Thursday Night Special

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A small new feature this year: pre-game analysis of every Thursday Night contest! Woohoo! Since this is only one game per week, I’m gonna have a little fun with the format. Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Green Bay Packers Vs. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle, WA.

My Pick: Seattle 29, Green Bay 24

What I See Happening: The rust is always being shaken off, but as last year’s blowout courtesy of the Broncos showed us, some teams simply show up better prepared from the gate than others. While Green Bay has some real bite to their team, particularly on offense with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a young and motivated Eddie Lacy and a hungry-for-a-contract Reggie Cobb, I think Seattle’s preseason performance and superior defense will give them the edge in the regular season opener.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB – I’ll take Rodgers over Russell Wilson anyday, but you cannot discount what the young Wilson brings to the table. His ability to evade pressure, extend plays and accurately put the ball in the right spots will give the shaky Packers defense fits…when they’re not trying to stop this other fella who loves his skittles…

RB – Lacy showed some real skill in his rookie season, but I’ll take the proven veteran in Marshawn Lynch, especially considering their opposing defenses. For fantasy owners of Lacy, I wouldn’t be quick to bench him, as key cogs from Seattle’s run defense (Red Bryant, Chris Clemons) from 2013 are no longer in town. I think both runners will have solid performances, but Lynch is going to be the bigger difference maker.

WR – No comparison here. If the Pack want to pull off a good sized upset tonight, they’ll need Jordy Nelson and Reggie Cobb at their absolute best. For Seattle, Percy Harvin is the X-Factor that needs to be monitored closely; if he can quickly regain his early-2012, MVP-caliber form, their offense is going to start looking dangerous. Doug Baldwin is an excellent compliment and gets the job done, but Nelson/Cobb are just a better and more consistent duo right now.

Offensive Line – Not many realized it, but this was more of a weakness for the Seahawks in 2013 than a strength. Their starting tackles were injured for much of the year and the interior of the line struggled at times. Still, they’re retooled and recovered and have some solid bodies. The Packers are in a similar boat, but with less experience across the board and a harder job in protecting Rodgers from the Seahawks’ volatile pass rush.

Defensive Line – Much depends on the ability of their edge rushing linebackers, but the Packers’ defensive line is still a major question mark. B.J. Raji’s season-ending injury is a major concern going forward. Despite their losses, the Seahawks should field the better D-Line in tonight’s contest.

LB – Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, if the latter can regain a bit of his younger self’s capabilities, might be as dangerous a one-two pass rush as any in the NFL this year. I doubt the latter will happen, though, and when you sift through the bounty of edge rushers and overall talent the Seahawks have at the linebacker positions, you realize how much of a vital cog it is to their dominant defense. Edge to Seattle.

Secondary: This isn’t even worth discussing, is it? The best defensive backfield (Seattle, in case you’re reading this accidentally and have zero interest in the NFL) in the league makes any other look amateur in comparison.

Special Teams: Both teams have their strengths, but if Cobb isn’t returning punts for the Packers, and Harvin IS returning them for the Seahawks, the scales tip.

Fantasy Start/Sit

You’re going to want (or have) to start Aaron Rodgers, despite the matchup. Lacy is a guy many will consider benching, but I think the odds are in his favor for a decent night. Out of the two main receiving options for the Packers, Jordy Nelson is the more likely candidate for starting, but only as a low-end #2/Flex option. Green Bay’s defense most likely should be benched.

For Seattle, Wilson isn’t a terrible option but you might find a better one in your free agent pool or sitting on your bench, depending on matchups and the size of your league. Start Lynch without prejudice, roll the dice on Harvin as a flex and start the defense with moderate confidence.

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