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Seahawks-Packers: NFC Divisional Round preview

Viewers can watch the broadcast live on FOX at 6:40 p.m. ET, Jan. 12 as well as stream live on the NFL App and Yahoo Sports app.

The Backstory

Days removed from Mike McCarthy being announced as the new coach of the Dallas Cowboys, a new dawn in Green Bay Packers playoff football will begin upon what's forecast to be a frigid Lambeau Field.

Following a two-season absence, the Packers are back in the postseason with Aaron Rodgers still under center, but rookie head coach Matt LaFleur at the helm.

Rodgers and the second-seeded Packers will welcome Russell Wilson and the fifth-seeded Seahawks on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. ET. in the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field with a ticket to the NFC Championship on the line.

As new blood flows through the postseason QB ranks, Rodgers and Wilson will meet as the only two quarterbacks in the field to have won a Super Bowl -- and the only two to have reached one. For just the 24th time, opposing quarterbacks will meet in a playoff game in which they both previously won a Super Bowl.

Head to head, Wilson has bested Rodgers, 4-3 -- but all four of those wins came at home and Wilson's never won in Green Bay.

Fresh off a wild-card win against the Eagles, the Seahawks, the second-place squad in the NFC West, are looking to take down the NFC North champs, who are looking for their first postseason win since a conference title loss in 2016 brought to an end a run of eight straight playoff seasons.

At 13-3, the Pack clinched the No. 2 seed after the Seahawks (11-5) lost to the top-seeded 49ers (13-3) and though Green Bay owns the second seed, close wins over non-playoff teams like the Lions, Bears, Redskins and Panthers have some still doubting the team's legitimacy as a Lombardi contender.

At one time not all that long ago, these were two NFC heavyweights. Now they're looking to take another step forward in re-establishing themselves as such, as the Seahawks and Packers aim to emerge from the cold with another week to play.

Under Pressure

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: Less than a week after Mike McCarthy was introduced by a glowing Jerry Jones as the Dallas Cowboys' newest coach, Rodgers will take the field in his playoff game without McCarthy on the sidelines. This isn't Rodgers' best season by any stretch of the imagination, but this is still very much Rodgers' team -- perhaps more than ever. If the game is in the balance, fans and pundits alike will expect Rodgers to do Rodgers things. Green Bay has shown a variety of ways to win thanks to an improved defense, a breakout season from running back Aaron Jones and a few vintage Rodgers performances mixed in (see victories versus Raiders, Chiefs, Giants). A common narrative over the last few seasons has been that for all of Rodgers' generational greatness, said greatness was being wasted on campaigns concluding far too short of postseason success. The well-rested Packers are the No. 2 seed. They've got an improved defense and running game along with a new coach. This is a big one for the future Hall of Famer.

Linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks defense: In a time not that long ago, the Seahawks were routinely Super Bowl contenders thanks in large part due to a dominant defense. Though big names and individual talent still remains, Seattle's defense ended the season ranked 26th overall. Having improved down the stretch, the tackle machine that is Wagner and the 'Hawks contingent is going to have to step its game up in the cold confines of Lambeau. Russell Wilson is the face of the franchise now and the uber-talented MVP candidate will be playing behind a banged-up offensive line and handing off to recently retired running backs. He'll need some help from the other side of the ball. The Packers' offense has often underwhelmed this campaign and the Seattle defense might well need to elongate that trend for an upset to happen. Wagner, whose 132 postseason tackles are the most in the NFL since 2012 per NFL Research, led the league with 159 tackles this regular season. Though they've struggled to sack the quarterback, the Seahawks are third in takeaways with 16 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries. They'll need to make something happen Sunday and corral NFL scoring leader Aaron Jones (19 scrimmage touchdowns) if an NFC Championship berth is to be had.

Matchup to Watch

Packers pass rush vs. Russell Wilson and Seahawks offensive line: It's arduous to imagine the Seahawks getting past the Packers without a solid showing from QB Russell Wilson. However, Wilson is faced with a daunting Packers pass rush -- led by Za'Darius and Preston Smith and Kenny Clark -- and will be playing behind a hobbled offensive line and balanced by a make-shift rushing game. Per Next Gen Stats, the Packers' pressure rate was 33..0 percent -- the best in the NFL. Not surprisingly, Za'Darius Smith's 14.8 pressure rate was also first and Preston Smith's 11.7 was 10th. Wilson has struggled at times under pressure as his 4.8 yards per attempt under pressure in the regular season was fourth-lowest in the NFL. However, he completed 5 of 11 passes for 137 yards in last week's win over the Eagles -- an average of 12.5 yards an attempt. The Smiths combined for 25.5 sacks (third in the NFL among any teammate duo) and 60 quarterback hits (first). Clark (six sacks) has added pressure up the middle and given quarterbacks rarely anywhere to turn. Will the Packers get to Wilson or will Wilson get to the Packers? It might be that simple.


As the prevailing thought that the Packers stumbled into the second seed carries into this matchup, the flip side of that is that things have been going Green Bay's way. With great fortune more often than not comes some great bounces. Things fell into place for the Packers' seeding just as Green Bay emerged 8-1 in games decided by one score -- against opponents good and bad, alike. Rodgers can still be Rodgers and he has Davante Adams, quite possibly the most underrated receiver in the game. Jones has emerged as a touchdown machine whose production equals Packers wins (Green Bay is 5-0 when he rushes for 100 or more yards this season). And the Packers defense is better than it's been outstanding at times. The Seahawks have injury issues aplenty, depth concerns in some areas and are facing an uphill battle. With the ball in Wilson's hands, everything wonderful is possible for this team, but too much is going the Packers' way.

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