s staff in Washington D.C. in the early 2010s.
“We were all young, but we kept up with each other,” Kyle Shanahan told ESPN last year. “We were all eager (in Washington). We weren’t just studying what we were doing — our own plays — we were always trying to push the envelope and do different things and challenge each other. I would get so frustrated when everyone acted like I brought my friends here. It drove me crazy. These are all guys who got jobs and were really good. That’s why my dad and I needed them.”
LaFleur led the Packers to a 13-3 season and became the first Green Bay coach to earn a playoff berth in his first season.
3. Green Bay might be the worst 13-3 team ever
That is according to the analytics site Football Outsiders, whose DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) rankings of every team since 1985 have these Packers as the second-worst 13-3 team, behind only the 1999 Colts.
Football Outsiders notes that four of the previous six “worst” 13-3 teams lost in the divisional round of the playoffs — those ’99 Colts, the 2009 Chargers and the 2001 Bears. (Also on that list of “worst” 13-3 teams: The 1999 Titans, who won the AFC title and almost won the Super Bowl.)
The Packers finished the regular season No. 10 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency rankings.
The Seahawks were No. 8.
4. The Packers have a top-10 defense
Green Bay allowed 19.6 points per game, which ranked ninth during the regular season.
Blake Martinez finished second in the NFL this season with 155 tackles (behind Bobby Wagner’s 159), and Green Bay edge rushers Za’Darius Smith (with 13.5) and Preston Smith (12) ranked among the league leaders in sacks.
Za’Darius Smith led the NFL with 93 quarterback pressures during the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus.
“(He) was one of the most versatile and destructive pass-rushers in the game,” PFF wrote in naming Za’Darius Smith to its All-Pro team. “He lined up all over the defensive front, logging at least 50 snaps both inside and outside the tackles from the left and right side of the defensive front.”
5. DK Metcalf vs. Kevin King is the most intriguing individual matchup in this game
DK Metcalf, the Seahawks’ rookie sensation, is coming off a phenomenal game against the Eagles, and his emergence has given Russell Wilson another elite receiving threat along with Tyler Lockett.
At 6 feet, 4 inches and 229 pounds, and with top-end speed, Metcalf is a matchup nightmare for most teams.
Cornerback Kevin King could be the answer for the Packers.
The former University of Washington standout, at 6-3 and 200 pounds, is long and rangy, and he’s had the best season of his NFL career, with five interceptions (tied for second in the league) and 15 pass breakups (tied for fifth in the league).
“He’s a big reason for a lot of our success on the defensive side of the ball,” LaFleur told reporters last week.
King has allowed a completion rate of 58.8% this season, which is about average for an NFL cornerback, according to Pro Football Reference.
But King is allowing 17.3 yards per completion, 10th-worst in the league, which suggests he has been susceptible to deep passes at times.
Expect Wilson and Metcalf to try to exploit that Sunday night.