Preview: Packers at Seahawks

SportsDirect Inc. The reigning Super Bowl champions certainly don't need a built-in edge, but the league's best home-field advantage is just one obstacle the Green Bay Packers have to conquer when they visit the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night...


SportsDirect Inc.


The reigning Super Bowl champions certainly don’t need a built-in edge, but the league’s best home-field advantage is just one obstacle the Green Bay Packers have to conquer when they visit the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night to kick off the NFL season. Seattle rode a suffocating defense to its first Super Bowl title in February, culminating its run by manhandling Peyton Manning and Denver’s record-setting offense. The Seahawks are 15-1 over the past two seasons at CenturyLink Field.

Green Bay is touted as one of the top contenders to dethrone Seattle and the reason is a healthy Aaron Rodgers, who missed seven games last season due to a fractured collarbone. Rodgers returned for the regular-season finale and authored a last-minute comeback that clinched the third straight NFC North title for the Packers. The last meeting between the teams in 2012 featured one of the more memorable endings - infamously dubbed the “Fail Mary” - in league history, when Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass on the final play of the game that appeared to be an interception.

TV: 7:30 p.m., NBC. LINE: Seahawks -6. O/U: 46


ABOUT THE PACKERS (2013: 8-7-1, 1st NFC North): Rodgers is not the sole reason for the optimism in Green Bay - dangerous wideout Randall Cobb is back after missing 10 weeks due to injury last season while running back Eddie Lacy looks to build upon a season in which he rumbled for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs and was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. On the other side of the ball, the Packers expect a major upgrade in the pass rush after the offseason signing of veteran defensive end Julius Peppers (118.5 career sacks) along with a return to health by linebacker Clay Matthews, who has 50 career sacks in five seasons but was hindered by a broken thumb for much of 2013. Plugging the void left by a season-ending injury to behemoth nose tackle B.J. Raji will be an issue against the Seahawks’ smash-mouth ground game.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (2013: 13-3, 1ST NFC West): Seattle led the NFL in fewest points (14.4) and yards (273.3) permitted while also ranking No. 1 with 28 interceptions - eight by bombastic cornerback Richard Sherman, the leader of a secondary known as the Legion of Boom. Aside from a post-Super Bowl hangover, the Seahawks must cope with the loss of defensive linemen Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald while playing in the fiercest division in football. Dual-threat Wilson has posted a passer rating of at least 100.0 in each of his first two seasons and gets back a big weapon in multi-talented wideout Percy Harvin - who missed nearly the entire 2013 campaign due to injury. That will augment a ground game powered by Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for 4,051 yards and 35 TDs the past three seasons.


Extra Points

1. Rodgers has five straight seasons with a passer rating over 100.0 and has thrown for 101 TDs versus 20 interceptions in the past three campaigns.

2. Wilson has 24 overall wins and 15 at home in his first two seasons, the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

3. Green Bay is 6-2 against the Seahawks since 2003 - with five of the wins coming in Seattle.

PREDICTION: Seahawks 24, Packers 23.

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