during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Looking Ahead, Part IV: Early Breakdown of Packers Opponents

This is the final piece of a four-part series breaking down Green Bay’s opponents, addressing their offseason transactions, current state of the team, and what to watch when the matchup arrives.

(Part I, Part II, and Part III).

*Italicized names acquired via draft

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11th @ 3:25 p.m. CT (FOX) – Seattle Seahawks (H)

Key acquisitions: DE Chris Clemons, CB Brandon Browner, TE Brandon Williams, OT J’Marcus Webb, OT Germain Ifedi, DT Jarran ReedRB C.J. Prosise

Key departures: RB Marshawn Lynch, OT Russel Okung, LB Bruce Irvin, WR Ricardo Lockette, DT Brandon Membane, G J.R. Sweezy

Overview: They just won’t go away. And neither will that dang Pete Carroll. Here’s something crazy:

Seattle loses their unabashed star running back to early retirement only to have Thomas Rawls step in after rushing for 830 yards last season while only starting seven games. The loss of Marshawn Lynch will hurt, but not for long. Russell Wilson is coming off his best year and continues his push in his place among the elite quarterbacks. His attempts have increased every season from his rookie year while his interceptions have gone down and his passer rating has gone up. Doug Baldwin’s coming out party didn’t hurt, either. After just 15 touchdowns in his first four years, Baldwin went for 14 touchdowns last year alone. That production will be hard to duplicate but teams are on notice. Jimmy Graham hasn’t shrunk and, as long as he can stay healthy, will always be a red-zone threat. The one prevalent issue that remains is the quality of Seattle’s offensive line. Okung was their best offensive lineman and selecting Germain Ifedi will not cover that loss this year. Seattle has given up at least 42 sacks in each of the last three seasons.

The beat goes on. The run of Seattle’s stellar defense is reaching historic heights and putting themselves in the conversation of all-time best. While Bruce Irvin takes his 22 career sacks to Oakland, the core of Seattle’s defense remains: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bruce Wagner, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and so on. Losing Brandon Membane as a run-stuffing presence will be filled instantly by rookie Jarran Reed who was among the best in the draft at stopping the run. In 2015, Seattle was the only defense that had as many interceptions as they had touchdowns given up (14). In 2016, they will sit among the top three defenses by the year’s end.

What to watch: Legion of Boom vs. Aaron Rodgers. The matchups on the outside will dictate how effective Green Bay’s offense can be. Last year, Rodgers found success throwing to the marker and moving the ball downfield. Jordy Nelson’s presence brings the vertical threat that will open up space underneath for Randall Cobb and Davante Adams to work. Come this time in the season, the game may have significant playoff implications as well.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18th @ 12:00 p.m. CT (FOX) – at Chicago Bears (A)

Acquisitions, departures, and overview for Chicago can be found in Part II.

What to watch: Trap Game. With every win being harder and harder to come by this late in the year, don’t expect a Packers win to come easy. Chicago will be a better team than people think, even if their record doesn’t end up showing it at the season’s end. Going to Chicago in December is not ideal and Green Bay’s long-time rival will gladly ruin any plans the Packers may have going forward.

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24th @ 12:00 p.m. CT (FOX) – Minnesota Vikings

Acquisitions, departures, and overview for Minnesota can be found in Part I.

What to watch: As scary as it is to say, this could be for the division. Minnesota’s division title was not a fluke last season. Although a repeat of the title will not come easy, they absolutely have the youth on their roster to challenge for the NFC North’s best for years to come. Teddy Bridgewater’s role at this point in the season will be the most intriguing. Is he finally expected to carry a much heavier burden of the team? Or will the ride-or-die with Peterson gameplan still be in tact?

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1st @ 12:00 p.m. CT (FOX) – at Detroit Lions

Acquisitions, departures, and overview for Detroit can be found in Part I.

What to watch: Look for the drama. Detroit will not be in a position to do much of anything in the final week but, just like Chicago, they can play spoilers to postseason plans. Week 17 always brings playoff seedings into play and Green Bay should be heavily involved in the race. All one can hope for is the Packers seeding already being set in stone come this time so there is no fear of what if, but that’s what makes sports so great. Not to mention Green Bay needs to enter the playoffs healthy. Attrition throughout the season ails every team, so ensuring a healthy end to the season puts Mike McCarthy’s team in a great position to back to Super Bowl glory.

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