Packers-Seahawks: Keys to the game

Here's a New Year's resolution that everyone will gladly accept. After Sunday's Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game at Lambeau Field, don't watch anymore Packers football for eight months.

The Packers (3-12) already have tied the franchise record for losses in a season. The 1988 team, under Forrest Gregg, and the 1991 team, under Lindy Infante, established the futility standard with 4-12 seasons.

There are other things at stake in Sunday's season finale. Looking long term, the Packers are battling for draft position and will take a look at some younger players (though not quarterback Aaron Rodgers). Looking short term, beating former coach Mike Holmgren and ending Seattle's 11-game winning streak would help ease some of the pain of this trying season. Then, there's the fact that this could be Brett Favre's final game.

Here are this week's five keys to the game.

1. Survive ...
At 13-2, Seattle has locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Going along with that is a first-round bye.

The game means nothing for the Seahawks, but Holmgren likely will want to give his starters some work, but not at the risk of injury, no matter how competitive the game.

That means the stars, such as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, will play for a quarter or two, and then spend the rest of the afternoon shivering on the sideline.

If the Packers can withstand Seattle's opening shots — Priority No. 1 for Seattle will be to get Alexander his league-record 28th touchdown of the season — they'll be in position to beat Seattle's reserves.

2. ... And thrive
With the possibility that this is Favre's finale, there should be plenty of motivation on the Packers' sideline. Especially early — even against the Seahawks' starters — the Packers might get a "win one for Brett" lift.

The last time Favre had this sort of spotlight on him, he destroyed the Oakland Raiders, one night after his father, Irv, died. If/when Favre retires, it would only be fitting if he exited with one, last huge game.

3. Sunday Driver
Donald Driver is enjoying perhaps his best season. Even with Javon Walker out for all but a couple dozen plays this season and the added defensive attention it has attracted, Driver has been the Packers' most consistent offensive player.

He'll have a chance to end the season on a high note against the Seahawks, who will be without top cornerbacks Marcus Trufant (ankle) and Andre Dyson (back).

Driver is four catches and 105 yards shy of his career highs, 84 catches for 1,208 yards, set last year. If Driver can post those kind of numbers, the offense could end the season on a high note.

4. Tale of the turnovers
Of course, there are many reasons why the Seahawks are 13-2 — with the NFC's best record and a Super Bowl favorite — while the Packers are 3-12 — with the NFC's worst record and a contender to get the No. 1 overall draft pick. Turnovers, however, are the biggest reason.

The Seahawks lead the league, in a good way, with just 15 giveaways. The Packers lead the league, in a bad way, with 42 giveaways.

With Seattle resting many of its key players, especially at quarterback, defensive secondary and its second-ranked pass rush (47 sacks), the Packers have a chance to defy the numbers and win the all-important turnover battle.

5. An even matchup
One storyline that has ruined the Packers' season is all the injuries. With Seattle stars such as Hasselbeck, MVP-favorite Alexander and several of the top offensive and defensive linemen facing limited playing time, the Packers' watered-down starting lineup will get an even matchup against Seattle's backups.

Replacing Hasselbeck will be Seneca Wallace, who has completed 4-of-8 passes this season and is a big-time scrambling threat. Replacing Alexander is the capable Maurice Morris, who has rushed 62 times for 263 yards.

Are Wallace, Morris and a nondescript group of receivers (including Peter Warrick and D.J. Hackett) better than Favre, Tony Fisher and the Packers' nondescript group of receivers (including just-signed Rod Gardner and Antonio Chatman, who will start in place of Robert Ferguson, who was placed on injured reserve Friday)?

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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