NFL

Seahawks-Packers: Collins among keys to game as Wilson & Rodgers return

By Sports Desk November 14, 2021

Week 9 saw the NFL world robbed of an extremely compelling quarterback matchup, Aaron Rodgers left to watch from home as the Green Bay Packers fell to defeat against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

However, Rodgers is set to return from his controversial coronavirus-enforced hiatus on Sunday at Lambeau Field, where he will face another likely future Hall of Fame quarterback set to return to the field.

Russell Wilson lived up to praise from head coach Pete Carroll, who described him as "one of the great healers of all time" after a finger injury suffered in the Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, surpassing expectations by recovering in time to lead the Seattle Seahawks against Green Bay as they bid to salvage their season.

The Seahawks are not dead at 3-5. Seattle enter the week just a game out of the final Wild Card berth; however, Wilson and Co. have little room for error ahead of a road game with a member of the NFC's elite.

It is a contest that may be decided by which quarterback can shake off the rust faster. Wilson has been on the sideline longer, but Rodgers will enter the game having missed two weeks of practice amid the fallout from his positive test and his comments around his vaccination status.

What other factors will play a role in determining the outcome of an enticing quarterback battle? Stats Perform digs into the numbers to answer that question.

Can Collins gash Packers on ground?

The Packers defense has quietly been one of the best in the NFL when it comes to limiting efficient production from their opponents.

Indeed, Green Bay rank fifth in opponent yards per play allowed, giving up just 5.27.

However, the Packers have proven susceptible to the run, with only six teams allowing more yards per rush than Green Bay's 4.55.

With Chris Carson still unavailable for the Seahawks, the onus will be on Alex Collins to take advantage of the Packers' apparent vulnerability on rush defense.

Collins has proven adept at making the most of his carries even on plays where the defense gets into the backfield. He is putting up 3.00 yards per carry on attempts where there is a run disruption, above the league average of 2.80.

His ability to excel in that regard could be key in getting the Packers' defense out of looks that have proven successful against Wilson.

Two-high looks could spell trouble for Wilson

In last week's loss to the Chiefs, the Packers played a significant amount of two-deep safety coverages to deal with the threat of Mahomes and a usually explosive pass game that has stuttered this season.

It worked as the Chiefs were held to just 13 points, and the numbers suggest Green Bay will lean on two-high looks again to try to slow down Wilson on his return.

When faced with Cover 2 this season, Wilson has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball 80.0 per cent of the time; the league average is 83.4.

He has fared even worse against Cover 4 or 'Quarters', posting a well-thrown percentage of 72.4 (79.6 per cent is the average), and that number dips further to 62.5 per cent versus cover 6 (average 77.3 per cent).

Against Tampa 2, which is a variant of Cover 2 with a linebacker dropping into the deep middle at the snap, Wilson's well-thrown percentage is 75.0, again below the average of 82.7.

Wilson has already outperformed expectations by returning this quickly from injury and has made a career out of making the improbable possible. Yet, if Collins cannot succeed on the ground and force the Packers to bring a safety down into the box to stop the run, it could be a difficult day for Wilson facing coverages against which he has not excelled.

Seahawks must capitalise on Bakhtiari blow

The Packers had hoped to have David Bakhtiari back at left tackle, but he was listed as doubtful on the injury report as he attempts to make his return from a knee injury.

Bakhtiari's likely absence is a boost to a Seahawks defense that may see its best hope of slowing down Rodgers as being in their ability to get consistent pressure on the reigning MVP and magnify the impact of any potential rust.

While the Seahawks are a middle-of-the-road defense in terms of yards per play, in which they rank 16th (5.55), they are a top-half unit when it comes to creating pressure.

Their 139 pressures this season are 13th in the NFL and, in Rodgers, they are facing a quarterback who has proven particularly susceptible to opposing pass rushes in 2021.

Only team-mate Jordan Love (40.0) and Zach Wilson (53.7) have worse well-thrown percentages than Rodgers (55.2) when under duress among quarterbacks to have attempted 10 passes under pressure.

And Rodgers' pickable pass rate of 8.62 per cent under pressure is substantially worse than the average for quarterbacks (min. 10 attempts) of 4.82.

The spotlight will be firmly on Rodgers after a fortnight he will not forget in a hurry. It is the Seahawks, though, who enter the game with their backs against the wall, and it may take an instrumental performance from Collins and a potent pass rush to prevent Seattle slipping further towards playoff irrelevance.

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