Saturday, August 30, 2014

What a Way to Kick Off the 2014 NFL Season: Packers vs. Seahawks

American sports fans fear not!  After months of inactivity, endless baseball highlights, and pointless preseason games, football is finally set to return with the cool, fall weather that awaits us.  Up first is Thursday’s heavyweight NFC encounter between the Green Bay Packers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.  Filled with great players, powerful teams, and a nice bit of historical controversy this game should warm the palates of football fans everywhere and bring a delightful return to the competitive regular season.

But first to the game, and what a game it shapes up to be!  Both teams have playmakers all over the field.  For Seattle, it’s all about their hard-hitting defense led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, both of whom pack a serious punch.  The Packers defense also features stars, but in the form of pass rushers Clay Matthews and the incoming free agent Julius Peppers.  With such impressive guys on the defensive sides of both teams, we can expect a physical fight in which moving the chains could become problematic.

However, both teams also feature great running backs.  Eddie Lacy of Green Bay played admirably last season, especially after Aaron Rodgers’ injury.  Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch is as tough as they come.  Both backs are strong and push the pile, which will exhaust the defenses and create time for both quarterbacks.

At the quarterback position both teams will feel confident.  Russell Wilson is still young but proved himself in leading his team to a Super Bowl title.  He has great poise and makes plays with his feet as well as his arm.  Rodgers is a former MVP that can torch any defense on his day.  He also has the better receiving options.

But defensively the Seahawks certainly have the edge, and that’s why they won the Super Bowl last year.  In all logic, Seattle should come out and win this home game at CenturyLink Field with its legendary 12th man (loud fans).  But after a trip down memory lane, I believe the Packers will have the edge in this game.

2 seasons ago the Packers played the Seahawks early in the season under the watchful eyes of the NFL’s replacement refs, hired after a referee lockout that dragged into the regular season.  In one of professional football’s most embarrassing moments, Seattle won the game on a ridiculous Hail Mary catch that was actually intercepted by a Packers’ player. In what is now known as the “Fail Mary” game, Green Bay was robbed of a win and the NFL’s referee dispute was ended overnight as they quickly agreed to terms with the usual (top caliber) officials.  No doubt the end of that game will still be burning for many of the players on the Packers team (and perhaps some lingering guilt still remains deep within Seahawks players).
This game is all about revenge for the Green Bay Packers, and they have the qualities to actually beat the Seattle Seahawks, even in front of their home fans and with their menacing defense.  Additionally, the new emphasis on penalizing over zealous defensive backs (like Sherman) should further aid Green Bay in their cause.  Yes, Seattle will be in a celebratory mood after a well-earned Super Bowl victory, but I think the Packers steal this game late in the 4th quarter, 27-24.

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