Thursday Night Football: Green Bay at Seattle

Thursday Night Football: Green Bay at Seattle

The last time the Green Bay Packers played in the opening game of the NFL season, they won a thrilling shootout 42-34 in Lambeau against the Saints. Three years later they find themselves taking center stage once again, this time on the road versus the defending champion Seahawks. Both teams are obvious favorites in the NFC, so the winner will be draped in even more hype than they’ve already received. Can Aaron Rodgers do what few quarterbacks have been able to do and exploit a weakness in the vaunted Seattle D? Will Marshawn Lynch leave behind a tumultuous offseason and resume his Beast Mode ways? Here’s a prediction for the Thursday night opener.

Green Bay at Seattle -5.5

Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are healthy. Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson are poised to have monster seasons. A retooled defense added Julius Peppers and rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. That’s the good news. On the other hand, rookie center Corey Linsley is making his first start against the league’s most feared defense. The Pack’s run defense finished 25th in 2013 and might not be much better. Road teams don’t fare too well in CenturyLink Field. If Rodgers and this team want to be considered legit threats to the ‘Hawks’ crown, a solid performance is necessary. Sure, it’s a long season and anything can happen, but a loss here could mean a return trip in January when the rabid home crowd is at their loudest.

Will the emphasis on holding and pass interference hinder the very physical Seattle secondary? One would hope the flags won’t fly at the same rate they did in August, but it’s abundantly clear that officials aren’t going to allow much clutching and grabbing in 2014. That said, if Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are the studs we think they are, their speed an technique should be enough to contain opposing wide receivers. The defense hasn’t allowed 20 points since Week 11 of last year. Russell Wilson looked fantastic in the preseason and finally has a healthy (for now) Percy Harvin in his arsenal. The question is, can Wilson carry the offense if Lynch really is in decline? Russell Okung and Max Unger need to rebound after shaky seasons.

Packers are 4-2 ATS in their last six road games, but 2-7-1 ATS in their last ten overall. Seahawks are 8-2 ATS in their last ten overall. Whenever anyone ventures into “12th Man” territory, a blowout is possible. Green Bay has enough defense to keep this one tight as long as Rodgers and Co. don’t get sloppy and give Seattle easy points. It’s easy to back the chalk and probably the right thing to do. That said, the Pack have a lot more to prove in this one.

Bet Green Bay +5.5