BY CASEY MABBOTT
This Sunday, Russell Wilson will return to the home of his college football glory days, and the game will mark just the second time Wilson has appeared in a football uniform in the state of Wisconsin since November of 2011. Between seven home games in his senior year in college and one game played at Lambeau Field in his fourth NFL season, Wilson holds a 7-1 lifetime record in football games played in the state of Wisconsin, with an .875 winning percentage. Wilson’s rival this Sunday, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, has notched 70 professional football games in the state of Wisconsin, and holds a 54-16 record in games he has started, with a .771 winning percentage.
Today, it would be difficult to find two better NFL QB’s, but just as recently as five years ago, a Wilson-Rodgers duel wouldn’t have sounded like much. Back then, Wilson was the green third round rookie QB who was still learning the speed of the pro game, but he was clearly better than most first year players, and limited his mistakes by leaning on a strong running game and only releasing the ball in high percentage passing situations. It wasn’t always exciting, but it was key in getting him to where he is today.
By 2012 Rodgers was already a veteran by NFL standards, with a Super Bowl ring, Super Bowl MVP, and regular season MVP in his trophy case. Like Wilson, Rodgers puts a premium on limiting his mistakes, and holds the active record for career passer rating and lowest interception percentage. Number two on both of those lists – Mr. Russell Wilson. Rodgers and Wilson are the only active players with career passer ratings over 100, and if they stay where they are or better, both will retire as the only players in NFL history with a career rating at 100 or higher.
Wilson and Rodgers have faced off four times since 2012, and WIlson won their initial meeting by way of a controversial game-ending touchdown, and the rivalry officially began. Since the opening chapter in their rivalry, Wilson and Rodgers have faced each other three times, with Wilson winning twice, and Rodgers winning the most recent meeting.
In four career games against Wilson, Rodgers has completed 66% of his passes for 839 yards, four touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Over the same span, Wilson has completed 65% of his passes for 736 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Rodgers has attempted at least 33 passes in all four contests, while Wilson has thrown 29 or fewer passes in three of the four matchups. Both passers are hovering around 200 yards per game in the rivalry, and while Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown in all four games including two without a turnover, while Rodgers has avoided turning the ball over in two of the games, but failed to throw a touchdown pass in their first meeting, and has at least one touchdown pass in the three meetings since.
The home team has won all four matchups in this heated rivalry, with Seattle hosting and winning the first three contests, and Green Bay hosting and winning last season’s matchup. Over the series, Seattle has averaged 24 points per game, and Green Bay has averaged 19. Two games have been decided by one score, and two games have been decided by at least two scores, making it difficult to gauge reasonable expectations.
The most intense meeting between the two teams came in the 2014 NFC Championship game, where Green Bay led 16-0 at halftime, held a 19-7 lead in the fourth quarter, failed to close the game out on an onside kick return with the game winding down, and after kicking a field goal to force overtime, gave up a long touchdown pass on Seattle’s opening possession of overtime to end the game. Green Bay won the turnover battle including forcing Russell Wilson into four interceptions, but despite serious injuries that limited Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman late in the game, Mike McCarthy opted for conservative play calls down the stretch, and Seattle’s bold playmakers took advantage and took the victory.
Green Bay won the meeting last year to make the series a little less lopsided, but Seattle still owns the Packers since drafting Wilson. This year, both sides are missing key players that won’t be back in time for Sunday but that won’t excuse the losing side this weekend.
Despite their gap in records, both teams still really need this win, but for different reasons. Green Bay sits at 6-6, and in third place in the NFC North. In order to keep pace in a very crowded wild card race, the Packers need to win out, or deal with watching the postseason from the couch. Seattle stands at 8-3-1 and currently holds the lead in the NFC West and the #2 seed in the NFC. As long as they stay ahead of the Falcons, Lions, and Giants, they should earn a much needed first round bye as well as host any game not against Dallas.
This matchup will feature a mixed bag of offense and defense, as the Seahawks come in with the league’s 20th best scoring offense at 22 points per game, the 14th ranked passing attack with 256.4 yards per game, and the 20th ranked offense with 101.5 yards per game. They will be facing the Packers 23rd ranked scoring defense allowing 25.2 points, the 16th ranked passing defense allowing 254.2 yards, and the 9th ranked rushing defense allowing 92.9 yards per game.
On the flip side, Green Bay has the 11th ranked scoring offense at 24.6 points per game, the 10th ranked passing attack at 261.2 yards, and the 24th ranked ground attack with 99.1 yards per game. Seattle’s scoring defense is ranked 1st at 16.2 points allowed per game, the 23rd ranked passing defense at 231 yards allowed, and the 14th ranked rush defense at 99.2 yards per game.
For Seattle, with a win they could knock Green Bay out of playoff contention, and put a bigger gap between them and the teams fighting for the top seeds in the NFC playoffs. WIth just three games to go after this week, a losing record will be too much for the Packers to overcome in the NFC playoff hunt, and it should give Seattle the distance it needs to keep the Falcons, Giants, and Lions fighting for the third seed and keep the second seed for themselves.
The gametime temperature this Sunday is expected to be below freezing, leaving Seattle the perfect opportunity to do something cold to the host Packers – end their season. Green Bay could save their season with a win over the Seahawks, but the odds are stacked against them even on their home field.
Seattle reignited their much needed second half surge with a blowout win over Carolina last week, and could make a bigger statement with a win in Green Bay followed by a favorable schedule over the final three weeks against teams with losing records. Can the Seahawks string a pair of wins together and put a stop to their see-saw season? We’ll find out this Sunday.