Thursday Night Football Preview

Thursday Night Football Preview

Hawks -2.5 | Over/Under 48

Last Week

Welcome back to the Gridiron Experts Thursday Night Football Preview! Last week, I had the Steelers beating the Panthers, covering the -4 spread in the process. Well, to say the Steelers covered would be an understatement, as they steamrolled Carolina 52-21. I was correct in taking Pittsburgh to cover, and with my score prediction, suggested the over on total points, which also hit. I also suggested that a big game could be coming from the Steelers WRs, and they delivered (Brown: 6/96/1; JuJu 3/90/1). We’re back on the tracks and the train keeps rolling to Week 11!

Packers at Seahawks

Thursday Night Game Preview

This Thursday Night the Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) will head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks (4-5). The host Seahawks are currently (-2.5) favorites to take this contest. Last week, Mike McCarthy’s squad knocked off the visiting Miami Dolphins 31-12. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll’s squad lost a tightly contested divisional matchup with the Rams, 36-31. Both teams are currently on the playoff bubble, needing a strong second half to make their way into the postseason.

The Packers’ offense is centered around QB Aaron Rodgers, as it has been for the past 11 seasons. Rodgers continues to cement his legacy with another fantastic season where he’s been quite efficient. So far, he’s tossed 17 TDs, compared to only 1 INT. He hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 4 and has continued his workmanlike production despite a knee injury early on in the season. In Week 1, Packers fans feared the worst, as it appeared Rodgers had sustained a serious knee injury. However, it was later revealed that it was only a sprain, and he didn’t miss any time as a result. Rodgers will certainly have to be at his best playing in Seattle, which can be a daunting venue for opposing QBs.

The backfield in Green Bay has been infuriating for fantasy owners this year, as the team hasn’t fully committed to one of their two options: Jamaal Williams & Aaron Jones. When you look at the statistics, this shouldn’t even be a conversation. Williams has rushed for 270 yards on 73 carries (3.7 ypc). Jones, on the other hand (despite missing 2 games), has gotten the exact same number of carries… but has rushed for 494 yards (a whopping 6.8 ypc). When you compare Jones’ 4 TDs to Williams’ 1 score, the decision should be even more clear. However, until recently, McCarthy hadn’t committed to using Jones in an increased capacity, and many believe that this newfound volume still isn’t enough. In his past 3 games, Jones has taken 12 carries for 86 yards, 14 carries for 75 yards, and then last week, toted the ball 15 times for 145 yards and 2 TD. Should the coaching staff fully commit to Jones as the feature back and give him 20+ touches a game, his production could really take off down the stretch.

Green Bay’s receiver corps is beginning to take on a new look after years of the same names. Davante Adams is the unquestioned best receiver on the team and has established himself as one of the NFL’s best. Adams is on pace to blow past all of his career-highs this season, as he’s already accumulated 62 catches for 787 yards and 9 TDs. Those 9 scores are 2nd best in the league, trailing only the incomparable Antonio Brown (10).

Behind Adams is Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a promising rookie out of South Florida. “MVS” has a unique combination of size and speed. He stands 6’4 & 206 lbs, but ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, and logged a 30.5-inch vertical jump. Early on, he’s produced as well, catching 23 balls for 402 yards and 2 TDs, while averaging 17.5 yards per reception. With some injuries, Valdes-Scantling should see some increased opportunity. With a future Hall of Fame QB tossing him the ball, the sky’s the limit for this rookie.

Fellow rookies Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore round out the receivers for the Packers and will hope to carve out a role in the offense in the 2nd half of the season. Veteran Randall Cobb did not travel with the team to Seattle and has been ruled out for Thursday’s contest. Cobb is one of four starters who did not make the trip, along with LB Nick Perry, DB Kevin King, and S Kentrell Brice. WR Geronimo Allison was placed on Injured Reserve earlier in the month, ending his season as well.

To further complicate matters, TE Jimmy Graham logged his second consecutive DNP on Tuesday and is listed as Questionable for the game. Graham has continued to play through the knee injury that plagues him, and I expect he’ll have some extra motivation to play Thursday against his former squad.

Graham has had an up-and-down season, but is still on pace to be productive. He’s caught 33 balls for 439 yards and 2 TD, but also has 4 games where he’s failed to eclipse 25 yards receiving. The Packers hope that the productive Graham shows up on Thursday, especially with their ailments at the WR position.

On Defense, Green Bay ranks within the top 10 in total yards allowed. They’ve been especially effective defending the pass, yielding the 5th lowest amount of passing yards in the league (225 ypg). Their rush defense hasn’t been quite as effective, where they rank 22nd in the NFL, allowing 120.9 yards per contest.

Blake Martinez leads the defensive unit for the Packers, where he ranks 5th in the NFL with 79 total tackles. Martinez, who also has 4 sacks, had a bit of a scare in Week 9 when he rolled his ankle and was carted off the field. However, the 3rd-year player only missed a Quarter and returned to the game. He’s certainly the nucleus and the glue of this unit. While Green Bay will certainly miss Perry among the LBs, they still have veteran Clay Matthews & third-year player Fackrell, who leads the team with 5 sacks.

On the line, DT Kenny Clark has been a player of note this year, with 5 sacks and 40 combined tackles. Clark will team up with DEs Dean Lowry and Mike Daniels to pace the Seattle pass rush, and shut down their run game. In the secondary, the Packers will be without the aforementioned Kevin King and will rely on Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander to win matchups on the outside.

