Line play has been a critical factor in the Green Bay Packers’ success this season, on both sides of the football. The Packers’ offensive line has remained largely healthy and cohesive this season, with the only major injury — to left guard Lane Taylor — effectively becoming a positive by elevating rookie Elgton Jenkins into the lineup. Meanwhile, the Packers have used two-down fronts effectively this season on defense, getting pressure from Kenny Clark on the interior while the outside linebackers (primarily the Smiths) feast on the outside.
The Packers’ Divisional opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, have had a much different trend this season. The Seahawks are often winning games in spite of their line play, as the offensive line has been hit hard by injury and the defensive line has consistently struggled to stop anyone.
To wit, Football Outsiders totals a pair of statistics for line play: Adjusted Line Yards, which measures a line’s effectiveness in the running game, and Adjusted Sack Rate, which accounts for pass rush/protection. In three out of the four matchups in this game — offense/defense and run vs. pass — the Packers have a massive advantage, with more than a ten-place difference in the teams’ rankings.
Take a look:
Adjusted Sack Rate
Packers’ defense: 12th
Seahawks’ OL: 24th
Packers’ OL: 10th
Seahawks’ defense: 30th
Adjusted Line Yards
Packers’ defense: 31st
Seahawks’ OL: 21st
Packers’ OL: 6th
Seahawks’ defense: 21st
That’s a difference of at least 15 places in the rankings in both the run game and pass protection when the Packers have the football, and the Packers’ pass rush ranks a full 12 spots better than the Seahawks’ pass protection. Only the Seahawks’ rushing offense against the Packers’ run defense looks like an advantage for Seattle, and even then the Seahawks’ line has been mediocre at best — and furthermore, they will not have their preferred running backs available to create for themselves.
Another clear sign of the Packers’ superiority in pass rush and pass protection (on both sides of the ball) is looking at the teams’ pressure rates. While the Packers defense ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate, it sits fourth in the NFL in pressure rate, affecting the quarterback on 34.4% of pas attempts. The Seahawks’ offensive line ranked 30th at 36.1%.
When the Packers have the football, it’s a similar story. Green Bay’s offensive line finished 10th in pressure rate allowed at 28.4%, while Seattle’s defense was dead last in generating pressure, doing so on just 23.7% of attempts.
One concern that does not show up in these regular-season numbers is the fact that the Seahawks were able to pressure Eagles quarterbacks regularly in the Wild Card round, recording a combined seven sacks on Carson Wentz and Josh McCown. However, Philadelphia was missing two of its preferred starting linemen in Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, while the Packers look on track to be at full strength for Sunday’s game.
With the Packers’ lines healthy, rested, and ready to go against a battered Seahawks offensive line and an inconsistent (at best) Seattle defensive front, the Packers should win the battles in the trenches — and they must, if they want to advance to the NFC Championship.