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Week 19 Picks: Divisional Playoffs, Green Bay vs. Seattle

Packers vs. Seahawks
Evenly Matched and Similarly Styled

Seattle looked like a team primed for the playoffs last week, despite apparently limping through December. The Seahawks kept Washington at bay for three quarters, gave up a bunch of points, but scored a bunch more and won going away. But that earlier limping included alternating home wins and road losses, and the Wild Card winner is leaving friendly confines for the .. um .. cold, grass .. in Green Bay.

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Seattle Seahawks (11-6) @ Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
January 12, 4:30 p.m. (on Fox)

The Packers, too, lost two of their last four, but both losses were on the road -- the showdown in Dallas and a "meaningless" fray in Chicago. Green Bay is 7-1 at home, apparently recapturing some home-field aura after several down years. Of course, the Pack has been resting for two weeks following the non-effort in Chicago and last week's bye.

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Seattle is a bit banged up following last weekend's tilt with Washington. Mostly bumps and bruises, the only significant injury is an ankle of wide receiver D.J. Hackett. WR Deion Branch, who sat out last week, practiced partly in both of Seattle's sessions and is listed as probable.

Green Bay is in better shape with just cornerback Will Blackmon listed as questionable and only a few probables.

Weather could be a factor, but both squads are outdoor northern-tier teams, so both should be prepared. Temperatures should hover just below freezing with snow showers a barely perceptible breeze.

Statistically, these teams are pretty even and very similar (average yards and points per game):

  • Offensive yards: Packers, 2nd, 370.7; Seahawks, 9th, 348.9
  • Passing yards: Packers, 2nd, 270.9; Seahawks, 8th, 247.8
  • Rushing yards: Packers, 21st, 99.8; Seahawks, 20th, 101.2
  • Points scored: Packers, 4th, 27.2; Seahawks, 9th, 24.6
  • Yards allowed: Packers, 11th, 313.3; Seahawks, 15th, 321.8
  • Passing yards allowed: Packers, 12th, 210.4; Seahawks, 219.1
  • Rushing yards allowed: Packers, 14th, 102.9; Seahawks, 102.8
  • Points allowed: Packers, 6th, 18.2; Seahawks, 6th, 18.2
The big difference is Green Bay's added success throwing the ball, more than 20 yards per game, a 3-point offensive scoring edge, and a 10-yard advantage is passing yards allowed. Those are two teams that not only are evenly matched, but teams that have similar game-to-game strategies.

Seattle has been inconsistent in the running game, but mostly due to injuries. A solid performance today could tip the balance. Similarly, the perception has been that the Seahawks have one of the league's best defenses, but Green Bay is exactly on pace and even slightly better.

Conventional wisdom says to do what got you there. Expectations are that Green Bay will pass first and Seattle might keep it on the ground. But the Packers did have those flashes of excellence in the running game with the emergence of Ryan Grant. And the injuries to receivers held back Seattle's passing game somewhat.

I think this one will be close end-to-end with both teams engaging fairly balanced attacks. I think some people will be surprised by how significant both defenses will figure into the result.

Prediction: Packers, 21-17.