GREEN BAY—Rivalries are about big games, and the Packers and Seahawks are about to play another big game that, depending on what happens on Sunday, could make this one of the hot rivalries in professional football.
Geography is a natural for building rivalries; the NFC North is evidence of that. National rivalries, however, are built on national exposure, upsets, down-to-the-wire finishes and controversy.
This budding rivalry was kicked off in 2012 when the Packers were so dramatically robbed of a win in Seattle that it ended an NFL officials lockout. This season began with a kickoff opener that didn't deliver much in the way of excitement, but is providing a template for this game. What will this Sunday's game provide in the way of clarity?
The ingredients for drama are all there. Aaron Rodgers will limp into the national spotlight. The Seahawks' No. 1 defense will wear the black hat. It's a classic good guys vs. bad guys confrontation, and should Sunday's NFC title game give us the kind of drama the "Fail Mary" game in 2012 did, Packers-Seahawks will become the NFL's hot new rivalry.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Seahawks.
1. Run the ball – Nothing deflates a proud, physical defense faster or more completely than having the ball run on it. The Packers' running game is greatly underrated.
2. Bang with the "Boom" – You can't beat them if you don't hit them.
3. Stop the run – The Seahawks have the league's No. 1 rush offense. Everything they do on offense begins with the running game.
4. Contain Russell Wilson – He's not nearly as threatening in the pocket as he is outside the pocket.
5. Protect Aaron Rodgers – His injured left leg will invite the "kitchen sink," and the Packers offensive line is charged with giving Rodgers the time he needs to throw and the security to avoid further damage to that calf injury.
6. Sack the quarterback – The Seahawks are No. 24 in sacks allowed per pass play. Maybe that's why Wilson likes leaving the pocket.
7. Win the one-on-ones – Packers receivers will be challenged in press coverage by the best secondary in the game. This matchup could decide the outcome.
8. Ignore the noise – You've been practicing in it and playing in it every day since OTAs began last spring.
9. Feel your destiny – This Packers team, behind a quarterback whose courage is leading the way, has a team-of-destiny feel to it. Feel it, play to it.
10. R-E-L-A-X – It's what works for this team when its back is to the wall.