SEA­HAWKS VS. PACK­ERS

SUN­DAY, 4:25 P.M. ET, LAMBEAU FIELD, GREEN BAY, WIS. uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 715

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Thomas Richard Sher­man, Ge­orge Fant sell Wil­son About the Pack­ers: Rodgers Earl Shel­don Richard­son Martel­lus Ben­nett, Michael Ben­nett, Rus- Geron­imo Al­li­son, Ah­mad Brooks. Player to watch: Seat­tle RB Ed­die Lacy. Thomas Rawls se. Num­ber crunch­ing: 28. R

An­nounc­ers: Joe Buck, Troy Aik­man, Erin An­drews

About the Sea­hawks: Seat­tle has gone into its reg­u­lar-sea­son opener en­ter­tain­ing le­git­i­mate Su­per Bowl thoughts in each of the last four sea­sons, and this year is no dif­fer­ent. Hav­ing en­dured an off­sea­son that in­cluded the re­tire­ment thoughts of Pro Bowl S and trade ru­mors in­volv­ing CB

the Sea­hawks come back with their de­fense al­most en­tirely in­tact. They added all-pro DT late last week, so there shouldn’t be many ques­tion marks on that side of the ball. As usual, the big ques­tion on of­fense will be up front. The of­fen­sive line was pretty shaky, and then im­prov­ing LT went down with a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury. At least QB

is healthy, which wasn’t the case for most of last sea­son.

As long as QB is healthy, the Pack­ers will be le­git­i­mate con­tenders. The only de­fense that has been able to keep him out of the Su­per Bowl is … well, Green Bay’s. Un­til the Pack­ers can shore up that side of the ball, Rodgers might keep fall­ing short of the ul­ti­mate goal, and Sun­day should give a pretty good in­di­ca­tion of how good this year’s Pack­ers are — they’re fac­ing one of the NFC’s best right out of the gate. Adding TE brother of Sea­hawks DE gives Rodgers an­other of­fen­sive weapon. Green Bay will be with­out WR who came on late last sea­son but is sus­pended for the opener. The Pack­ers made a few moves to ad­dress their de­fen­sive is­sues and could get a boost from former 49ers LB

Rodgers has found a way to avoid Seat­tle’s best cover man in each of the last two meet­ings, so the Sea­hawks are likely to try to find a way to match Sher­man against Nel­son.

The former Packer didn’t have to wait long for a shot at his former team. In­juries in the Sea­hawks’ back­field pushed Lacy into heavy pre-

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

sea­son ac­tion, and he’ll be part of a three-man ro­ta­tion with and

Mar­gin of vic­tory for the Pack­ers the last time th­ese teams met. Green Bay’s 38-10 win in De­cem­ber marked the Sea­hawks’ worst loss since first sea­son in Seat­tle (2010). Wil­son, who had never pre­vi­ously lost a game by more than 10 points, threw a ca­reer-high five in­ter­cep­tions in that game.

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. An­other new left tackle: Oft-ma­ligned Fant was mak­ing a lot of progress from his for­get­table de­but sea­son, and now it’s up to to pro­tect Wil­son.

Rodgers has made it no se­cret that he avoids throw­ing in Sher­man’s di­rec­tion when he faces Seat­tle. That means rookie Grif­fin and veteran nickel back Lane should be big­ger fac­tors in this one.

3. The other re­ceivers: With Rodgers ac­knowl­edg­ing that he does his best to throw the ball away from Sher­man, Seat­tle’s other cor­ner­back po­si­tion might be even more sus­cep­ti­ble than in pre­vi­ous sea­sons, so which­ever re­ceivers aren’t lined up across from Sher­man — par­tic­u­larly and

— will have to make the most of their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

4. Stay­ing two-di­men­sional: Hav­ing turned the page on the Lacy era, Green Bay needs to mix in enough to keep Seat­tle’s Le­gion of Boom on its toes.

Scott John­son

JEFF HANISCH, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Aaron Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers ex­er­cises cau­tion vs. the Sea­hawks.

Matchup to watch: Sea­hawks CB Sher­man vs. Pack­ers WR Jordy Nel­son.

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