The Seattle Seahawks faltered their way into the NFL playoffs, losing two in a row and three of their last four regular season games before meeting the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the NFC North despite a 9-7 record. That meant the 11-5 Seahawks were forced to travel cross-country and grind out a 17-9 win. Now, the Super Bowl 49 champions must go into a cold climate yet again when they face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, in the second NFC Divisional Round playoff game.
The game features a matchup of two of the league’s top quarterbacks. On the home side, 36-year-old future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers leads his team back to the postseason after missing out the last two years.
But for the visitors, Russell Wilson put up near-MVP level numbers, finishing 3rd in passing touchdowns (31), 6th in passing yardage (4,110), and 5th in passer rating (106.3), according to the Pro Football Reference leader board.
But Wilson will need to figure out the mystery in his career that has been the Green Bay Packers defense. The 31-year-old, in his eighth season, has never beaten Green Bay at Lambeau in three tries, including a 38-10 drubbing in 2016 that saw the former University of Wisconsin quarterback throw a career-most five interceptions, according to stats published by ESPN.
ESPN experts preview the game and assess Wilson’s chances for redemption in the video below.
With the Packers an even 5-5 in their last 10 playoff games at the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau, the hosts have been installed as narrow, four-point favorites — despite a 13-3 regular season record, two better than the Seahawks’ 11-5, according to odds published by Sporting News. The site also stated that “on a neutral field, this game would essentially be a pick ’em.”
So far, 55 percent of the wagers placed on the game have been in favor of Seattle holding the score to fewer than four points in Green Bay’s favor. Seattle has an 8-7-2 record against the point spread this season — but have covered only one time in their last five outings. The Packers are 10-6 so far, against the spread, but 4-4 in their most recent eight games, according to Sporting News.
Another factor in Green Bay’s favor, according to the ESPN analysis, is that Wilson has thrown more interceptions against the Packers than against any other opponent, with 10 in seven games, though half of those came in the 2016 meeting.
With the Packers feasting off of turnovers this season — a +12 differential ranks them 3rd in the NFL — Wilson will need to exercise an extra measure of caution when letting go of the ball own Sunday. On the other hand, Rodgers led the NFL with a minuscule 0.7 interception percentage, according to PFR stats.
The two teams have met three times previously in the playoffs, most recently in the 2014/2015 NFC Championship game, which the Seahawks won 28-22, advancing to what was then their second straight Super Bowl. The Packers won the previous two postseason clashes, in the 2003/2004 and 2007/2008 seasons.
The NFC Divisional Round matchup kicks off at 5:30 p.m. CST at Lambeau Field, or 6:30 EST, 3:30 PST. The Fox network will telecast the game nationally, with the “A-list” Fox football commentating team of Joe Buck and former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman behind the microphones.