The 2014 NFL season finally gets underway tonight as the Green Bay Packers visit the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. In a matchup of explosive offense versus punishing defense, the Packers will look to do the unthinkable - beat the Seahawks in the disturbingly loud CenturyLink Field. While the odds do not directly favor the Pack, they still have the talent to knock off Seattle and secure their spot among the league's best. Here's how.
Before this article goes any further, this is not to say that Green Bay isn't already a force in their own right. With former NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at the helm, this team will always be in contention for the playoffs and beyond. The Pack have consistently been in the playoffs in recent years, including a Super Bowl XLV win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 campaign. However, a few key components will be missing from the team as they take on the Seahawks. Pro Bowl nose tackle B.J. Raji is out for the season with an injury, and his presence will be missed against a downhill runner such as Marshawn Lynch. Veteran center Evan Dietrich-Smith left for Tampa Bay this offseason, and his backup, J.C. Tretter, is still out with a knee injury. That leaves rookie Corey Linsley snapping the ball to Rodgers as he stares down Brandon Mebane. This matchup will make or break the Packers' chances from jump street.
If the rookie can handle his own against the Seattle, then the Packers' offense can do their thing. Facing the physical style of the Seahawks is never something to look forward to, but with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy all healthy, the task becomes very reasonable. Cobb will look to burn Seattle with his speed, and Nelson provides the big body needed to counter defenders like Kam Chancellor. Additionally, with the ridiculous amount of emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact nowadays, Green Bay is sure to get plenty of calls in their favor, no matter how loudly the Seattle crowds boos. Combine these elements with the bulldozer Eddie Lacy, and Aaron Rodgers' unit should put together some long drives.
Seattle's offense is not bedazzling on paper, but they are consistent, and big plays tend to propel them to victory. A deep ball to Percy Harvin, a 30 yard breakway run by Beast Mode, or a late Russell Wilson scramble all could be daggers that the Packers must avoid. The Seattle offensive line always flies under the radar as well, with Pro Bowl center Max Unger leading the way. Green Bay will need a consistent pass rush from new acquisition Julius Peppers in order to eliminate the big play threat. If veteran players like A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews are on the top of their game, then Seattle's sneaky offense can be quieted.
The 2014 opener is sure to be close game, one that will most likely be decided in the final two minutes. Consistency will be key for the Packers, as small mistakes against the Seahawks always prove to be devastating. But if the pieces all fall into place for Green Bay tonight, they have the ability to put down the defending Super Bowl champs, and climb the ladder in the fiercely competitive NFC.
Let's hope this happens simply for Richard Sherman's reaction.