This is the game Packers fans have been waiting for since being bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle in embarrassing fashion a season ago. Much has changed since then - key pieces are missing from both sides while new additions aim to fill the void.
These are the kind of games I like to, or at least try to, watch as purely a fan of football. Sure, I was upset when Green Bay's 2014 season came crashing down, but I didn't lose sleep over it because it was such an incredible game to watch. That is the approach I will (try to) have while watching the next chapter of this budding rivalry unfold.
So rather than focus on what Green Bay needs to do to win this game, I am looking at what areas of the game could influence the outcome on both sides.
Offensive Line Play
Green Bay and Seattle both have their own issues dealing with their offensive lines. Seattle is still trying to overcome the departure of center Max Unger, who left for New Orleans via the Jimmy Graham trade, while the Packers are in scramble mode trying to fill the void after Bryan Bulaga dropped out of Thursday's practice with a knee injury.
While a lot of buzz was created after the Graham-to-Seattle trade, the early return in the run game leaves cause for concern. Matt Chatham from Fox Sports brilliantly pointed out the new flaws in the run game, centered around Graham. Marshawn Lynch finished the Week 1 game against St. Louis with 18 carries for just 73 yards. As a team, Seattle averaged under four yards per carry in that game.
Green Bay, meanwhile, is experiencing a bit of deja vu. It was in the Seattle game in Week 1 last year that Bulaga sprained his MCL and ultimately sent Aaron Rodgers running for his life all night with Derek Sherrod protecting the right side. Head coach Mike McCarthy has officially ruled Bulaga out for this game, but has not yet named his replacement. All signs seem to point to backup tackle Don Barclay, who is coming off a knee injury of his own after tearing his ACL during the 2014 training camp. He did not look good early in the preseason, giving up a sack against New England and two to Pittsburgh.
It will be interesting to see how both defenses attack newly-found weaknesses in the opposing offense. Green Bay was completely unable to stop the run last week and missed too many tackles to count. Will a more predictable Seattle run game help the Packers limit Lynch's effectiveness?
Legion of Whom?
Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are still around to anchor one of the scariest secondaries in the NFL. This unit looks vastly different from last season, however. Gone are cornerback Byron Maxwell, now in Philadelphia, and safety Kam Chancellor, who is still holding out for more money. If you noticed during their opener in St. Louis, this played a role before the ball was even snapped.
Sherman, who has primarily lined up on the left side of the Seahawks defense throughout his career, was going against receivers in the slot. This secondary is being forced into trying schemes that were never before necessary, and came with mixed results. Rams quarterback Nick Foles was able to produce eight passing plays of 20-plus yards, and that was his first game with the team. Aaron Rodgers must be licking his chops during film study this week. I am curious to see where Sherman plays. Will he stick to his usual side of the field or line up across Randall Cobb and try to take away Green Bay's biggest receiving weapon? The Packers must be ready to adjust to either situation.
Green Bay's Rush Defense
This ties together with the first point to an extent, but the Packers will be without a key piece in their run defense for the rest of the season. The loss of Sam Barrington will have a ripple effect on the rest of Green Bay's front seven. Clay Matthews is now equipped with the audio device in his helmet for the first time in his career. This could very well be a sign that Matthews' role on the inside has grown even more.
The next man up will be Nate Palmer, who has the unenviable task of bringing down one of the game's most punishing runners in Lynch. It is hard to say at this point if the converted outside linebacker can be a playmaker within this role. This defense did allow the second-most yards on the ground of any team in Week 1 and now they get to line up across from the league's top rushing team in 2014. The task was tall enough even with Barrington, and it has now grown even more.