The teams: The Green Bay Packers (0-0) vs. the Seattle Seahawks (0-0).
The time: 7:30 p.m. CDT Thursday.
The place: CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
The TV coverage: NBC -- WTMJ (Channel 4) in Milwaukee, WMTV (Channel 15) in Madison and WGBA (Channel 26) in Green Bay.
The announcers: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth the booth with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines.
The coaches: Green Bay's Mike McCarthy is 88-50-1 (including 6-5 in the postseason) in his ninth season as the Packers' coach and as an NFL head coach. The Seahawks’ Pete Carroll is 33-28 (including 5-2 in the postseason) in his fifth year as the Seahawks’ coach and is 77-61 (6-4) in his ninth year as an NFL head coach.
The series: The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series, 8-6, and had won three straight and six of seven (including two playoff games) until the infamous “Fail Mary” game two years ago. The Seahawks won that game, 14-12, on Sept. 24, 2012.
The rankings: Last season, the Packers’ third-ranked offense was No. 7 in rushing and No. 6 in passing. Their 25th-ranked defense was No. 25 against the run and No. 24 against the pass. The Seahawks’ 18th-ranked offense was No. 4 in rushing and No. 26 in passing. Their top-ranked defense was tied for No. 7 against the run and ranked No. 1 against the pass.
The line: The Seahawks are favored by 6.5 points.
The injury report:
Packers – Out: C JC Tretter (knee, placed on injured reserve/designation to return); TE Brandon Bostick (fibula); CB Demetri Goodson (concussion). Probable: ILB Brad Jones (quadriceps).
Seahawks – Out: TE Cooper Helfet (knee); G Jeanpierre Lemuel (neck); LB Kevin Pierre Louis (hamstring); RB Christine Michael (hamstring); CB Tharold Simon (knee). Probable: LB Bruce Irvin (hip); WR Kevin Norwood (ankle); CB Jeremy Lane (groin).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
Ground control: McCarthy took issue this week with the suggestion that his defensive line isn’t as big as it has been in the past. Apparently, he would prefer that you said the defensive line isn’t as fat.
“I feel good about our run defense. I really don’t get this, ‘We’re smaller’ [talk],” McCarthy said. “We may weigh less, but I don’t think our D-line is smaller.”
Defensive end Datone Jones, the team’s first-round pick in 2013 who has moved into a full-time role in both the base and sub defenses, felt similarly.
“6-4 1/2, 290?” Jones said, delivering his measurements with a chuckle. “That’s a big defensive end right there.”
Indeed it is, but with the exception of 6-foot, 300-pound Mike Daniels, the group is built more in Jones’ image than in that of former run-stuffing, block-eating defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who tipped the scales at more than 340 pounds and was not re-signed after becoming an unrestricted free agent after last season. Instead, they’ll go with more svelte – relatively speaking – guys like Letroy Guion (6-4, 315) and Josh Boyd (6-3, 305) in their rotation, especially now that veteran nose tackle B.J. Raji’s season is over because of a torn biceps.
“I think we’ll be OK there,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “We’re going to play the guys that are there, and I think we’ve got some guys that have the ability to get in the gap and also have the ability to get off the blocks.”
And that’s the key – more athleticism. Whatever they lose in bulk, the Packers are hoping they’ve added in quickness, agility and movement. McCarthy calls the group “long-levered,” meaning they have long arms and legs, and he believes both his defensive ends and his outside linebackers are capable of setting the edge in various personnel packages.
“From a personnel standpoint, I feel very good about the people,” McCarthy said. “The ability to rotate different players will be a key.”
The other key, to be sure, will be defending Marshawn Lynch, who remains one of the league’s elite backs. He finished last season having finished sixth in the league in rushing last season (1,257 yards) and remains the straw that stirs the Seahawks’ offense, despite quarterback Russell Wilson’s ascent. Other than a poor tackling effort on Oakland running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40-yard touchdown run Aug. 22, the run defense in preseason wasn’t an issue. Without Raji, who went down against the Raiders, defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ plan is to play Guion at nose and use Boyd primarily at end.
“[The approach to run defense] again falls under that category of knowing who you have and adjusting what you’re doing,” Capers said. “I think that maybe what we might not have in size, we gain in athletic ability. I think we’ll be a more athletic defense than what we’ve been. I think when you look at the big picture, most of these offenses you’re playing, the more athletes you can put out there on the field, the better chance of making plays.