After months and months of waiting, the 2014 NFL season is just one day away from finally kicking off, when the Green Bay Packers travel to Qwest Field Thursday night to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
It will be a difficult test for sure and road teams rarely win the opening road game against the defending Super Bowl champs. In fact, it happened just once, since the game started in 2002 and that came when the Cowboys beat the Giants in 2012. So if the Packers are going to have their work cut out for them.
Yet, the Packers are one of the few teams with the depth and talent to compete against Seattle, so if any team can beat Seattle to start the season, Green Bay is one of the few that stands a chance. That being said, here are five keys to a Green Bay victory Thursday night.
Establish the running game:
If the Packers are going to win, they need to get going on the ground. Eddie Lacy needs to touch the ball early and often. If he can get going, Green Bay can take the crowd out of the game and offer some protection to an offensive line that is starting a rookie center in Corey Linsley. It will also help keep Seattle’s dominant pass rush in check.
Aaron Rodgers has to be great:
I am not saying Rodgers has to throw for 300 yards or anything like that but there will be times when he will need to be great. He will need to make key throws in the red zone and on third downs. He will also need to avoid turnovers. He is billed as the most talented quarterback in the NFL and he needs to play to that level if Green Bay is going to win.
Win the turnover battle:
Winning on the road is tough enough in the NFL and winning at Seattle the past few seasons has proved to be just about impossible. So in order to get a win, Green Bay MUST win the turnover battle. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football in terms of taking care of the ball, but doing it against the Seattle defense is a different animal. Yet, if Green Bay can avoid turnovers and force one or two on the defensive side of the ball, it might be just enough to squeak out a win.
Corey Linsley and the offensive line have to hold their own:
Linsley is a solid prospect but starting his first game against Seattle is a tall order. Others on the line such as Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton were part of the debacle in 2012 when Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half. They will need to avoid a repeat performance or the Packers will have no chance of leaving Qwest field 1-0.
Win in the red zone:
In a game like this, on the road, you cannot settle for field goals in the red zone, scoring touchdowns will be imperative. Rodgers is great in the red zone and will need to be on Thursday night. Both teams will move the football but it will be the team that executes better inside the 20 that will come away victorious.