Matchups favor the Packers

Expect both teams to come out throwing, but the Packers have what the Seahawks lack: Ryan Grant to keep the defense honest, a better receiving corps and two lockdown cornerbacks.

Once again, the future of Brett Favre's career has become national headlines.

"I am trying to enjoy it because this could be my last game in Green Bay," he told his friend, sports writer Al Jones of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.

Last game in Green Bay? I don't think so.

The Seattle Seahawks have a Hall of Fame coach in Mike Holmgren.

They've got four Pro Bowl starters on defense.

They've got a superb quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck.

They've got a ton of playoff experience compared to the young Packers.

But they don't have what it takes to win today's NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field, and here's why.

Packers offense vs. Seahawks defense

As long as Favre's ugly playoff history doesn't show its ugly face (see my Wednesday column, http://gnb.scout.com/2/718110.html), the Packers' diversified attack will keep Seattle's big-play defense on its heels.

How do you defeat a strong pass rush? Run draw plays and quick-hitting passing plays. What is the strength of the Packers' offense? Draw plays and quick-hitting passing plays.

Packers running back Ryan Grant is averaging 5.1 yards per rush this season, due in large part to his extraordinary ability to find holes far from the intended point of attack. Grant is a lot like Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in that regard.

In Sanders' 10 NFL seasons, he boasted a career average of 5.0 yards per rush. One reason for that was the Lions' run-and-shoot scheme, which removed a potential tackler from the box. When the Packers flood the field with four or five wideouts, the same thing is accomplished.

While opposing safeties kept their focus on Sanders, however, safeties facing the Packers obviously are thinking pass first, run second. That means the Packers win on running plays by scheme. Any victories by their blockers are icing on the cake, and Grant has the vision to take advantage of those, even if it's a running play to the left and the big block comes from right tackle Mark Tauscher.

In the passing game, Marcus Trufant is a Pro Bowler, but the rest of the Seahawks' corners are neither big enough nor talented enough to contain the Packers' deep group of receivers. Their No. 3 corner is rookie Josh Wilson, who at 5-foot-9 will be an inviting target for Favre, especially if they can match him with Koren Robinson or Ruvell Martin.

The safeties are solid against the run but ill-equipped to contain Favre should he display the patience he exuded most of the season. If the Packers' receivers — who led the NFL in yards after the catch — can slip the initial tackle, they'll be off to the races.

If the weather forecast holds up — 30 degrees, light winds, chance for flurries — the Packers should come out firing. If the short to intermediate passing game is clicking, the draw game — which will neutralize the blitz-heavy scheme I'm guessing Holmgren will employ — automatically will be working too, and the Seahawks' defense will have no chance.

Packers defense vs. Seahawks offense

Hasselbeck is a superb quarterback, and his group of receivers, while not as dynamic as the Packers', is quite underrated. With halfback Shaun Alexander a mere shadow of himself after winning the 2005 MVP and earning a new, lucrative contract, expect Holmgren to come out winging it, figuring his Seahawks will need a lot of points to keep pace with Favre and Co.

Working in the Packers' favor, though, is Seattle's lack of a running game. While the Seahawks' linebackers and safeties can't totally focus on Favre because of Grant's ability to break off long runs, the Packers' defenders don't have to be so cognizant of Alexander and Maurice Morris. If the Packers can quickly eliminate the Seattle running game — a bigger "if" than you might think, considering how the Packers' defense broke down at times late this season — they'll turn Seattle into a one-dimensional offense. That always works in the defense's favor.

Also working in the Packers' favor is the Seahawks' lack of a big-time tight end. Marcus Pollard led Seattle tight ends with 28 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and didn't catch a pass last week against Washington. Because of that, the Packers' safeties and linebackers will be better able to help against Seattle's receiving corps.

That's huge, because Seattle is likely to throw a heavy dose of three- and four-receiver sets at the Packers. Obviously, Holmgren and Hasselbeck will attack away from Al Harris and Charles Woodson and target mismatches against the Packers' third and fourth corners.

Finally, the Packers have to pressure Hasselbeck. The pass rush evaporated down the stretch, but perhaps this is where a home playoff game after a bye is most important. If a loud crowd and fresh legs translate into pressure against Hasselbeck, the Packers will be very interested spectators during Sunday's Giants-Cowboys game at Dallas.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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