By Joseph Gunther
The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks were the first two teams to play this season on Sept. 4 at CenturyLink Field. Twenty weeks later, they will play in the NFC championship game in the same stadium.
The Seahawks won the Thursday meeting 36-16. Online sports book Bovada has them as 7.5 point-favorites to win again on Sunday. However, the two teams are not the same as they were in the season opener. The Packers are excited to be able to avenge their Week 1 loss.
“You have very few opportunities to redeem yourself in this league, and here we are, in a huge game,” Clay Matthews said, via USA Today Monday. “So, I guess we’ll find out.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was healthy in their first meeting, but is nursing a strained calf that limited his mobility over the last two games. He was very good in the Packers’ 26-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-35 passing. It is unlikely he will be able to duplicate his divisional round performance.
The Seahawks had the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL in the regular season. They were the only team in the league to allow less than 300 yards per game with 267.1 and less than 200 passing yards per game with 185.6.
“You’ve got to be efficient against them, which is tough, because they take away just about everything you’d like to do,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers should get little practice time this week to rest the calf. Last week, he practiced just one day in a limited capacity.
Not scared of Sherman
One of the story lines following the opening week game, was not the Seahawks win, but Rodgers never attempted a single pass in Richard Sherman’s direction. Not one. Sherman has developed the reputation of being one of the most physical and best shutdown cornerbacks in the league.
“You have to be aware of him,” Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “Not scared of him, but you have a ton of respect for him. Look at the numbers, they don’t lie. Not a lot of guys catch passes on his side and for the amount of times he’s targeted, his interception totals are very impressive. You just have to play your game, but if he’s locking his guy down, he’s probably not going to get a lot of passes thrown his way.”
Sherman often lines up on one side and does not trail a certain receiver. So, the Packers consistently lined their top two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, on the opposite side. That left the Pro Bowl cornerback covering the third and fourth options, Jarrett Boykin and Davante Adams. Adams has since emerged as a very good young receiver and Boykin has slipped on the depth chart.
“You play it the way you always play it,” Rodgers said on his show. “You look for matches and you go through your progression and you throw it to the guy who’s most open. He’s a great player. You watch the film, and it wasn’t like the guy he was guarding was open. Not surprising. That’s why he gets paid the way he does, and he has the reputation that he does. He’s a great cover guy. He’s very intelligent. He’s got great ball skills. He’s got very good timing with his technique, and he knows how to cover people.”
Nelson finished the Week 1 matchup with nine receptions for 83 yards and Cobb caught six passes for 58 yards. In all, Rodgers finished the game with only 189 passing yards and one touchdown while throwing one interception on 23-of-33 passing. He also posted an 81.5 rating and 47.9 QBR.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.