NFC Divisional Round Matchup:
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Sunday, January 12, 03:40 PM PST (Fox)
The Seahawks beat up (almost literally) on a completely depleted Philadelphia Eagles squad last weekend. The Packers laid low and hung out in the frozen tundra. The forecast for Sunday does not look like any snow, but it also appears to have a high of 24 degrees. It will be a cold one for this hot NFC Divisional Round matchup. Let’s see the keys to each team coming out ahead.
How the Green Bay Packers Win
Important Player: Aaron Jones
How good was Aaron Jones in 2019? Well, there were stretches where Mr. Rodgers was the second-best Aaron on the Packers. Jones had over 133 carries for the first time in his career, and he completed his 236 runs with a 4.6 yard per carry average. While this is the lowest of his career, he managed more receptions than ever and his 7.0 yards per target more than make up for this. Jones was crucial to their success, as he had 110 yards per game in their 13 victories and just 42 yards per game in their losses.
Important Position Group: Secondary Wide Receivers
The Seahawks allowed just over 155 yards per game to opposing wide receivers this season. Davante Adams averaged 83.1 receiving yards per game on the season. If the Green Bay Packers have any hope of winning this NFC Divisional Round matchup, the secondary receivers must have more than the 72.3 yards remaining in this little math equation. Allen Lazard is the latest secondary wide receiver to step up in the Allen Lazard/Marquez Valdes-Scantling/Geronimo Allison/Jake Kumerow carousel, averaging 50 yards per game in the last five contests. However, if Green Bay wants to succeed, they’ll need more than that out of their secondary wide receiver options.
Important Statistic: Turnover Differential
The Packers had an amazing turnover differential this season. Their +12 ranked behind just the Saints and the Patriots this year. A lot of this has to do with upgrading their secondary, and Aaron Rodgers throwing just four picks all year long. In fact, the turnover differential played such a large part in their success, that the Packers did not lose a single game with a positive turnover differential all season. Here’s the kicker, though. That +12? Well, that’s tied with the Seahawks. Also, those four picks? Russell Wilson only had five all season. And the undefeated streak with a positive turnover differential? Well, the Seahawks lost just one game all year with a positive TO differential. Whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game.
How the Seattle Seahawks Win
Important Player: D.K. Metcalf
D.K. Metcalf picked a fine time to set a new career-high in yardage last week. He turned nine targets into seven catches, a touchdown, and 160 yards. Those 160 yards included a game-clinching 36 yarder with 1:47 left in the game. He performed on an exceptionally high level with the season on the line, on the road. D.K. Metcalf arrived last weekend, and his performance in the follow-up will determine if the Seahawks get past the NFC Divisional Round this season. The Packers have a stingy secondary, allowing 2,487 receiving yards to wide receivers this season (just 155.4 per game). If you’re paying attention to the “How the Green Bay Packers Win” section, you’ll know this is just one yard more than Seattle’s thirteenth-best wide receiver defense this season.
Important Position Group: Offensive Line
Specifically, the left side of the line. LG Mike Iupati, according to Pete Carroll, is seeking a second opinion on his neck/nerve issue. It’s looking like he won’t play. Left Tackle Duane Brown (knee/biceps) started side work on Tuesday, but Pete Carroll was noncommittal about if he would play. For a team built around The Run, the offensive line has the utmost importance. The Travis Homer/Marshawn Lynch super duo ran for just 19 yards on 17 carries last weekend. According to NFLSavant.com, the Seahawks rushed for 4.2 yards per carry on 155 carries along the left side of the line in the regular season.
Important Statistic: Sacks
The Seahawks tied with the Falcons and Lions for the second-fewest sacks in the 2019 regular season. The 28 they managed were five more than the last-place team. The Dolphins, with 25 sacks, had the fewest in the NFL. That all changed last week as the Seahawks took Carson Wentz and Josh McCown down seven times. Granted, a lot of that has to do with 40-year-old Josh McCown having the mobility of a house plant, but Wentz took a sack of his own on just a handful of dropbacks. The Seahawks need more of the NFC Wild Card Seahawks in them on defense if they want to take down this NFC Divisional Round matchup.