A spot in the NFC conference championship game is on the line this Sunday, as the Seattle Seahawks travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers. The easy storylines to focus on are Russell Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers, or how Seattle’s defense will account for the versatile Aaron Jones. In reality, it’s about how Wilson will handle the “Smith Brothers.”
According to SportsLine, the Packers are favored by just 4.5 points against the Seahawks heading into the weekend, as Vegas believes this will be the closest game of the weekend. One big reason is that Matt LaFleur is coaching his first NFL playoff game, and while his team went 13-3 in his first season as the Packers’ head coach, the offense was inconsistent for much of the year. The reason Green Bay was able to secure a first-round bye is not because of Rodgers, but because of its defense.
If you want to take it even further, the Packers earned that first-round bye because of the two pass-rushers they picked up in free agency: Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Za’Darius recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks this season — the most by any Packers players since Clay Matthews had 13.5 back in 2010. Preston, on the other hand, recorded 12 sacks, which made the “Smith Brothers” the only pair of teammates this season to record 12 sacks each.
Both spoke to the media on Friday, and while they fielded plenty of questions about how they found success in the regular season, they acknowledged that in order to earn a victory on Sunday, it’s going to be a group effort.
“We got to play together,” said Preston. “That’s what got us this far and we know where our strong points are and we know staying together no matter what happens is what’s going to win this game.”
“We have our offense(‘s) back, we go out there and play together, and show them that it’s a team sport. We got their back and they got our back,” Za’Darius added.
While they downplayed the impact they could potentially have on this NFC divisional matchup, the truth is that the Smith’s could end up being the X-factor. Seattle is dealing with several injuries along the offensive front, and Wilson was sacked a total of 48 times in the regular season, which is tied for most in the NFL. According to Next Gen Stats, Za’Darius recorded a 14.8 percent quarterback pressure rate this season, which ranks first in the NFL. Preston wasn’t far behind, as he had a 10.5 percent quarterback pressure rate — good for No. 10 in the NFL.
“If we are going to make a move, we got to make our move quick,” said Za’Darius. “Because if we miss (Wilson), man, we have watched film so many times where he just got out of sacks and got out of situations and made big plays.”
The Packers are 8-0 at Lambeau Field against the Seahawks since 2003. The last time these teams faced off in the playoffs was in Seattle back in 2015, when the Seahawks escaped with a 28-22 overtime victory. Sunday has the potential to be another postseason classic between these two teams.