It isn’t a division rival, but the Green Bay Packers’ first opponent in 2017 might as well be.
Unlike 2016, when the Packers opened against an unfamiliar AFC South opponent, there will be no difficulties in preparing for the Seattle Seahawks. The two teams have intimate knowledge of each other, having played four times the previous three seasons, including the 2014 opener in Seattle.
The next chapter will come in the late afternoon at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Sept. 10. If the Packers can find comfort in knowing their first opponent — same quarterback, same secondary, same coaching staff — they also understand the potential importance of their opener. For an NFC contender, no game against the Seahawks can be taken lightly.
There always seem to be big stakes when the Packers and Seahawks meet. You remember the 2014 NFC championship game. Earlier that season, the Packers’ opening loss in Seattle decided where the title game would be played, serving as a tiebreaker for two teams that finished with 12-4 records.
So there will be no easing into the season, no playing a three-win Jacksonville Jaguars team right off the bat this year.
Here are three things to know about the Seahawks.
» Friendly fire: If Eddie Lacy was paying attention when the NFL schedules were released, the Packers certainly got his attention. A month earlier, the former Packers tailback signed with the Seahawks without knowing they’d start the season in his old NFL home. Now, he’s a marked man. Scout-team running backs will be wearing the No. 27 all throughout training camp, whether real or imagined. The Packers wanted Lacy to return this season, but they understood why he signed with the Seahawks. He needed a fresh start, something he’ll find in Seattle. The Seahawks hope Lacy can lift their slumping run game that ranked 25th in the league with 99.4 yards per game in 2016, a 40-yard drop in their season after Marshawn Lynch’s early retirement. Just know the Packers’ defense can’t wait to hit their former teammate.
» Oh, brother: It isn’t unprecedented for brothers to compete on opposing teams in the NFL, but it’s rare that they end up directly involved in the same play. Packers tight end Martellus Bennett and Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett have bumped heads on the field before. Martellus, who at times will block Michael, owns a 3-2 record in games against his brother, though Michael is 2-0 against his brother with the Seahawks. Perhaps Martellus will get his first win against Michael’s Seahawks this season.
» Wilson’s number: Against any other team, Russell Wilson is among the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks. In his past 39 games dating to the 2014 NFC championship game, Wilson has thrown 66 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. That ratio would look even better if he didn’t play the Packers. In three games, Wilson has thrown four touchdowns and 10 picks against the Packers, including a stunning five interceptions last December. He has 62 touchdowns and 19 picks in the other 36 games, a better than 3-1 ratio. Apparently, the Packers have figured out a way to force Wilson into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Sept. 10 Packers vs. Seahawks, 3:25 p.m.
Coach: Pete Carroll (70-41, eighth season).
2016 record: 10-5-1, first NFC West.
Scoring offense: 22.1 points per game (T-18th in NFL).
Total offense: 357.2 yards per game (12th).
Scoring Defense: 18.3 points allowed per game (3rd).
Total defense: 318.7 yards allowed per game (5th).
Last meeting: While two memorable losses, including one of the worst in franchise history, have come against the Seahawks in recent years, the Packers actually own momentum in the series. They have won two straight, including a 38-10 blowout at Lambeau Field last December. Their win against the Seahawks was arguably their biggest of the season, a seminal moment in their run-the-table jaunt to the NFC North title. The game was perhaps Aaron Rodgers’ most efficient of 2016, with the Packers’ red-hot QB completing 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a season-high 150.8 passer rating.
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