SEATTLE – The last time the Seahawks won in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Mike Holmgren was in his first year as coach, Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office and Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were still Mariners.
Yep, Nov. 1, 1999, was a long time ago.
The Seahawks have lost six regular-season games and three more in the playoffs in Green Bay since. That includes three times in the regular season and once in the playoffs since Pete Carroll arrived as coach in 2010 (and all since 2015).
As Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said this week, “This is a great time to change it.”
Indeed, there’s no time like the present to not only snap the Lambeau Field hex, especially with the playoff hopes of the Seahawks (3-5) resting on pulling off an upset or two along the way.
On to our keys to the game:
Matchup to watch
Russell Wilson vs. Green Bay defense
As anticipated since he officially returned to practice Monday, Wilson will be back under center for the Seahawks after missing three games because of a right-middle-finger injury. Wilson has had two of his worst statistical games in Green Bay, throwing a career-high five interceptions in a 38-10 loss in 2016 and being held to 158 yards and no touchdowns in a 17-9 loss in 2017. Wilson may have to resist the temptation to do too much too early as he comes back from the first injury of his career that caused him to miss games. Expect a Green Bay team that ranks fifth in total defense to throw a few things at him early to test if he is rusty and more prone to mistakes than normal.
Players to watch
Seahawks’ running backs
The Seahawks hoped to get back Chris Carson after he missed the last four games with a neck injury. After he practiced Wednesday and Thursday, the team announced Friday he will not play and will miss a fifth straight game. The Seahawks will have to get a boost to their running game without him. Simply put, they have not run the ball well of late, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry or less in four of the past five games and just 2.8 in a blowout of the Jaguars. Alex Collins has been serviceable in Carson’s absence, but their best running option is obviously a 1-2 punch of Carson and Collins. Instead, it’ll be Collins – who the team hopes is fresher thanks to the bye week after dealing with a groin issue the past few games – and Rashaad Penny. Penny has just 16 yards on 13 carries in two games since coming off IR and the Seahawks need more. Green Bay has been vulnerable to the run but has been good the past two weeks, holding Arizona and Kansas City to 74 and 77 yards, respectively – both under 4 yards per carry and both on the road. Getting a running game going seems imperative Sunday.
Coaching decision to watch
Will Jamal Adams finally blitz more?
Aaron Rodgers was cleared to return Saturday to play against the Seahawks after missing one game because of a positive COVID-19 test. Rodgers was playing as well as ever, with a 17-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio in his past seven games. But who knows how a week off may impact him, and this might be the time for the Seahawks to dial up some pressures on Rodgers, who like all QBs is more prone to mistakes when hurried. Adams has blitzed just 30 times in eight games this year after averaging almost 10 a game last season, and he has yet to register a quarterback sack or even a knockdown. This might be a good week to change that.
Maybe this is obvious: But one saving grace for the Seahawks, despite their 3-5 start, has been a lack of turnovers. The Seahawks have lost just four, the fewest in the NFL. Three came in losses to the Rams and Steelers, proving pivotal in the final minutes in each (the other came in the win against the Colts). The Packers have been good at forcing them, tied for fifth with 14, including nine interceptions (the Seahawks have thrown just two). They have a plus-six turnover margin, fourth in the NFL, a key in getting off to a 7-2 start. Tough road environments usually lead to more turnovers.
Player who could surprise
Cornerback Tre Brown
The fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma will make his second career start, and you can count on Rodgers testing him early, especially any time he can get Davante Adams lined up on him in one-on-one situations. Brown has allowed just seven completions on 13 targets for 44 yards, a passer rating of just 61.1, impressive numbers while going against Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston and Trevor Lawrence. But Rodgers and Adams in Lambeau will be his stiffest test yet.
Third-down conversion percentage
This game represents a matchup of teams with some interesting third-down numbers. The Seahawks’ defense has had its struggles at times, but it ranks first in the NFL since Week 4 in third-down percentage, allowing just 24.6% (16 for 65). Getting off the field has been the biggest reason the Seahawks have allowed just 18 points per game since then, fourth in the NFL. The Packers are converting 42.2% of third downs under Rodgers, 12th in the NFL (they were 2 for 12 last week with Jordan Love at QB). The Seahawks are 31st in the NFL at 31.3% (26 for 83) and face a Packers defense that has at times been lax on third downs, allowing 41.6% (20th in the NFL). But the Packers held the Chiefs and Cardinals to a combined 9 for 24 the past two games. Staying on the field will be more vital for the Seahawks’ offense.
Packers, 26, Seahawks 20: The Seahawks will get the full Packers experience.
On a neutral field, Green Bay projects as the better team. At Lambeau, this seems like an especially tough task.