Things are quite different in the power balance between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers compared to the last time they played. No more replacement referees, but also the home team in the 2014 NFL season opener are the defending Super Bowl champions.
Not just any Super Bowl champion. The Seahawks didn’t lose any meaningful pieces on defense compared to last season, have a better receiving group than last year and finally have Percy Harvin healthy. COmine that to the defense that allowed just 14.4 points per game and 273.6 yards each game, both league bests, and that means the Packers, a team on something of a steady decline since winning the Super Bowl in 2010 and finishing 15-1 in 2011, have their hands full.
Aaron Rodgers enters another season as arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, only this time he has a much better running game thanks to the presence of Eddie Lacy, which might mean a chance in Rodgers’ decision making and habits. The offensive line, especially at center, is still a mess, and the defense just can’t get healthy for long enough.
Almost two years ago it was the famous hail-mary touchdown by Golden Tate, which was actually him shoving a Packers defensive player and getting away with it, not getting called for the offensive pass interference. To call that decision controversial is a joke – it was simply wrong, and Tate/Seahawks won by cheating.
Lacy ran for 1178 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and there should be more of the same in 2014, his second year in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch has been the most consistent running back in the league over the last few years, an integral part of the Seahawks’ rise and Super Bowl win, rushing for 4624 yards and 41 touchdowns over the last four seasons. The Seahawks are a lot more committed to the run game.
Russell Wilson will play for the first time since winning the Super Bowl. Maybe this season will be a bit more towards showing his growth as a quarterback, as someone who isn’t just a cog in a machine but truly one of the best quarterbacks in the league, who isn’t just riding high on the waves of great offensive linemen and historically good defensive unit.
The Packers should look better on defense than last season, even without B.J. Raji, but just like their season opener last year, a visit to San Francisco that ended in a high-scoring duel, they might a little bit inferior, especially in this stadium, against not just the best team in the NFC West, but probably the best in the league for a second straight season.