Coming out of their bye week with Russell Wilson back under center, the Seahawks will look to get the second half of their schedule off to a strong start when they hit the road to face the NFC North-leading Packers on Sunday.
Before taking a week off, Seattle most recently defeated Jacksonville 31-7 to improve its record to 3-5 and currently sits just one game out of the final wild card spot in the NFC. Minus Aaron Rodgers last week, Green Bay lost 14-7 to Kansas City, but remains only one game behind Arizona for the top seed in the conference with eight games left to play.
With Wilson and Rodgers set to square off for the ninth time, which matchups will be most critical to deciding who wins at Lambeau Field?
--Seahawks edge rushers Carlos Dunlap and Darrell Taylor versus Packers tackles David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, and Billy Turner: There's no specific formula for slowing down Aaron Rodgers, but like any quarterback, he becomes human when facing pressure. Per Pro Football Focus, he ranks 29th out of 30 qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage (33.9%) and yards per attempt (4.4) when under duress and has thrown only two touchdowns on 81 such drop backs. Bakhtiari has been listed as doubtful and most likely won't play, meaning Jenkins will replace him at left tackle. The former second-round pick has done an admirable job filling in, allowing just 10 pressures and a pair of sacks. Turner has been a bit more vulnerable on the right side, allowing 23 pressures and 3.0 sacks. The Seahawks will need to find ways to create pressure without blitzing much, as Rodgers has been far more effective with extra rushers coming at him, and that starts with Dunlap and Taylor off the edge. Taylor's athleticism and explosiveness should cause problems for both of Green Bay's tackles, while Dunlap has come to life in recently and could be due for a breakout game.
--Seahawks tackles Duane Brown and Brandon Shell versus Packers edge defenders Rashan Gary and Preston Smith: When the Packers lost Za'Darius Smith to a potentially season-ending back injury in September, many expected their pass rush to suffer. While they have missed Smith's presence, however, the emergence of Gary has helped offset his absence to an extent. Though he only has 4.5 sacks, per Pro Football Focus, he has registered 42 quarterback pressures this year, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. The versatile 280-pound defender also has a whopping 18 quarterback hits. Preston Smith hasn't been able to replicate his production from two years ago when he posted 12.0 sacks, but he's still a long, athletic edge rusher who can cause problems for tackles and he had a big game against the Seahawks in the playoffs two years ago. Getting Wilson back is a huge deal for Seattle, but the offensive line must be able to protect him coming off injury and Brown and Shell will both need to elevate their play after disappointing first halves to make that happen.
--Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks versus Packers running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon: After a rough start, Seattle has fared much better defending the run in each of its past three games, holding Najee Harris under 85 rushing yards and limiting Alvin Kamara to 2.6 yards per carry. But Green Bay has one of the better one-two backfield punches in the NFL with Jones and Dillon, who can be used both as runners and receivers despite vastly different skill sets. A smaller back at 209 pounds, Jones exhibits outstanding vision, can make defenders miss in space while slipping through arm tackles, and frequently motions out wide as a receiver, creating matchup problems for defenses. At 250 pounds, Dillon has tree trunks for legs and excels as a bruising between-the-tackles runner while being surprisingly fast and agile at his size. Both players are averaging north of four yards per carry and will be featured in Green Bay's game plan as receivers and in the screen game, which will create a challenging assignment for Wagner and Brooks dealing with the dynamic pair of backs.
--Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Dee Eskridge versus Packers cornerbacks Eric Stokes, Kevin King, and Chandon Sullivan: Statistically, Green Bay has been one of the toughest teams to hit on explosive pass plays against, surrendering the seventh-fewest 20-plus yard passes in the NFL so far. With that said, they will be without cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is on injured reserve, and Stokes is listed as questionable to play on Sunday, leaving the Packers short-handed in the secondary. With Metcalf, Lockett, and Eskridge all capable of taking the top off of defenses, the Seahawks aren't a good opponent to have that issue crop up against, particularly with Wilson returning equipped with his epic moon ball. Seattle can't try to force the issue looking for big plays, but if coordinator Shane Waldron and Wilson are patient, there will be opportunities to strike downfield as the game progresses. Specifically, if Metcalf draws a favorable matchup against veteran backup Rasul Douglas as a replacement for Stokes or Lockett/Eskridge wind up against King, Wilson should be ready to pounce. This has a chance to be the Seahawks' biggest advantage in this game as long as they don't get too greedy seeking explosives.
--Seahawks cornerbacks D.J. Reed, Tre Brown, and Ugo Amadi versus Packers receivers Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Allen Lazard: Widely viewed as one of the top-five receivers in the game, Adams has torched the Seahawks in recent matchups between these two teams, including going off for 160 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns in a Divisional Round win two years ago. In that game, he roasted Tre Flowers and Amadi with precise route running on double moves and Seattle's cornerback trio will have to be prepared for him to deploy those again on Sunday. Keeping Adams in check will be priority No. 1, but Rodgers has two other capable targets in Lazard and Cobb. Lazard's size (6-foot-5, 227 pounds) could be a major problem with Reed, Brown, and Amadi being 5-foot-10 or shorter. After scoring touchdowns in three straight games, he will be a red zone factor to watch. Cobb isn't the 1,000-yard receiver he once was, but he's still reliable in the short-to-intermediate game and scored two touchdowns in a win over the Cardinals two weeks ago, so Amadi will need to be ready for a tough matchup in the slot.