Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (6-6 SU, 6-5-1 ATS)
NFL Football Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 11 at 4:25pm ET
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SEA -2.5/GB +2.5
Over/Under Total: 46.5
Natural rivalries like those born from years of in-division hate are common in the NFL but those featuring non-division foes are much rarer. The Brady/Manning duels when New England and Indy faced off for so many years were some of the best games on the schedule and we get a taste of that kind of rivalry this weekend when the Seahawks take on the Packers in Lambeau Field. These teams have been among the NFC’s best in recent seasons and that has seen this series take on a different level of intensity. Maybe it all started with the replacement refs and the “Fail Mary” in 2012 but it hit a crescendo during a 28-22 overtime win for the Seattle during the 2014 playoffs. Green Bay got a measure of revenge with a win last year but these teams remain in each other’s way with both looking for a big win on their respective paths to the postseason.
At 6-6, this has not been a vintage Packers season and the home team is listed as a 2.5 underdog by most online betting sites. These teams have been masterful once the calendar reached December with Seattle winning 19 of the last 27 against the spread during the last month of the year and Green Bay currently on a 6-1 ATS streak in their last seven December contests. The Seahawks are looking to flip the 0-3-1 ATS record that they have run up during the last four visits to Lambeau Field. The Sagarin ratings have Seattle as the 3rd best team in the league with Green Bay at 16th. Their schedules have been nearly equal to this point and the new Sagarin offense-defense method is predicting a 19-18 Seattle win. The early betting has seen 57% of the money go Seattle’s way and that is a rather high total given the normally high betting support for the Packers.
Seattle sits in a much better position to make the playoffs as they are currently the only team in the NFC West with a winning record. They enter the week as winners in four of the last five including a 40-7 drubbing of Carolina last week. An odd 14-5 loss two weeks ago at Tampa is the only blemish over that recent stretch and it appears that the Hawks are on the way up as Russell Wilson has returned to near-full health. Seattle did lose safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg last week and that will be a tremendously difficult injury to cover up. Carolina hit on a long TD pass on the play immediately following the Thomas injury so the Legion of Boom is a bit weaker heading into this game.
Green Bay was all essentially left for dead after a four game losing streak had them at 4-6 but two straight wins have them back at .500 and within shouting distance of the division leading Lions. This mini-resurgence has been led by none other than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers defense has allowed just 13 points in each of the last two games. The offense is still far from perfect but Rodgers has continued to excel in finding the open man in a pass-heavy scheme and the Pack was able to move the ball well even in the snow last week. Rodgers is dealing with a tight hamstring and while the Texans were not able to crank up the pressure and test that bad leg, expect the Seahawks to crash the pocket a little more to get A-Rod on the move. The injury news continues to be bad for the defense this week as LB’s Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Jake Ryan are all battling various ailments. Blake Martinez is already out with a knee injury, leaving that linebacker unit very thin and often playing out of position. Russell Wilson will surely take notice of that weakness and target the middle of the field often.
The good this season for Green Bay really starts and ends with Rodgers. He has completed 65% of his passes with 29 touchdowns and only 7 picks with a QB rating rising toward 100. He has found Jordy Nelson for ten scores and makes hay with everyone from Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb to Davante Adams and more recently Jared Cook. The weapons are there for Green Bay in the pass game but the lack of a running game has made them very one-dimensional. Seattle is 10th against the pass and the very best scoring defense so this will be a tall task for Green Bay pass game to get routine production. The Seahawks keep the opposing QB to a 77.9 rating and while Rodgers will more than likely be better than that, it remains to be seen how much better he will need to be to win this game.
The Seattle offense has seen some ups and downs this season. An injured Russell Wilson was not able to generate the kind of consistency that has been associated with this team during the early part of the season but things have improved as Wilson’s health improved. Wilson enters the week hitting on 66% of his throws and his legs have re-emerged as a weapon to open up a late throw or scramble for a first down. The yardage totals have never really told the Seattle story but the clutch plays often have. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham have emerged as big play receivers that help convert third downs and burn defenses that are creeping up to stop the run. Graham should see plenty of targets over the middle against a Packers defense that has a tough time guarding the tight end. Thomas Rawls is back from injury to take the lead-back role and he is fresh off a 106 yard effort with two touchdowns last week. Green Bay is solid on the defensive line but good teams have been able to run the ball against them and that led to a recent stretch of four straight games with more than 30 points allowed.
If you watched last week’s game against Houston, you saw a noticeably hobbling Aaron Rodgers. Some of that was due to the sloppy conditions at Lambeau but some of that is legitimate tightness in that hammy and the field isn’t going to be much better this Sunday. I think Seattle sells out to harass Rodgers and make him move his feet. Houston got burned by Nelson and the other receivers but the Hawks are better in the secondary and should get home against Rodgers where the Texans could not. Seattle may not be piling up the yards behind Rawls but Green Bay won’t simply shut down the run either. Wilson should have plenty of third and short scenarios and that is something he will turn into a positive for the offense. Green Bay appears better than they were just a few weeks ago but they are still having to throw the ball a ton to get any kind of production and Seattle knows how to finish off a one-dimensional opponent. Green Bay will keep this close at home but Seattle winds up with a 28-23 win so take the Hawks/
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Seattle
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