Here’s our first look at the Packers and Thursday’s game:
Seahawks opponent: Green Bay
Game time: 5:30 p.m, CenturyLink Field.
Coach: Mike McCarthy, 82-45-1 in eight years, all with Green Bay.
2013 Record: 8-7-1
Last game: Finished preseason 3-1 by beating Kansas City 34-14.
The series: The Packers lead it 8-6. But it doesn’t take much of a memory to recall Seattle’s last win, the controversial 14-12 victory in 2012 when Golden Tate came down with a much-debated touchdown reception on the final play.
The early line: Seahawks by 5.5
Key players: QB Aaron Rodgers: Now 30, Rodgers remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, hoping this season to stay healthy after missing seven games last season due to a collarbone injury. Rodgers looked in mid-season form during the preseason, completing 21-30 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
TB Eddie Lacy: The second-year running back from Alabama revitalized Green Bay’s running game last season, rushing for 1,127 yards in the last 13 games of 2013 and finishing with a franchise rookie record of 1,178 for the season. His emergence helped Green Bay finish fourth in the NFL last year in yards per carry at 4.7.
DE/LB Julius Peppers: The 12-year veteran signed as a free agent with Green Bay in the off-season, and the Packers are altering his role just a little bit, asking him to play in a two-point stance instead of with his hand on the ground. His objective, though, will remain the same — to rush the passer. Green Bay also hopes that Peppers will make it harder for opponents to double-team outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
Green Bay’s keys to success: The Packers enter the season regarded by many as the team with the best chance of unseating the Seahawks as NFC Champs. Concluded SI.com’s Monday Morning Quarterback: “There’s not a deeper, more talented all-around team in the NFC.’’ Rodgers remains the key to the offense, but the emergence of Lacy, as well as a deep running back corps, has made the Packers a more-balanced offense, giving the team an able complement to the Rodgers-led passing attack. Green Bay’s ability to establish the running game — and Seattle’s to stop it — will be a telltale sign early. Green Bay’s 3-4 defense took a hit in the pre-season when nose tackle B.J. Raji was lost for the season with a biceps injury. But a deep group of linebackers forms the core of the defense, which also is strong in the back end, bolstered in the off-season by the signing of free agent cornerback Sam Shields and the addition of rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
BY THE NUMBERS
13 — Green Bay’s NFL championships, most of any team — Chicago is next with 9.
7 — Green Bay’s NFC North titles since 2002.
400.3 — Green Bay’s yards per game in 2013, third in the NFL behind Denver (457.3) and Philadelphia (417.3).