Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Behind Enemy Lines series concludes today as Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar and's Todd Korth go back and forth with the most important matchups between both teams, keys on offense and defense, and final predictions!

Matchup to watch when the Packers are on offense
I'll be keeping an eye on Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney against underrated Packers offensive tackle Mark Tauscher. Kerney is coming off a three-sack effort against Washington and has all the respect of everyone in the Packers locker room. Tauscher probably will be getting some help to contain Kerney, but how much? Tauscher and the Packers only allowed Favre to be sacked 15 times this season. Tauscher has been playing most of the second half of the season on a sore ankle, so we'll see on Saturday if the line can protect Favre against Kerney and a formidable Seahawks defensive line.

Matchup to watch when the Seahawks are on offense
Seattle's three-and four-receiver sets against Green Bay's safeties. Football Outsiders' Defensive DVOA ranks Green Bay's defense as 5th against No. 1 receivers, 17th against No. 2 receivers, and 31st against "other" (read: slot) receivers. This pretty much plays to the Packers' secondary.

Charles Woodson and Al Harris are excellent man corners, but the safeties, led by Atari Bigby, can be exploited. No Green Bay linebacker has a perceptible Stop Rate against the pass, but the Pack ranks 8th in Defensive DVOA against running backs that catch the ball. This would seem to imply a lot of cheating up into the midrange. The Seahawks will hopefully have Deion Branch back the lineup, but even if they don't, they'll need to run their routes through the middle of the field and win those matchups. Without a real run game, the Seahawks will have to rely on a very high completion percentage with their trademark quick slants to extend drives and keep Green Bay's offense off the field.

Matchup to watch when the Packers are on defense
Since the Seahawks are not expected to run the ball much, it will be up to the Packers defense to put as much pressure as possible on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Look for Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman to do all he can to get past Seahawks right tackle Sean Locklear. Kampman, who did not suit up for Green Bay's regular season finale against Detroit, finished the season with 12 sacks, but only had three sacks in the last seven games that he has played.

Matchup to watch when the Seahawks are on defense
Green Bay running back Ryan Grant vs. Seattle's front four. Brett Favre and those Packers receivers are the obvious challenge for Seattle's defense, but the Seahawks will gain an advantage there if they can shut down Grant and the Green Bay running game without having to commit extra defenders. Packers wideouts will take short passes in a spread offense and gain serious yards after catch, but the Seahawks' linebackers, especially Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, are very well-qualified to counter that, as is strong safety Deon Grant. But if the Seahawks have to commit to men in the box against Grant, or if playing the pass allows Ryan Grant to gash the defensive line, it will be a long, impossible day for the Seahawks. Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane have redefined the interior line this season, and they'll need to keep doing it if they want to see the NFC Championship.

Korth says the Packers will win this game if…
… Brett Favre makes good decisions and allows the players around him to make plays, like the Packers have done all season. More than half of Green Bay's receiving yardage has come after the catch. Seattle has proven all season that it will not be beaten with the deep ball, so it will be up to Favre to spread the ball around on offense, which should open up the running game for Ryan Grant. If the Packers' defense can put pressure on banged-up Matt Hasselbeck, Green Bay's defense may be able to capitalize on mistakes and give the offense good field position.

Korth says the Packers will lose this game if…
… "we beat ourselves," according to backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been telling reporters that all week. If the Packers turn the ball over and do not communicate effectively on defense to prevent the Seahawks from making big plays, the Packers probably will lose.

Farrar says the Seahawks will win this game if…
If they can run the ball, Seattle's offense could provide a virtual lead-pipe lock of a matchup with Green Bay's offense. If that happens -- if the Seahawks can gain consistent yardage on the ground -- the complexion of this game would change decidedly. But since we can't wait for Shaun Alexander and that offensive line to win the lottery, and since the Packers ranked 6th in Defensive DVOA against the run this season, Matt Hasselbeck will have to continue to take the offense as far as it will go.

Farrar says the Seahawks will lose this game if…
If they get down early, it could be all over with a quickness. Green Bay's coaches already know that their defense will be playing the pass, so there's no real strategic advantage to ramping up that strategy out of necessity -- the Seahawks go into every game needing to throw the ball like they're down by two touchdowns. Having to overcome that crazy Lambeau crowd, a very able Packers team and a very real momentum disadvantage in that case would prove fatal. Seattle must get on the scoreboard as soon as possible.

With home-field advantage, a bye-week in their rearview mirror, and a pep rally that is expected to attract more than 15,000 fans to Lambeau Field on Friday night, the Packers will enter this game pumped up and ready to go. It would be a shock to see Green Bay come out flat against the Seahawks on Saturday afternoon. Packers 27, Seahawks 17.

Farrar: While I think it will be close, and Seattle's defense will play tougher than just about anyone thinks they can outside of the Pacific Northwest, the Packers simply have too many weapons, and the Seahawks will find it difficult to counter on offense. Seattle has been incredibly inconsistent in short-yardage situations all season, both in play-calling and execution, and the best way to beat a juggernaut at home is to play keep-away. The Colts played keep-away all the way to the Super Bowl championship last year, but the Seahawks just don't have the ground game they'd need to make that happen. The good news, if there is any, is that the lack of a rushing attack will be graphic enough to force Seattle's front office to focus on it very intently in the offseason … and THAT could put the Seahawks in next year's postseason driver's seat.

But for now, a very intriguing Seattle season ends at the hand of Brett and his boys. Green Bay Packers 27, Seattle Seahawks 23.

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