Staff writer Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com provides a closer look at Seattle's Week 14 opponent:
1. What has been the difference for the Packers offense the last few games after their early season struggles?
Hodkiewicz: The Packers moved to a more pass-centric offense after RB Eddie Lacy was lost for the season after undergoing ankle surgery with Aaron Rodgers on pace for his first season with 600 passing attempts. The passing game struggled to get into a rhythm earlier this season, but has been clicking over the past month with WR Davante Adams' breakout season and TE Jared Cook (ankle) returning after a six-game layoff. The biggest key probably has been the return of WR Jordy Nelson, who's the only offensive player left from Rodgers' first year as a starting quarterback in 2008. Nelson has been so steady this season, leading the Packers with 69 catches for 872 yards and 10 touchdowns. His eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown last week played heavily into the Packers prevailing against Houston.
2. Seahawks safety Steven Terrell said he is prepared for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to test him Sunday. How do you think Green Bay will send their WRs and TEs at him?
Hodkiewicz:That's a tough question to answer since the Packers have worked underneath so much this year. This offense is at its best when it converts first downs and gets the quick passing game going. Depending on how Seattle deploys Terrell, the Packers could try to get the play-action game going and work the ball downfield early with Cook and Nelson. Rodgers is as savvy as they come, so you can bet he'll probably be looking to test the former undrafted free agent at some point on Sunday.
3. What has made the Packers so good against the run this season? How equipped are they for a physical back like Thomas Rawls?
Hodkiewicz:They have to limit the big play. The Packers have dropped a little over the past month in run defense due in large part to DeMarco Murray's 75-yard touchdown on the first play against Tennessee and Robert Kelley's 66-yard run at the end of the Packers' 42-24 loss in Washington. The Packers' defensive front was helped by the return of second-year linebacker Jake Ryan last week against Houston from an ankle injury. Green Bay also could get back rookie Blake Martinez, who missed last week's game with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels sets the tone upfront, but the defense will need to overcome the loss of Nick Perry, who is the team's best run-defender at outside linebacker in addition to leading the Packers with eight sacks.
4. How is former Seahawks running back Christine Michael coming along after his first two games? Do you think the Packers will feature him more this weekend?
Hodkiewicz:The Packers worked him in more against Houston. He carried the ball nine times for 19 yards on 11 snaps against the Texans after getting one carry for four yards on two snaps in his debut with the Eagles. His explosiveness was the first thing that really stood out to me against the Texans. I still expect the Packers to use a committee approach in the backfield going forward, though. Green Bay has two traditional running backs in James Starks and Michael, but you'll also frequently see converted receiver Ty Montgomery line up in the backfield. Montgomery has made a significant jump in his second NFL season, becoming a legitimate threat when he lines up in the backfield as both a ball carrier and pass-catcher.
5. How has Green Bay's pass rush been impacted due to the injuries to Perry and Clay Matthews? Will this be another important game for young players such as Jayrone Elliott, rookie Dean Lowry, etc.?
Hodkiewicz:Matthews already was dealing with a hamstring injury when he sustained the shoulder sprain last week against Philadelphia. He was limited to 29 snaps against Houston, rushing mainly in obvious passing situations. While he didn't record a tackle or sack, Matthews said he came out of the game no worse for the wear. He was feeling better this week, which allowed him to practice a little on Thursday when the original plan called for him not to practice until Saturday. Perry's injury likely will mean Matthews lining up more outside in this game, but I'll be interested to see how the Packers split his time between inside and outside linebacker going forward. He's played both spots in the past two games. Elliott and former first-round pick Datone Jones should see their reps increase this week, but the key for the pass rush will be 15-year veteran Julius Peppers, who has a sack in each of the Packers' last three games and 6½ on the season.
6. Finally, is Seahawks-Packers one of the most underrated rivalries in football?
Hodkiewicz: I think so. It's not easy to win on a year-in, year-out basis. You've seen teams in both conferences make Super Bowl runs and then drop back. The Packers and Seahawks have consistently stayed at the league's forefront over the last four or five seasons. That's a testament to the team Green Bay-area native John Schneider has established in Seattle and Ted Thompson's stewardship of the Packers over the past 12 years since coming over from Seattle. Several historic games have been played between these two franchises in record years and I think it was big for Green Bay to finally snap its three-game losing skid to Seattle last September. I'll be interested to see how this one plays out at Lambeau Field on Sunday, especially if it snows as much as the current reports are suggesting.
Take a look at the Green Bay Packers players you can expect to see when the Seattle Seahawks take the field in Week 14 at Lambeau Field.