It's an image that will never leave Packers' fans' memories again. The kick goes up, Jordy Nelson going underneath it to receive it and lock the Packers into a matchup with New England in the Super Bowl. Just as he's about to leap up for the reception, a blocking Tight End decides that this is the moment to break assignment. Brandon Bostick cuts off Nelson, attempts to field the careening ball, and has it slide straight through his fingers, off his helmet, and onto the turf for Seattle to recover. Seattle would end up taking the game in overtime, and the latest in a line of bitter tastes were left in the mouths of Packers fans that this was the latest one to get away.
That was the last playoff matchup between Seattle and Green Bay. Sunday Night's matchup will prove to be a completely different affair between the sides that always seem to find a way to make controversy. The Seattle Seahawks (12-5) are set to travel to the Frozen Tundra in Green Bay to take on the Packers (13-3). Seattle is fresh off an ugly win against Philadelphia in the Wild Card round and comes to Lambeau as one of the scarier teams left in the mix. Led by darkhorse MVP candidate Russell Wilson and a defense that still can cause havoc like previous vaunted editions, the Seahawks have the battle and brains to make life interesting for the Packers.
Russell Wilson has been the man with the magic this season for the Seahawks, seemingly single-handedly willing the team to victory. At times, it looks like he is impossible to stop. He's calm in the pocket, he makes accurate reads and has perfected the ability to exit the pocket and make positive runs when he needs to. With a new high-flying target in D.K. Metcalf and the return of Marshawn Lynch to help anchor his backfield, Seattle has the parts to give the Packer defense something to be afraid of.
Wilson threw for 325 yards and a touchdown last week, but outside of Wilson's legs on the ground, nothing was coming for the Seahawks, an alarming statistic for a club that will need to be multi-faceted against the Packers pass rush. Led by Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay has been able to feast in the backfield most of the season. If you want tape at just how disruptive this pass rush can be, look no further than a Week 16 Monday Night effort against the Minnesota Vikings to see how Za'Darius Smith solidified his season as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year option.
Green Bay will need to be wary of Seattle's defense as well. Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are clicking as well as any Super Bowl run and can be disruptive if you give them the chance. Green Bay will be looking to utilize all options on the ground and in the air this week, as Ben Fennel puts in this tweet.
The key to victory in this game will come down to one factor: Russell Wilson. If the Packers allow him to become a double-edged sword, dominating the passing and rushing game and becoming nearly impossible to stop, the Seahawks will have an enormous edge in this game. A deep threat in D.K. Metcalf helps spread the offense, as Green Bay ranks as one of the league's best in short pass defense.
A question for Green Bay fans - how great does it feel to have a running back? Aaron Jones has been the driving force in several Packer victories this season, and his latest snub from the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams has surely stoked a fire for the young running back. The Packers will need him to be just that, as Seattle is allowing 4.9 yards per carry this season. What Seattle gives up on the ground, they take away in the air, literally, ranking third and fifth in takeaways and interceptions this season. With Rodgers already looking shaky in a new offense and receivers that have left much to be desired this season, every edge the Packers can get on the ground will be well needed. Look for Davante Adams, an out route short of 1,000 yards this season, to be the key playmaker if it gets tight in the 4th quarter.
As of Thursday, Green Bay was -4 favorites over Seattle. FiveThirtyEight gives Green Bay a 74% chance of winning. The game can be caught on Sunday on FOX at 6:40 PM ET.