Icebreakers, tiebreakers: Packer season opener as big as they get

By: 

Gary Seymour, Leader Columnist

With seven months of anticipation between seasons and the uncertainty each new one brings, the appeal of pro football’s opening week is self-evident.

Green Bay Packers fans have seen their share of opening day highs and lows, and appreciate that the most unlikely guy can emerge as the star of Week 1.

Mysteries abound at every turn at the outset of opening week, but for the Packers at the game’s most critical position, one variable has remained constant over the past 10 seasons: quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed a pass in his first snap as an opening day starter in 2008 and hasn’t stopped ever since.

Rodgers, who won his first four openers, lost his next three and won the last two, is still the best player on the team by a wide margin and represents the Packers’ best chance to get to their first Super Bowl in seven years.

One of those opening-day losses was a 34-28 defeat at the hands of San Francisco and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for three touchdowns and more than 400 yards.

Maybe Rodgers was recalling that game when he told a reporter last week that he thought Kaepernick should have a job somewhere in the NFL, and that league owners were acting in concert to ensure his exclusion. Kaepernick is still feeling the fallout from protesting the national anthem last year.

Rodgers’ view on Kaepernick is hardly controversial – most folks with eyes and ears would agree that the Super Bowl veteran Kaepernick is suffering from his actions on the sidelines and not the field – and surely it’s not a transgression worthy of renouncing Rodgers, as a few Packer fans had actually taken to the message boards to do.

Rodgers will be relied upon Sunday to help the Packers avoid a replay of the 2014 season opener, a 20-point Seahawks win whose consequences rippled to the end. The Packers and Seahawks both finished 12-4 that year and both teams were hot in the playoffs, but by virtue of the opening-day win, Seattle owned the tiebreaker for home field advantage.

They met for the NFC title at CenturyLink Field and the Packers gave away a game they should have won.

The Packers solved the Seahawks last year at Lambeau, intercepting Russell Wilson five times en route to a picture perfect, 38-10 win.

Seattle hasn’t forgotten about that one. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, a bit cryptically, said, “It happens to be an extraordinary opener going to Green Bay and all that. We’ll see how it goes. We’re ready for this.”

So are the Packers. Three years ago the Packers and Seahawks were the preseason favorites to win the NFC. This time around the Seahawks are favored to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, with the Packers close behind at No. 2.

Free advice is worth every penny and the same value holds for preseason predictions. But it was nonetheless interesting to read the experts from various national outlets weighing in on which teams they see advancing to Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018. Everyone had New England winning the AFC. About half picked the Packers to win the NFC. The other half went with Seattle.

As story lines for a season go, that’s a pretty good start.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.