In his 7th year, Russell Wilson remains the heart and soul of this Seahawks squad. Wilson is currently tied for 4th in the NFL with 21 TD passes, compared to only 5 INT, putting him on pace for a career-high. He also ranks 6th in the league with a passer rating of 110.2. Unfortunately, Wilson also ranks 4th in the league in sacks, having been taken down 29 times already. When standing upright, Wilson has proven to be quite effective, and the Seahawks will need him to be on Thursday Night.

Wilson’s primary target this year has been WR Tyler Lockett. The 4th-year man out of Kansas State has been impressive and is on the way to the best season of his career. His 33 catches for 483 yards are tracking towards career-highs, and his 7 TDs are tied for 5th in the NFL. Lockett has also been consistent, scoring in 7 different weeks, and eclipsing 50 yards in all but 3 games.

Doug Baldwin is the Seahawks’ other primary receiver. After missing time early in the year, Baldwin is finally healthy enough to play. His production, however, has not quite blossomed yet. In 7 games, he’s only recorded 23 catches for 275 yards and hasn’t found the end zone. The Seahawks will need Baldwin to find his former magic and production if they hope to make a playoff run. Baldwin had logged consecutive 3 seasons with 950+ yards before this season and averaged almost 10 TD per year.

 

 

As an ancillary option, David Moore has picked up some of the production vacated by Baldwin. Moore has caught only 14 balls this year but has been quite effective, logging 253 yards and 4 TDs. While this 29% TD catch rate is obviously bound to regress back to the mean, his production has been a shot in the arm for Seattle. After losing early-season breakout Will Dissly, the Seahawks have turned to Nick Vannett and Ed Dickson. Both TEs have produced a solid game or two, and are doing what they can to fill the void left by GB TE Jimmy Graham.

On the ground, the Seahawks have a three-headed backfield comprised of Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and rookie Rashaad Penny. Carson has been the starter for most of the season but was inactive last week with a hip injury. However, Seahawks Offensive Coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer confirmed he would be active in Week 11 and would be the starter. In 7 games, Carson has rushed for 497 yards, averaging a 4.5 yards per carrying, and scoring twice. The Seahawks will certainly be glad to have “their guy” back in the mix but Pete Carroll likes to spread the carries around.

Last week, Mike Davis carried the load for Seattle against the Rams, and posted 80 all-purpose yards on 15 touches, adding a receiving touchdown. Davis was also quite effective earlier in the year in Weeks 4 & 5. Between those two weeks, he ran for 179 yards and 3 TD in 2 games. Not to be outdone, the rookie Penny had his best game as a pro in Week 10, taking 12 rushes for 108 yards and a TD in what many thought was a breakout performance. However, his 9.0 ypc was not enough to earn him a start in Week 11, so he’ll have to battle Carson and Davis for snaps. Needless to say, Seattle has options in the backfield.

On defense, gone are the days of the Legion of Boom. With very few original members floating around, some new names have emerged in Seattle. Unfortunately, one of them, KJ Wright logged 2 DNPs to start the week and is looking to be on the wrong side of questionable for Thursday. Bobby Wagner leads the team with 65 combined tackles and is one of the last remaining pieces of the former LOB. Seattle will also lean on Barkevious Mingo and Shaquem Griffin in the LB corps.

DE Frank Clark leads the pass rush for the Seahawks and ranks 8th in the NFL with 8 sacks. Clark, along with Dion Jordan & Jarran Reed will need to keep the pressure on Aaron Rodgers if they want to keep Seattle competitive in this one. Flanked by 2 of the league’s better tackles, if Rodgers has a clean pocket, he can exploit even the best of secondaries.

Safety Bradley McDougald has had an impressive season as well. With the vacancy created by Earl Thomas, McDougald is quickly elevating to be one of the team leaders in tackles and has forced 4 turnovers in a breakout campaign. DBs Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman will need to slow down Davante Adams as well, which is no easy task.

The Pick

This game presents an interesting dynamic, as two middling defenses will face two of the past decade’s greatest QBs. Both teams are within a game or two of a playoff spot, and you can be sure that they’ll be playing with an urgency we haven’t seen yet this year. We could be in for a treat.

The game total is set at 49.5 in this one, and I like the over. Both of these teams can be hot and cold. Seattle’s home field advantage isn’t quite what it used to be in the days of the Legion of Boom, as they’re 1-2 at CenturyLink Field this year. However, one could contend that their struggles are due to the fact that their 2 losses were to the Rams and Chargers… two of the NFL’s best teams. Seattle has been impressive at times, playing within a score of the Rams this past week, and winning 4 games so far. However, not one of those wins has been over a team with a winning record. The 4 teams that Seattle did beat have a combined 10 wins and hold a 0.278 winning percentage (10-26).

The Packers played within 2 points of the Rams in LA, and then went blow for blow with an AFC powerhouse in New England, before letting up 2 late TDs and taking a loss. They’ve knocked off the upstart Bears and tied the Vikings, but have also lost to the Redskins and Lions. It’s hard to tell which team will show up in a given week.

Although the Packers haven’t won a game on the road yet this year, I think that that ends this week. I believe that this will finally be the game where Mike McCarthy lets Aaron Jones loose and gives him 20+ carries. Seattle’s run defense is in the bottom half of the league, and I expect Jones to produce when given the chance. This could be a 100+ yard, 2 TD game out of the up-and-coming stud. This will allow Green Bay to win the time of possession battle, and hang with Seattle on their home turf. In the 4th Quarter when the cards are on the table, I think that Aaron Rodgers will make the big throws and lead Green Bay to a win.

Give me the underdog Packers to win a close one, 29-26.

 

 

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