This article is part of our Game Spotlight series.
Seattle (4-5) vs. Green Bay (4-4-1)
Open: 49.5 O/U, SEA -2.5
Live: 49 O/U, SEA -3
A recently bitter rivalry like this would probably bring a heated result regardless of either team's record, but it could be especially scrappy with both teams on the verge of playoff elimination. I don't expect either team to out-hustle the other, so I don't know if the heightened stakes mean much other than perhaps raising the odds of a down-to-the-wire scenario. In any setting where the game comes down to the final few drives, you'd probably err on the side of Aaron Rodgers, but playing against Russell Wilson, and especially Russell Wilson in Seattle, is one of the few cases where you'd stop and reconsider.
Injuries on both teams but especially Green Bay's side add some intrigue to the formula. With corner Kevin King and safety Kentrell Brice out, the Packers' corner and safety rotation will be a new one Thursday. Meanwhile, Seattle will be without linebacker K.J. Wright, whose absence could strain further a run defense with questionable numbers on the year.
That run defense facing off against Aaron Jones may be the most anticipated collision of this game, as the firecracker back continues to only pick up steam as coach Mike McCarthy reluctantly unchains Green Bay's best running back since Ahman Green. After running for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against Miami, Jones' 154 career carries have amounted to 942 yards (6.1 YPC) and eight touchdowns. The Seahawks have struggled a bit against the run, conceding 4.6 yards per carry to running backs in addition to 6.8 YPT at a 69.4 percent completion rate. Wright's absence can't help that any. Because the Seattle offense sits on the ball it's unlikely the script would get away from Jones because of Green Bay falling behind, so I think Jones has a high floor and ceiling both. He'll be in my single-game slate lineups.
For Aaron Rodgers the task will be tough as he heads to Seattle on a short week for what should be a noisy game. The Seahawks are conceding the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, allowing 2,196 yards (7.3 YPA, 65.6 percent completed) and 14 touchdowns while intercepting 10 passes. Because their offense specifically looks to destroy the clock, volume is a compounding concern with the general competence of the Seattle pass defense. Philip Rivers and Jared Goff both posted good numbers against the Seahawks, for instance, yet in the home games in question the Seahawks combined to allow 58 passes to the quarterbacks. With Green Bay's run defense looking beatable, the odds of Seattle dictating the tempo to this sort of end seem pretty good.
It's not a concern for Rodgers exactly, but it must be noted that Randall Cobb (hamstring) is out in addition to Geronimo Allison (groin), leaving not only Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the starting lineup with Davante Adams, but Equanimeous St. Brown in a likely 55-to-60 percent snap role as the third wideout. J'Mon Moore saw five snaps against Miami but I think it's an exceedingly difficult sell to pitch him even in tournaments. His role is unclear and he's probably not good anyway. Jimmy Graham has the revenge game narrative going, and he was removed from the injury report after previously missing practice time with his knee issue. Graham's disappointing season is difficult to explain, because he's been fine on a per-target basis (8.0 YPT, 60 percent catch rate with a 8.6 average depth of target) and has played in every game, yet 439 yards and two touchdowns is a huge letdown. I'm inclined to think he'll finish the season stronger, provided his health, and part of the disappointment to this point is driven by the fact that Rodgers hasn't been especially productive. Rodgers is on pace for just 30 touchdown passes, which would be his lowest 16-game total since 2009. I think Rodgers picks up the pace in the final seven games, therefore I think Graham does too. The Seahawks have in any case allowed the fewest tight end targets among any defense, limiting opposing tight ends to 32 receptions for 324 yards and three touchdowns on 45 targets (71.1 percent completed, 7.2 YPT). Lance Kendricks is still a justifiable tournament punt after playing more than 60 percent of Green Bay's snaps last week.
The passing game on the other side holds a significant amount of interest, and a potential blowup scenario if Rodgers and the Packers offense can strike early and dictate a faster tempo from that point. If Seattle has the lead they're going straight to the Bourbon Bowl strategy, so unless you're picking both defenses we probably don't want that to happen. Russell Wilson continues to amaze despite his coaches doing everything in their power to destroy the offense. But in this game of two low-tempo offenses he faces a defense that's stronger against the pass than the run, allowing a completion percentage of 61.6 and YPA of 7.5 with 14 touchdowns to six interceptions. The Packers also boast 31 sacks in nine games, tied for first in the league. It seems unsustainable – Kenny Clark and Kyler Fackrell are the team leaders with five each, and edge rusher Nick Perry (knee) is out – but if Wilson goes deep he might need to do it on the run.
