Clayton: A look at Thursday’s matchup between Seahawks and Packers
Officially, Thursday night’s game between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers isn’t an elimination game, but it sure has that feel.
The loser won’t be out of the playoff race, but would be pretty close to elimination. A loss would put the Seahawks at 4-6, and even if the second Wild Card would be at nine wins, the Seahawks would have lost to teams competing for the wildcard that would hold the playoff tie-breaker. Meanwhile, a Green Bay loss would leave the Packers at 4-5-1 and reeling.
Further complicating things is the quick turnaround from a game on Sunday. You saw what happened last year when the Seahawks had a Thursday night game in Arizona. Richard Sherman blew out his Achilles and Kam Chancellor most likely ended his career with a neck injury. The Seahawks all but lost the Legion of Boom that night.
With everything on the line, let’s look at the matchup.
The Packers have the toughest turnaround for the Thursday night game. Mike McCarthy decided to fly to Seattle Tuesday night and hold a Wednesday practice in Seattle. Injury-wise, the Packers are in worse shape than the Seahawks. Four starters didn’t make the trip: linebacker Nick Perry, cornerback Kevin King, safety Kentrell Brice and wide receiver Randall Cobb. Injuries will make the secondary thin, especially at safety. They traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the trade deadline and had to move cornerback Tramon Williams to safety. Josh Jones will have to take over for Brice.
The Packers are 0-4 on the road this season, and road teams have had plenty of problems on Thursday night (where visitors are 2-8).
K.J. Wright’s knee remains a concern. He missed the first six games of the season recovering from knee surgery. Last Sunday, he couldn’t finish the game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks get a break in the sense the Packers are a three-receiver team, so the Seahawks can get by using only two linebackers, much like they did against the Rams.
Barkevious Mingo has been handling Wright’s normal weakside linebacker duties in nickel, alongside Bobby Wagner. Mingo is normally the strongside linebacker, but there aren’t many plays for a strongside linebacker against three-receiver sets.
The Seahawks offense can’t commit a turnover. In each of the past two games, quarterback Russell Wilson had costly turnovers in the fourth quarter. He had a pick-six against the Los Angeles Chargers. His fumble in Week 10 gave the Rams great field position to score a late-game touchdown to seal their lead.
Aaron Rodgers has thrown only one interception all season. The Seahawks can’t lose the turnover battle and think they can beat the Packers.
Chris Carson remains the No. 1 back. Rashaad Penny’s first 100-yard game should buy him more playing time, but it would come at the expense of Mike Davis, not Chris Carson. Pete Carroll was close to playing Carson Sunday against the Rams, but he kept in the back of his mind that Carson would have to come back in four days to play the Packers. Carson is the Seahawks best back, and the Seahawks’ mission is to run the ball. The Packers are giving up 120.9 yards a game on the ground.
A return for Jimmy Graham. Former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham returns to Seattle and his presence will be interesting to follow. Most people thought he would be a touchdown machine for Rodgers, but this year Graham only has two touchdown catches. He’s caught 33 passes for 439 yards.
Same old Rodgers? One of the more surprising stats this year in Green Bay has been Rodgers’ completion percentage. He’s only completing 61.1 percent of his passes, his lowest sine 2015 and second-lowest since he became the Packers starter in 2008.