Last week’s Thursday Night Football game featured two teams with winning records, but it turned out to be a blowout as the Pittsburgh Steelers walked all over the Carolina Panthers.
This week, the 4-5 Seattle Seahawks take on the 4-4-1 Green Bay Packers and we’re going into this game without many expectations. That’s because Thursday night games we’ve expected to be great haven’t lived up to that hype, while games we expected to put us to sleep have been pretty exciting. When it comes to Thursday Night Football this season, it’s best to go in with no expectations.
The Seahawks, who play at home tonight, are 7-1 on Thursday Night Football under Pete Carroll. Seven of the nine Thursday night games so far this season have been won by the home team with the road team winning only in games against teams that currently have two wins (the Eagles beat the Giants in New York and the Broncos beat the Raiders in Oakland). If you go into tonight with any expectation, it should be that the home team — the Seahawks — will win.
Here are five things we’ll be watching for when the Seahawks and Packers meet on Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET).
1. Russell Wilson has been on fire while Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been Aaron Rodgers
In the three games since the Seahawks’ bye week, Wilson has thrown eight touchdowns, one interception, has a 71.5 completion percentage, and a 123.5 passer rating. Wilson is heating up, and it comes at a good time as the Seahawks have a tough road ahead to make it to the playoffs. In his past six Thursday games, Wilson is 6-0 with 12 passing touchdowns and only three interceptions for 111.9 rating. Wilson needs one more win to tie Dave Krieg as the Seahawks’ winningest quarterback in the regular season with 70. Will it come tonight?
We typically think of Aaron Rodgers as an annual top three quarterback. But Rodgers hasn’t been as special as usual this season. His 61.1 completion percentage ranks 13th in the league, he ranks 11th in touchdown passes with 17, and his passer rating of 100.0 ranks 14th. Those don’t sound like Aaron Rodgers-type numbers. He does only have one interception, which is tied with Drew Brees for the best in the NFL among starting quarterbacks. How will Rodgers look tonight, on the road, after a short week of preparation? In a tough NFC North, the Packers can’t afford to lose many more games if they want to make it to the postseason. We never count Rodgers out, but this year may be different.
2. Legion of Whom?
The Legion of Boom has been depleted in Seattle. Gone are Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Kam Chancellor. Meanwhile Earl Thomas is on Injured/Reserve after a contentious offseason. So what is the Seahawks defense without those players?
In summary: just better than average. They rank 12th in yards per game, ninth in points per game, seventh in interceptions (though three of their 10 came from Thomas before his injury), 15th in forced fumbles, and 18th in sacks. Their +8 turnover differential is tied with the Rams for the fourth best in the league.
Eight of the Seahawks’ 23 sacks have come from Frank Clark. The defensive end has five sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in his past four games and is aiming for his third game in row at home with a tackle for loss.
3. Jimmy Graham faces his former team
The Packers don’t often make a splash in free agency, but they did when signing Jimmy Graham to be Rodgers’ new top tight end. Graham spent the prior three seasons with the Seahawks as one of Wilson’s favorite targets and was named to the Pro Bowl twice during that time.
Graham has five touchdown receptions in his last four road games against NFC West teams and ranks second in receiving touchdowns against NFC West teams since 2010, falling behind only Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has 19 receiving touchdowns in 51 games against the division.
Graham is off to a solid start this season with 33 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll be looking to add onto that against his former team tonight.
4. The Griffin brothers
As we keep an eye on the Seahawks’ revamped defense, that includes brothers Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin. Shaquill has 32 total tackles, five passes defensed, and two interceptions this season as a starting cornerback for the team. Shaquem is the one-handed rookie linebacker who was the talk of the 2018 NFL combine. He doesn’t play much, in fact his Gillette commercial gets more run than he does on-the-field. But he’s an inspiring player and has a phenomenal story, so we’re always looking to see what he does next.
Shaquill’s two interceptions both came in Week 2 in a primetime game against the Bears. He’s thrived in the spotlight before and this should be a big-time game for two teams looking to make a push toward the playoffs.
5. Both teams’ fanbases expect to win
Seahawks fans are far more confident in both the direction of their season and tonight’s outcome, though both teams’ fanbases do expect to win today, according to fans surveyed as part of SB Nation’s FanPulse polling. 69 percent of Seahawks fans are confident in the direction of the team heading into Week 11 while only 34 percent of Packers fans feel the same way about their squad.
Acme Packing Company FanPulse: Packers by 1
Field Gulls FanPulse: Seahawks by 4
Odds: Seahawks -3