Matchup: Packers @ SeahawksMonday, September 24, 2012
Monday Night Football
Green Bay @ Seattle
Cedric Benson added a new dimension to Green Bay's offense in Week 2, rushing 20 times for a steady 81 yards and chipping in a 4/35 passing-game stat line against the Bears. Even at age 29 after over 1,500 career carries, Benson has maintained quick feet and plenty of power. Can he keep it up against the NFL's premier run defenses? Seattle has suffocated the Dallas and Arizona tailback corps to the tune of 72 yards on 30 rushing attempts, amounting to an average yards-per-carry of 2.40. The Seahawks enter this game with the top-ranked run defense in the entire league. The Packers have an ability to keep defenses in run-friendly nickel packages with four-wideout sets, but this is an awfully difficult matchup on paper. Benson is a flex option. ... Just 19th in fantasy quarterback scoring after the first two games, Aaron Rodgers is off to a painfully slow start, particularly for the first-round quarterback crowd. He's still a lock to get back on track. The Seahawks play strong pass defense, but often force offenses to pour on pass attempts due to their inability to run against Seattle's front. Rodgers probably isn't in for a monster Monday night fantasy game, but has elite talent and weaponry complemented by sheer passing volume. Start 'em.
Greg Jennings (groin) practiced fully Saturday and Sunday, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this morning that he is expected to play on Monday night. Although big, physical Seahawks CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner can put brakes on outside receivers, Jennings is seeing more action inside than ever before. Mike Clay tells us that Jennings played 49-of-57 (86 percent) snaps in the slot in Week 1. Jennings is a dicey fantasy bet at presumably less than 100 percent, but he won't necessarily be squaring off with Sherman and Browner. A matchup with aging Marcus Trufant would be far more favorable. ... Here are Packers pass catchers' Week 2 snap and target tallies: Jordy Nelson 66/9, Jermichael Finley 55/6, James Jones 54/5, Randall Cobb 20/2. ... Cobb's two targets and low snap total were disappointing, although he missed some time with an early stinger and late-game hamstring injury. Keep Cobb reserved as a WR4 until we see sustained production. ... Jones laid an absolute egg against the Bears despite a healthy dose of involvement. He's a maddening fantasy player to try to predict. Browner and Sherman lock down the perimeter with physical press coverage, and Jones has never been great at getting off the jam. I'd write Jones off as a Week 3 fantasy option. ... Impatient fantasy owners get distressed when their guys aren't scoring touchdowns and Nelson has yet to find pay dirt. Start Nelson if you own him on Monday night, and trade for him if he experiences another scoreless game. ... Finley already has three drops and his agent publicly questioned Rodgers' leadership skills in the media this week. Finley is a talented headcase, apparently surrounded by more headcases. He's a wholly boom-or-bust TE1.
I like Seattle in the upset. In addition to the obvious 12th-man homefield advantage, the Seahawks are as capable as any team of exploiting a soft front seven with power-zone running. Marshawn Lynch dominated a strong Dallas defense for 122 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Week 2, and has at least 85 rushing yards in ten of his past 11 games. Dating back to last season, Lynch has over 100 rushing yards in six consecutive home games, over that span toting the rock 148 times for 712 yards (4.81 YPC) with seven all-purpose TDs. Green Bay is serving up over five yards a carry on the ground. Run defense has been the Packers' team weakness through two weeks and extending back into last season. Look for some Beast Mode runs out of Lynch on Monday night.
Away from Rodgers' side of the ball, the Packers' strength has been pass defense. They have used CB Tramon Williams to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers, and he executed with a two-catch, 24-yard shutdown of Brandon Marshall two Thursday nights ago. The Packers can also get after the passer. Green Bay has already racked up 11 sacks, six via early-season Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner Clay Matthews. While Russell Wilson showed improvement from his first game to his second, the Seahawks' run-first philosophy and usage of Wilson as largely a game manager has thus far prevented him from experiencing much fantasy success. That could change as Wilson gets more comfortable, but it's more reasonable to expect a big Monday night for Seattle's running game, and a conservative day through the air. Keep Sidney Rice and Golden Tate on the bench.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 21