One game won’t decide a season, but — if the Seahawks and Packers are really the two best teams in the NFC, as Vegas thinks — home-field advantage might already be on the line when they open the season Sunday.
And that means the Seahawks are going to need to buck some bad history at Lambeau Field.
The Seahawks have lost seven straight games in Green Bay, by an average of 18.9 points. That includes last December, when Russell Wilson threw five interceptions in a 38-10 blowout that was the Hawks’ worst loss since 2011.
As we have chronicled previously, the Seahawks and Packers have been one of the best non-division rivalries in the NFL for the past two decades. This will be the sixth meeting in six years and the 14th since 1999 (the Hawks are 4-1 at home, 1-7 at Lambeau).
On top of that, they still have a thriving pipeline — Eddie Lacy the latest to go from one team to the other. He’ll face his former Packers teammates Sunday.
There is a lot of optimism that the Hawks might finally end that Lambeau losing streak.
For one, the Legion of Boom is whole this time — no holdout from Kam Chancellor (who recently got a new deal) and no injury to Earl Thomas (who is back from a broken leg).
“It certainly makes a difference,” DC Kris Richard said. “We want to be whole, we want to be at our best, we want to have all of our best guys out there competing against one of the best who’s ever done it (Aaron Rodgers). The past couple of times, we haven’t been whole, but this time we should be.”
In Seattle’s past two losses in Green Bay, without Chancellor in 2015 and Thomas in 2016, Rodgers has completed 77 percent of his passes, with five TDs and no picks. Part of the reason has been his ability to get the ball out quickly, to dink and dunk the Hawks like many teams with good quarterbacks do. But the Hawks, when healthy (and at home), have held him to 64 percent, two TDs and three interceptions.
“Yeah, we need to be healthy, you know,” Pete Carroll said. “Everything lines up well, but we all know we are going to need it all to play against a fine club.”
It will help that the Hawks have added a major piece to their defense — Sheldon Richardson. The Hawks did not blitz much in the 38-10 loss last December, and they got almost no pressure. With Richardson joining Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, the Hawks could hassle Rodgers with a four-man rush.
Then it really comes down to Russell Wilson not turning the ball over. Unlike December, he is completely healthy for this opener and has looked good this summer.
“The key is just communicating, communicating in a tough environment,” Wilson said. “We will be able to do that. We have played on the road many times in a lot of tough places. This is one of the tougher places to play, but we are looking forward to that and we are playing with no fear.”
The last time the Seahawks opened against the Packers, in Seattle in 2014, the Hawks won 36-16 and started a run to their second straight Super Bowl (which they reached with a historic comeback against the Packers in the NFC title game).
For the Hawks to repeat that this season, they probably will have to end that seven-game Lambeau slide Sunday.