The Top 4 Things YOU Should Know About... Packers-Seahawks
You can't exactly call this one the "Matt Flynn Bowl" if Matt Flynn's likely to take as many snaps in this game as I am. Even without that potential storyline, however, this Seahawks-Packers game shapes up to be a good contest. The battle between the two teams Bill Simmons inexplicably placed at the top of the NFC has taken a different turn in real life: both of these teams are fighting to be above .500 entering week 4. The Packers have looked surprisingly weak their first two games, falling to the 49ers in easy fashion and looking solid, but not Discount Double Check-Dance worthy, against the Bears in week 2. The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, have benefited from that Seattle home cooking (I've never been to Seattle, I assume all local recipes are made with coffee?) After looking helpless on the road against Seattle in week 1, the Seahawks stormed back to crush the Fighting Jerry Joneses into a pulp at home in week 2. Of course, this game is at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, adding even more intrigue.
If you're looking for even more information than what's here, make sure to check out numberFire's premium section for our official totals line, against the spread, and moneyline picks for this game, and every game during the week. But if you're looking for trends to watch and fantasy players that will have a huge impact on this game, you've come to the right place.
Hurts to be the New Guy
Rookie QBs have been all over the place this season, ranging from Ryan Leaf-type passing ability in week 1 (highlighted by Brandon Weeden's single-digit QB rating performance) to the more Charlie Sheen inspired "#winning" performances of weeks 2 and 3. But it's not enough to just look at the performances of all rookies when trying to project how Russell Wilson might fare against a Packers defense that numberFire had ranked #6 in the NFL entering week 3. We took a look at the performances of all rookies facing numberFire's top 10 defenses so far this season, and the results are not pretty. Luck, Weeden, Wilson, and Tannehill have each faced one top ten defense this year. And all four performed exactly how you would expect a rookie to perform against a top ten defense: absolutely dreadfully. Combined, the four rookies went 0-4 against the top defenses, and only Wilson's Seahawks finished within single-digits of their opponent (a 20-16 loss against the Cardinals week 1). Only Luck's team topped 20 points on the game; the Colts still managed to lose 41-21 against the Bears. Each of those four games were in week 1, so it's possible that the rookies have learned something from their initial NFL experience. However, it's also possible, and likely, that the recent rookie success has come from simply playing easier defenses.
It's supposedly a well-known fact that the Seahawks are simply unstoppable when playing on the banks of the Puget Sound. But in reality, the Seahawks only went 4-4 at home last year as compared to 3-5 on the road. Two of those home wins, against the Cardinals and Ravens, came by less than a touchdown. Two of those home losses, against the Bengals and Redskins, were to teams that ended the season with less than 10 wins. Seahawks fans are likely to make note of the fact that their team has been 15-11 at home since the start of the 2009 season. Over that span though, their .576 home winning percentage is actually third in the NFC West behind San Francisco (.760) and Arizona (.615). It is only in relation to the Seahawks' pathetic 6-20 mark away from home since the start of 2009 that the home record begins to look a little bit better. A home crowd can only do so much, and I'd be wary of placing any tangible "benefits" of the home crowd into your decision-making when evaluating this game.
87 - The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Whether the Seahawks Will Win
Like picking random numbers out of a hat? Try 87 if you're a Marshawn Lynch fan, since 87 yards rushing seems to be his magic number since the start of 2011. In games where Lynch has rushed for at least those 87 yards, the Seahawks are 6-3, including their win against the Cowboys last week on the back of Lynch's 122 yards rushing. When Lynch doesn't reach that seemingly infallible plateau, however, the Seahawks have performed much worse with a 2-6 record. And in those two wins, it was the defense and opposing injuries that helped seal the victory - the starting running backs Seattle faced in those two wins were Alfonso Smith (Arizona - 2011 Week 3) and Kahlil Bell (Chicago - 2011 Week 15). There is nothing particularly special about the number 87; it's just the number that makes the stats look pretty. But what it represents is much more telling: when the Seahawks can't get Lynch going, they don't have an offense. Currently, numberFire projects Lynch to have 99 yards rushing this week as the #6 RB in our projections.
One Receiver, Two Receivers, Three Receivers, Four
Early reports have Greg Jennings playing in tonight's game after originally being ruled questionable earlier on in the week. However, I wonder whether it will even matter at all to the greater Green Bay passing attack. Through two weeks, the Packers have four different players who have received double-digit targets from Aaron Rodgers: Jermichael Finley (17), Jordy Nelson (16), Randall Cobb (11), and James Jones (11). Of those four, only Jones's 55% catch rate is below the league-average 60%; Randall Cobb has caught 10 of the 11 balls thrown his direction so far this season. With that type of production out of the receiving corps already, can Jennings really do better? His 56% catch rate so far this season is in line with his career production; he has topped a 60% catch rate in only two of the five seasons he has received over 100 targets. Although last season was his career high with a 66% catch rate, that number still sits below Nelson and Cobb's current rates on the season. Jennings will be a distraction and certainly draw additional coverage away from other receivers, but I hesitate to say that his inclusion back into the lineup will dramatically effect the Packers one way or the other.