The first two weeks of the season didn't go quite as smoothly as the Green Bay Packers probably hoped given that they didn't have to leave Lambeau Field.
Spending four of the next five weekends on the road may not make things much easier.
That stretch begins Monday night at one of the NFL's tougher venues for visitors as the Seattle Seahawks look to build on an impressive win in their home opener.
The Packers (1-1) recovered from their season-opening loss to San Francisco by beating rival Chicago 23-10 last Thursday night, forcing Jay Cutler into four interceptions and limiting the Bears to 168 total yards.
This week, though, they were still dealing with questions about an incident between Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver James Jones, who accepted blame for the interception that led Rodgers to voice his displeasure with his teammate.
"He apologized, said he's sorry for showing his emotions," Jones said. "But I was like, (there's) no need to apologize. We're trying to win. I messed up. Frustration happens. It's all good. No love lost. We're teammates. We're family in here. Like I said, everybody's trying to win."
The controversy kept going when tight end Jermichael Finley's agent said on Twitter that Rodgers "is a great QB he isn't a great leader. There's a major difference. Leaders take the blame (and make everyone) better. He doesn't."
Returning to the prolific pace of production the Packers have typically enjoyed with the reigning NFL MVP would likely smooth things over. Rodgers has been sacked eight times with Green Bay posting middling numbers in the passing game through two weeks, and perhaps the biggest play last week was a touchdown on a fake field goal.
"It's a lot of little things," Jones said. "We're missing a lot of easy plays out there, whether it's making a routine catch, whether it's making a tough catch, whether it's making a key block. We're very close to being explosive."
If it's going to happen soon, it will likely need to be outside Wisconsin. A Sept. 30 matchup with New Orleans is Green Bay's only home game between now and Oct. 28.
A big game may be more likely in Seattle if Greg Jennings can return from a groin injury. The three-time 1,000-yard receiver missed the Chicago game after getting hurt against the 49ers, but he has practiced this week.
Rodgers has had Green Bay's offense clicking in two career starts against the Seahawks, winning both. The most recent was a 48-10 home victory in 2009, a year after the Packers won 27-17 at Seattle in Rodgers' first season as a starter.
The Seahawks' defense, though, caused plenty of problems for Tony Romo and Dallas during Seattle's 27-7 win last Sunday. Aside from a 95-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown early in the second quarter, the Cowboys couldn't score and they finished with just 49 rushing yards.
By comparison, the Seahawks (1-1) ran for 182 yards - 122 from Marshawn Lynch - and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was only asked to throw 20 passes.
"We played really physical, a really physical style that is what we really want to capture," coach Pete Carroll said. "There is not a guy that sits in this room that doesn't want to play on a team like that."
The strength in the trenches came despite the absence of left tackle Russell Okung, who should be able to return from a bruised left knee Monday to try to help protect against Clay Matthews and company. Matthews has a league-leading six sacks.
Seattle may try to use a similar ball-control strategy against the Packers. Green Bay finished 27th in the league in rushing last year, and it's in a similar spot now even though Cedric Benson ran for 81 yards in Week 2 after he couldn't get anything going against San Francisco.
Wilson won the hearts of many Wisconsinites last year in leading the Badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance, but some of those same fans surely won't be supporting him Monday.
The 5-foot-11 Wilson, who beat out former Packers backup Matt Flynn for the starting job, acquitted himself nicely last weekend in his home debut, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown without a turnover.
It's hardly a coincidence that his first NFL victory came at CenturyLink Field. Including the postseason, the Seahawks have won seven of 11 there and are 15-11 on the banks of Puget Sound since 2009 compared to 6-20 elsewhere, including a 20-16 loss at Arizona in Week 1.
Seattle has a 17-8 record on Monday Night Football, the best winning percentage of any team.
- Seattle Seahawks
- Green Bay Packers
- Aaron Rodgers
- The Packers
- Green Bay