Packers vs Seahawks: The Green Bay Packers host the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs this Sunday.
The Packers have gone largely unnoticed as they silently marched their way to the number two seed in the NFC and won themselves a first-round bye.
With their 13-3 record, the Green Bay Packers will compete in their first divisional round since 2016 and their first under new head coach Matt LaFleur.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks will try and continue to overcome injury and claim a victory at Lambeau Field behind heavyweight quarterback Russell Wilson.
But with the Packers enjoying a 7-1 record at Lambeau this season and leading the playoff head-to-head 2-1, it may be a tough ask for Pete Carroll’s team to achieve.
Look for these five key factors to play a decisive role in who comes out on top.
Russell Wilson vs Aaron Rodgers
The Seattle quarterback has had an MVP-level season and is an experienced contender in the playoffs.
This year, he threw for 4,110 yards, scored 31 touchdowns and threw just 5 interceptions.
The 31-year-old has a career playoff record of 9-5 and has led his team to one championship and one runner-up finish which, let’s face it, came down to one bad play call by Carroll.
This experience will prove vital when coming up against Rodgers and the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers is not having his best season as both his passer rating and his completion percentage are his third and second lowest of his career respectively.
Despite once leading the Pack to a championship and winning MVP honours in 2011 and 2014, he is not the same.
However, that’s not to say he is not still an elite quarterback who can throw with the best of them.
The miracle pass to Jamaal Williams under pressure from a competent Kansas City defense proved that.
Rodgers somehow found the back corner of the end-zone while falling to the ground and it proved to be a decisive score giving them the lead which they never gave up.
He provided magic when the team needed it and that will count for a lot come Sunday.
On top of that, let’s not forget his “perfect game” against the Oakland Raiders back in October.
Defense wins championships
This is a saying for a reason in the NFL and you only have to look as far back as last year’s Super Bowl to see why.
Not only does defense win championships but it helps you get there and with a potential shoot-out between Wilson and Rodgers on the cards, it could prove vital on Sunday.
Despite once being a formidable force, topping the league from 2012 to 2015, the Seahawks defense has left a lot to be desired this year.
Ranked 26th overall, they struggled stopping both the passing game (27th) and the rushing game (22nd), meaning Rodgers will have a host of options at his disposal.
The Packers defense, on the other hand, are making plays and forcing turnovers finishing the regular season with a differential of 12.
Few things can prove more decisive in playoff football than turnovers and Wilson will need to make sure to protect the ball against this talented team.
What’s more, the Packers have a leading tackler in the form of Blake Martinez who ranks second with 97 tackles.
Linebackers Za’darius and Preston Smith also combined for 111 tackles and 60 quarterback hits so look for them to bring the heat on Sunday.
The Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, who is in his fifth year, is having one of the best of his career.
With eight touchdowns to his name, he’s wracked up a career-high 1,057 yards and 82 receptions.
Lockett is also an experienced playoff contender and he will be able to share his wealth of experience with rookie receive D.K. Metcalf.
Metcalf is enjoying a breakout year and forms one half of a productive duo with Lockett.
This season he has made 58 catches for 900 yards and seven touchdowns and the pair could prove problematic for LaFleur’s men at Lambeau Field.
Meanwhile, the Packers’ Davante Adams, who is in his fifth year with the Packers, put up a respectable 997 yards through 83 receptions and five touchdowns.
But after that, no one really comes close to his productivity with star running back Aaron Jones coming in third 49 receptions for 474 yards and three touchdowns.
Will Rodgers’ receiving options prove diverse enough to put together an explosive game plan against Seattle on Sunday?
Aaron Jones vs Marshawn Lynch
Speaking of Aaron Jones, he is enjoying an incredible third season with the Packers, tying Derrick Henry with 16 rushing touchdowns and tying Christian McCaffrey to top the league with 19 overall.
Jones also led the league with 42 broken tackles proving that, through his strength and balance, he is able to extend plays and produce where the team need him to most – on the scoreboard.
The Seahawks will have to find a solution to stop the formidable force that is Jones if they expect to slow down Rodgers’ drives.
But Jones will not be the only wrecking ball on the field this Sunday. After disastrously losing three running backs to season-ending injuries, Seattle resigned the original Beast himself – Marshawn Lynch – out of retirement.
Only time will tell if Lynch can prove to be as productive as he once was – from 2011 to 2014, he had consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns – or whether it may prove too little, too late for the 33-year-old.
Revenge of the Packers
Ask any Packers fan what their most painful moment in recent memory is and they are likely to recall the brutal loss to the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship game,
Green Bay led the Seahawks 19-7 with only 3.07 left on the clock yet somehow Wilson managed to engineer an incredible comeback and win the game 28-22 in overtime, after outscoring the Packers 15-6 in the fourth quarter.
Their second most painful memory? The Fail Mary game, the season-opener at Century Link field back in 2012.
In the final play of the game, the rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw a hail mary which was simultaneously caught by wide receiver Golden Tate and defender M.D.Jennings.
After some confusion over whether it should be a touchdown or a touchback, the referees called it a game-winning score for the Seahawks.
Given that the NFL later admitted Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference, the Packers and their fans were left pretty pissed.
Add in the fact the Packers are heading into this game with some serious bulletin board material – pundits have been calling them the most average team in the playoffs – and you can expect Aaron Rodgers and his team to come out with fire in their bellies on Sunday to a roaring home crowd.