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Preview: Seattle at Green Bay

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Teams FO Ranking NFL Ranking
Packers Rushing Offense 9 21
Seattle Rushing Defense 5 12
Seattle Rushing Offense 22 20
Packers Rushing Defense 6 14
Packers Passing Offense 5 2
Seattle Passing Defense 14 19
Seattle Passing Offense 9 8
Packers Passing Defense 18 12
Packers Special Teams 8
Seattle Special Teams 11
Packers Scoring Offense 4
Packers Scoring Defense 6
Seattle Scoring Offense 9
Seattle Scoring Defense 6

FO rankings are from Football Outsiders. NFL rankings are from NFL.com.

What stands out for me is their similarities. Both offenses rely primarily on the pass while both defenses are very good against the run and can struggle against the pass. Also, both special teams units are about equal. Bad weather will hurt both teams equally since they both rely more on the passing game than the running game.

Still there remain some differences. Despite the poor overall NFL ranking, the Packers can run the football, and I'm sure Mike McCarthy will want to run the football. I'm sure Mike Holmgren wants to run the football just enough to keep the defense honest and sell the play action, but isn't relying on it. The other big difference are the injuries. QB Matt Hasselbeck is banged up with a number of injuries and although he'll play they must have some effect on him. Also, DE Patrick Kerney missed practice on Wednesday with a bad knee so he's not at 100% either. The Packers have some injuries too, but not to players as significant as Hasselbeck and Kerney.

With the home field advantage, a better running game, and players in better health, there is a lot to be excited about on Saturday. The Packers will win but don't expect RB Ryan Grant to carry them to victory by himself. This was my comment at Field Gulls:

I keep waiting for Grant to struggle and it hasn't happened yet, although he was knocked out of the last game against Detroit with an injury Mike McCarthy didn't consider serious, but you never can trust coach speak.

He's a tall, Chris Brown/Dorsey Levens/Adrian Peterson-type runner, but those guys usually have trouble with fumbles while he is only credited with one fumble on the season. Favre was credited with two fumbles on handoffs to Grant during the season, but the defense had nothing to do with them so hopefully those two guys have worked it out.

Where Grant excels is on cutbacks. He's got great vision. The Packers have used the zone blocking scheme for the last two seasons under McCarthy and Grant runs like a Denver-style running back (one cut and go) should.

Seattle's run defense reminds me of Chicago's. That's not a knock, both teams had top five run defenses according to Football Outsiders. But Grant ran for 100 yards on 14 carries against Chicago in week 16 in below zero temperatures, and his big 66 yard TD run was when he ran right, then straight past a couple defenders, before he finally cutback left to a wide open field after Chicago overpursued.

He hasn't faced a lot of great run defenses this season, but he ran for over 100 yards against Chicago and Minnesota which are ranked 4th and 2nd respectively by Football Outsiders.

Bottom line disclaimer: I don't expect Grant will make the difference on Saturday. He will play a part and Seattle's linebackers might bite hard on play action, but I expect the winner will be the team that throws the ball better and has fewer turnovers.

However not everyone agrees with me, and I've been wrong plenty this season:
I disagree.  I think Grant is the difference in the game.  He's the only individual rusher to get over 100 yards against the Vikings.  Only LT had a better second half of the season.  Every coach on every level of football knows the best way to play defense is to keep the opposing offense on the bench.  That's done by rushing the ball.  The Packer's zone blocking scheme is extreemly effective against fast, agressive defenses (which describes the Hawks to a T).  The GBP will pass to open up the run, but the running game will be the difference here.
Whatever works to bring a playoff victory.