It's unclear how the Packers will handle their cornerback rotation with Kevin King (hamstring) out and Kentrell Brice (ankle) out at safety, but the receivers we want to target are probably the ones on Bashaud Breeland or/and Josh Jackson. Jaire Alexander is the good corner for Green Bay – utterly dominant even as a rookie – so he's the one we want to avoid. The problem is it's not obvious where he'll line up in three-receiver sets. Alexander was mostly playing outside last week with Breeland in the slot. That's a counter-intuitive setup since Alexander is short and quick while Breeland is unathletic. Alexander has a history of playing in the slot, in any case, so it wouldn't be surprising if Green Bay moved him back there to counter Doug Baldwin in this matchup. If Baldwin is on Breeland it's a major green light for Baldwin. If Baldwin is on Alexander I'll probably wish I had faded him. No matter whether it's Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, or David Moore who's running against Alexander, whoever is against Breeland and Jackson will be in position to burn. Both corners are slow, and both Lockett (4.40 40) and Moore (4.43 40) can light them up if they get targets. I therefore feel the need to get shares of all three Seattle receivers over multiple lineups. If I have just one bullet, I guess I'm leaning Baldwin because he's the best player of the three. Nick Vannett and Ed Dickson are rotating at tight end for Seattle, with Vannett hovering in a 55-to-60 percent snap workload while Dickson appears locked in at about 30. Either player could catch a short-range touchdown, but neither is likely to do more than that even in their upside scenario. The Packers have notably yet to allow a touchdown to tight ends this year, however.
The Seattle run game should have at least one valuable piece in this game, and because he's the starter you'd have to consider Chris Carson the heavy favorite to seize that distinction as he makes his return from a hip issue. The Packers have allowed 4.6 yards per carry and 6.7 yards per target to opposing running backs, and standout linebacker Blake Martinez is questionable with an ankle issue. The Seattle offensive line has run blocked well this year, and their chances to do the same in this setting seem good. The other two Seattle runners of interest are rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny and veteran journeyman Mike Davis. It's impossible to know for sure, because offensive coordinator scion Brian Schottenheimer tried to tap the brakes on any ideas of a Penny promotion this week, but you would have to think it's Davis who's the odd man out for the most part. He runs hard and is an adept pass catcher, but Davis just can't create big plays like Penny, who lit up the Rams for 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Penny's big-play ability and talent generally are far better than Carson or Davis, who are propped up by their line yet benefit from the institutional inertia of Schottenheimer's shortsightedness. If Davis has an active game, Penny almost certainly cannot and vice versa, while a cancel-out between the two is totally plausible also. We could see something where Carson plays 30 snaps and each of Penny and Davis play 15.
With its best and most expensive players (Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson) playing in sub-optimal conditions, it wouldn't surprise if one or both kickers in this game did something useful on single-game slates. Neither team has surrendered a whole lot to opposing kickers, but at least they've both allowed double-digit field goal attempts. I guess you would just lean toward the kicker for the team you consider the favorite, since the other might find itself more likely to need to go for it on a fourth down.
I think my tournament strategy in single-game slates, at least in DraftKings' salary cap game, will be to prioritize the running games and pass catchers over the quarterbacks. I think I'll fade Rodgers especially, not because I'm thrilled by the idea of betting against him, but because I think it's more affordable to just target his pass catchers, and Wilson is both cheaper and the one more likely to provide a bunch of points on the ground. Adams almost categorically produces whenever Rodgers does, so I'll emphasize Adams while trying to sprinkle in Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham shares. Cobb's absence opens up St. Brown as an extremely affordable source of snaps and indeed, that lone development played a substantial role in my decision to fade Rodgers. If I can get Adams and St. Brown for $14,200, I probably prefer that to Rodgers at $12,800. Baldwin, Lockett, and Moore are talents with stackable prices, but I just don't have the faith in the Seattle offense to provide sufficient volume for more than one or two of them to produce, so I will probably only have one of the three in any given lineup. I will probably have Jones and Carson in every lineup otherwise.