Packers v Seahawks preview
The NFL is back with a bang with the big kick-off being a hugely exciting match-up between champions Seattle Seahawks and well-fancied Green Bay Packers.
It's only Week 1, Game 1, but there's already plenty on the line, given what happened the last time the Packers visited Seattle in 2012 with the infamous 'Fail Mary' ending to the game after a shocking call from replacement officials.
These two both look primed for big runs this year, Seattle's team is largely intact after their dominant Super Bowl win while an upgraded Packers defence should help Aaron Rodgers do his thing, so this could well be a preview of a big play-off game to come.
Seattle will have a tougher schedule this year, and a huge target on their backs as the champs, but Thursday night's game will be a huge celebration in the Pacific North West and CenturyLink Field will be rocking.
Here's our breakdown of the opening game of the season…
The 12th man
The Seahawks have the best home field advantage in the NFL, statistics show that. But on opening night, getting their first view of their Super Bowl champions, we could well feel another minor earthquake around Seattle thanks to their boisterous fans.
The noise really is a nightmare for even the most experienced of teams, but the Packers will have rookie centre Corey Linsley making his NFL debut under the most extreme circumstances – and the loudest venue in the league, against the defending champions who just so happen to have the best defence in the NFL.
Non-verbal communication is crucial for a visiting offence, how Linsley reacts to the big occasion and his effectiveness in not only getting Aaron Rodgers the ball but also blocking well for his quarterback will be key to Green Bay's offensive success.
Legion of Boom v Up Tempo Pack
Seattle's secondary is in good order, and the strength of their team and system is that despite losing starters Chris Clemons and Red Bryant to Jacksonville they still have Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril who accounted for 16.5 sacks last season.
Green Bay have gone no-huddle during the pre-season and see that as a way of countering the noise and Seattle's defence. Rodgers is the perfect QB for that system, as are quick-footed receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, while Eddie Lacy provides a muscular and effective presence at running back after his 1,178-yard, 11-touchdown rookie year.
No QB has been sacked more times than Rodgers (139 times) over the last three years, and that is an area that needs serious attention if the Packers are to be successful – Rodgers was sacked eight times the last time he visited Seattle.
The Packers will be hoping to cause Russell Wilson some problems themselves, however, as they have Clay Matthews back from injury and have signed Julius Peppers, with 118.5 career sacks, to form one of the most disruptive pass-rushing combos in the league, they hope, it'll be a tough start for Seattle's offensive line especially rookie tackle Justin Britt.
It's hard to believe that Wilson is only starting his third season in the NFL, so it's pretty safe to assume that he is only going to improve from here on in. He's got a tremendous deep ball, good ball security and his quick feet extend plays as good as anyone.
Despite lo sing two of his receivers, he does have a fit Percy Harvin this season, who can break off a big play from anywhere, and a wealth of running backs, headed by Marshawn Lynch, to hand off to. Look for him to take more responsibility on his shoulders this year.
Quotes"He doesn&'t utter a word all day but, when you&'re on the field, he turns into a raging psychopath," Green Bay&'s Mike Daniels on new signing Julius Peppers.
"They play with a lot of confidence, have a little swagger about `em, and it's a tough place to play," Aaron Rodgers.
"I'm going to pray for him. It's going to be a long night, man. We've got to just take advantage of it," Seattle&'s Bruce Irvin on Packers rookie Corey Linsley.
Watch the Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks LIVE on Sky Sports 1 HD at 1am on Friday morning.