Seahawks-Packers Pick: Which NFC Playoff Hopeful Gets a Crucial Thursday Night Win?

Two NFC playoff regulars meet on Thursday night, and both are in need of a win.
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Three things to know before the Seahawks face the Packers on Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime).

1. The Seahawks have the most improved front five in football under new offensive line coach Mike Solari and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Those two have scrapped the previous staff’s athletically demanding outside zone ground game and replaced it with more downhill man-to-man blocking designs. Schottenheimer commits to those designs, running the ball a league-high 32 times a game. Lately, many of those runs have come with a sixth offensive lineman (George Fant) on the field. That’s notable for Thursday night because it means the Packers will have to play base 5-2 personnel as opposed to the smaller but more athletic nickel and dime packages they prefer.

2. This game features two of the most athletic defensive tackles in football: Jarran Reed (Seahawks) and Kenny Clark (Packers). Both have uniquely strong hands and upper-body control, paired with nimble feet. Neither is quite as explosive as Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins, but both are much bigger than those men and can move nearly as well.

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3. You never quite know what coverage you’ll get from the Packers, who have more wrinkles and disguises than any other NFL defense. But usually the coverage will end up being some sort of man-to-man. This season, the Packers have played an astounding four different players in the slot: Josh Jackson, Bashaud Breeland, Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander. Whoever it is Thursday (the guess here is Alexander) will face Doug Baldwin, who is sensational at setting up rub routes to defeat man coverage.

With both CB Kevin King and safety Kentrell Brice ruled out, the Packers are expected to start Jackson and Alexander outside with Breeland in the slot. Then a rotation of Tramon Williams, Josh Jones, and Raven Greene at safety.

Bold prediction:

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, who remain the two most fascinating playmaking QBs in football, will have strong nights, but leave at least a half-dozen throws on the field by playing off-schedule.

Score prediction: Seahawks 25, Packers 20

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