Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from Green Bay, on what locals are calling a balmy Sunday in this chilly little corner of Wisconsin. It’s still looking a lot like Christmas here – especially in Appleton, where the team spent Saturday night. Last night, it was snowing, the Christmas decorations were strung across College Avenue with care and the church bells were ringing. All that was missing was George Bailey running up the middle of the street saying hello to the buildings.

But now, on to the task at hand: Today’s game between the Packers and Seahawks. One team is 9-5 and very much in the NFC playoff picture. The other? Well, make it 5-9 and looking to play the role of spoiler.

But the discrepancy between the Pack and the Seahawks is much greater than their records.

The Packers lead the NFL with a plus-18 takeaway/giveaway ratio, while the Seahawks are minus-5. The Packers have the No. 2-ranked defense in the league, while the Seahawks are No. 24. The Packers have the No. 6-ranked offense in the league, while the Seahawks are No. 22. The Seahawks have had problems getting off the field on third downs – defensively, that is – while Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the league’s top-rated passer on the critical down (134.4, with 14 of his 28 TD passes and no interceptions). The Seahawks are 1-6 on the road this season (and that win came against the Rams in St. Louis), while the Packers are 5-2 at home.

It is against the backdrop of this statistical disparity that the Seahawks will try to pull the upset.

For that to happen, here are few keys:

Get the ball to John Carlson. The Seahawks’ tight end has reemerged as a receiver after a protection problem-induced stint as a blocker. His seven catches for 86 yards last week matched his reception total and exceeded his yardage from the previous five games combined. It’s timely, because the Packers allowed Steelers tight end Heath Miller to catch seven passes for 118 yards last week.

Don’t beat themselves. The Seahawks turned the ball over five times in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers and their 12 lost fumbles are tied for seventh most in the league. The Packers’ 23 interception are tied for third in the league, led by eight from cornerback Charles Woodson.

Get off the field on third downs. The Packers are converting 46.6 percent on third downs, which ranks third in the league. The Seahawks allowed the Bucs to convert 44 percent last week.

The Seahawks did make an expected roster move on Saturday. With Nate Burleson (ankle) out and Ben Obomanu (hamstring) not expected to play, wide receiver Mike Hass was signed off the practice squad. To clear a roster spot, defensive end Derek Walker was released.

We’ll be back later with the inactives.

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