To Pull Upset, 5 Under-the-Radar Seahawks Must Soar in Green Bay
When the Seahawks face off against the Packers on Sunday evening at historic Lambeau Field, all eyes will understandably be on star quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. When the FOX cameras do switch over to show “other” players, Seattle fans can expect heavy doses of Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, and Jadeveon Clowney, with perhaps a token peek at star rookie wideout DK Metcalf.
These are, after all, the big-time players the Seahawks and its loyal 12s are hoping will play as such under the bright lights.
Knowledgeable fans will tell you that left tackle Duane Brown (knee), as well as his primary backup and key run-blocking tight end George Fant (groin) should also get plenty of pre-game attention, with each officially missing practice all week and active to suit up at less than 100 percent healthy.
But in a game expected to be as close as this one – between two opponents with the familiarity these two have – it may very well be the “role players” who tip the pendulum, helping their club advance to the NFC Championship to face San Francisco.
It goes without saying that Wilson, Wagner, and Clowney must perform well for the Seahawks to pull off the upset over the favored Packers. But, if the following five relatively anonymous Seahawks step up to soar, Seattle would be in excellent position to do precisely that.
CB Tre Flowers
With Shaquill Griffin expected to draw the Packers’ Pro Bowl wideout Davante Adams throughout much of the game, Flowers is likely to see plenty of Rodgers’ newest BFF, Allan Lazard, a 6-foot-5, 227-pound monster who has nearly as many targets (17) as the aforementioned Adams (20) over the past couple of games for Green Bay. That could be problematic for the Seahawks if Flowers fails to get his head around and locate the football as he did against Philadelphia’s much smaller and less talented receivers a week ago, getting flagged twice for long pass interference penalties. Lazard not only already possesses a two inch height advantage over the 6-foot-3 Flowers, he is an explosive leaper (38-inch vertical at the 2018 Scouting Combine). Flowers (an Oklahoma State graduate) knows Lazard well after four years of battling against each other in the Big 12, but that is not necessarily a good thing for the Seahawks as the former Iowa State Cyclone wideout caught five touchdowns over his final three games against the Cowboys, some of them against Flowers, who notably played safety in college.
OL Jamarco Jones
Whether lining up at left tackle or left guard, it appears very likely that the Seahawks will again call upon Jones to provide some glue along the offensive line with others ailing. His agility and balance in pass protection will certainly help Wilson should this game get into a shootout but at “just” 6-foot-4, 293 pounds, Jones is not the people-mover in the running game that the bigger Brown (6-foot-4, 315), Fant (6-foot-5, 322) and Mike Iupati (6-foot-5, 331) are, mitigating some of the advantage Seattle has against a Packers’ run defense which finished the regular season tied for 24th in the NFL in rushing yardage allowed per attempt (4.7) and 21st in touchdowns surrendered on the ground (15).
LB Cody Barton
With an NFL rookie playoff record 160 receiving yards last week against the Eagles, Metcalf will have plenty of eyes on him. Albeit much more quietly, Seattle’s “other” rookies Barton and Ugo Amadi also played key roles on defense in Seattle’s win with the former Utah linebacker (and rover) frequently being asked to shadow the Eagles’ running backs. Pete Carroll, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. and veteran linebackers Wagner and K.J. Wright have all been very complimentary of Barton’s preparation and play thus far this season, but make no mistake, his matchup against the Packers’ stud running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams is a massive jump. The duo rank second and third, respectively, on Green Bay’s roster in catches this season, combining for more grabs (88) and touchdowns (eight) than even Adams with Williams, quietly, tied with the Pro Bowl wideout for the team lead in touchdown receptions (five).
K Jason Myers
Out of sight and mind for most until they are on the field with the game on the line, specialists often play as critical of roles in the postseason as a team’s most bankable stars. That can especially be the case in a cold weather environment, of course. Fortunately for the Seahawks, Myers is playing his best football of the season, converting 12 of his past 13 field goal attempts with the lone miss blocked by Philadelphia a week ago. Myers’ recent stellar play is comforting after some notable misses this season but his statistics (23/28 on field goals, 40/44 on PATs) and experience in cold weather pale in comparison to the Packers’ Mason Crosby (22/24, 40/41), whose entire 13-year career has been in Green Bay. Myers has shown mettle since, though he did miss a potential game-winning 40-yard field goal in the closing seconds at home against Tampa Bay. With the exception of last week’s block (35 yards), it was the only field goal attempt inside 47 yards he’s missed this year, however. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks are 4-1 in games in which Myers missed a field goal.
RB Travis Homer
At several points this season, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has proven masterful in exploiting favorable matchups with relatively unheralded players like pass-catchers David Moore, Malik Turner, and Jacob Hollister. Each could also play a key role against Green Bay but don’t be surprised if it is Homer who jumps into the spotlight this week with so much attention on Lynch. Homer is a terrific pass protector and receiver, which could be all the more critical with Seattle’s injury concerns on the offensive line and he possesses the speed (4.48 at the 2019 Combine) to gash Green Bay should Schottenheimer sense the Packers defense focusing on Wilson when Lynch is out of the game.