The teams: The Green Bay Packers (1-1) vs. the Seattle Seahawks (1-1).
The time: 7:30 p.m. CDT Monday.
The place: CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
The TV coverage: ESPN.
The announcers: Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden in the booth with Lisa Salters reporting from the sidelines.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 70-37 (including 5-4 in the postseason) in his seventh season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll is 16-20 (including 1-1 in the postseason) in his third year as the Seahawks’ coach and is 50-53 (including 2-3 in postseason) as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 8-5, and have won three straight and six of the last seven (including two playoff games). The Packers won the most recent meeting, 48-10 at Lambeau Field on Dec. 27, 2009. They also won the most recent meeting in Seattle, beating the Seahawks 27-17 on Oct. 12, 2008, at what was then named Qwest Field.
The rankings: The Packers’ 23rd-ranked offense is tied for No. 26 in rushing and tied for No. 14 in passing. Their fifth-ranked defense is No. 26 against the run and No. 2 against the pass. The Seahawks’ 28th-ranked offense is No. 7 in rushing and No. 32 in passing. Their sixth-ranked defense is No. 2 against the run and No. 14 against the pass.
The line: The Packers are favored by 3.5 points.
The injury report:
Out – LB Jamari Lattimore (ankle).
Doubtful – CB Davon House (shoulder).
Questionable –TE Tom Crabtree (shoulder), RB James Starks (toe), DE C.J. Wilson (groin), WR Greg Jennings (groin), S Sean Richardson (hamstring).
Probable – WR Randall Cobb (hamstring), LB Terrell Manning (concussion), LB Nick Perry (wrist), RG Josh Sitton (knee).
Out – CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring).
Questionable -- WR Doug Baldwin (shoulder).
Probable – WR Charly Martin (chest), T Russell Okung (knee), TE Zach Miller (foot), RB Marshawn Lynch (back).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Bringing the noise: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rated CenturyLink Field – which was called Qwest Field the last time Rodgers played there, in the 2010 preseason – as one of the two loudest outdoor stadiums he’s experienced as a visitor, along with Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. Under McCarthy, the Packers have traditionally handled loud venues pretty well, and the team made sure it worked with crowd noise at practice during the week given that the Packers’ last road trip was an Aug. 23 preseason visit to Cincinnati.
While the presumption is that the offense has to go with a silent count in order to combat the noise, that isn’t always the case. But there are times when it’s necessary, and Rodgers and veteran center Scott Wells were masterful in knowing what to do whenever noise became a factor. While Wells departed in free agency, Rodgers has another veteran, savvy center in Jeff Saturday, who’ll be playing his first road game with the Packers but certainly has been there, done that in his previous 13 seasons in Indianapolis.
“You have to start with the offensive line and the quarterback, that’s the biggest stress point in my opinion when you play in loud stadiums,” McCarthy said. “The perimeter group has to keep their eye on the ball. Aaron does a very good job with the cadence in a loud stadium and in our own stadium. So it’s something we put a lot of time into as far as our cadence and not just training one quarterback and one center. There’s a lot of people involved. This will be a big challenge. We’ve been talking about it all week. This is a very loud stadium.”
Still a rookie: No matter how beloved Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is in the state of Wisconsin – and let’s face it, while Wilson isn’t in the pantheon of Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Rodgers, what he did in one year at UW made him some lifelong fans around here – he’s still a rookie quarterback making his third NFL regular-season start, as McCarthy made sure he pointed out during the week. The challenge for the Packers is to make him look like a rookie, and to do that, they’ll first have to shut down the Seahawks’ running game and Marshawn Lynch.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Saturday that he’ll have to be cautious with his blitzing because the Seahawks’ zone running scheme makes it dangerous to blitz liberally, as it can create large holes in the defense. The goal is clearly to get Wilson into third-and-long situations where he’ll have to make plays, and that’s not something the Dallas Cowboys were able to do last week, when Wilson took advantage of favorable down-and-distance situations during a highly efficient day.
“If you watch the way they beat the Cowboys last week, they didn’t give the Cowboys a lot of opportunities to blitz,” Capers explained. “You’ve got to be careful, because when you’re playing a team goes laterally (with its blocking scheme), and you’re (going upfield), there’s going to be some big seams open in that run game. And that’s when you see Lynch come out of there for 20, 30 yards. So you have to pick your spots and be conscious of it. They did such a good job of running the ball last week.
“He’s a good athlete. He certainly has the ability if you don’t have rush lane integrity, he can pull the ball down and make big plays by running with the ball. Also I think he’ll scramble to throw the ball, too. That’s where you’ve got to be careful because you’ve got to really plaster in your coverage because if he does buy time and let’s say he gets outside of your rush lanes, he can buy time for the receivers to uncover.”
The Packers will combat some of that with veteran safety/cornerback Charles Woodson, who has registered eight interceptions in eight games against rookie quarterbacks since joining the Packers in 2006.
“Charles is a smart guy. He sees the big picture,” Capers said. “He’s played enough football – over 200 games now – that he tries to use that to his advantage. Monday night, everything is going to start with our ability to not let them control the down-and-distance situations by running the football. If they do that, then they take a lot of pressure off the rookie quarterback.”
Back in action?: It’s easy to dismiss his importance because of the bevy of other pass-catching talent the Packers have at their disposal, but it would be a huge boost to the passing game – an aspect of the Packers’ offense that simply hasn’t clicked through two games the way it did last season, when it was otherworldly – to get Jennings back after his groin injury sidelined him for the victory over Chicago.
The attention Jennings commands and his play speed – even with a nagging injury – not only creates decisions for defenses on which potential pass-catcher to focus upon, but given that the Cover-2 defense has been a thorn in the Packers’ side the first two weeks, Jennings’ return would be helpful against a Seattle defense that prefers keeping one safety high. In theory, the Packers should have more opportunities to take down-the-field shots Monday night, and Jennings is key.
“We’re going to have to be a patient. This week could be different with the way they play — a little more one-high (safety) compared to the Cover-2 that we saw the first couple weeks. Hopefully, that will present more opportunities to go up the field,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said, while also allowing for the possibility that the Seahawks will step out of their normal approach and could play more Cover-2. “I think teams are going to make us go the long way and keep everything in front and have us run the ball. We ran the ball real well last wee against Chicago and hopefully we can continue that get them out of their shell.”