2014 NFL Draft (Round 1): Three to Watch

8 May
Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

The 2014 NFL Draft commences on Thursday night as the first 32 members of the 2014 rookie class will be welcomed into the National Football League. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks are currently slotted to pick 32nd in the first round of the draft; the last pick of the first round. After scouting over 250 players that attended the scouting combine, I analyzed game film of 75 of these players, ultimately whittling this list down to 35 players I would like to see the Seahawks draft over the course of this weekend. Barring a trade either up the board or down and out of the first round entirely, here are three players I would like to see the Seahawks select at #32.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota): I believe the Seahawks will have the opportunity to draft both the best player available at #32 and a player at a position of need if Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is still on the board. Hageman would be a perfect fit along our defensive line and could be a potential replacement to Red Bryant. Hageman stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs in at 311 pounds. These numbers justify his positional fit as a defensive tackle but his speed justifies why he could be a defensive tackle/defensive end hybrid like Bryant. Hageman has one of the best bursts off the line of scrimmage of any first round defensive line prospect and can penetrate the offensive line well. Hageman is a very good fundamental tackler and has good instincts to know how a play will progress. Beating blocks is his strong suit as he does a very good job shedding blocks and being the first defender to the ball carrier on running plays. A defensive line with Hageman, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane, and Michael Bennett could be a force to be reckoned with, especially on first and second down.

Joel Bitonio (OG, Nevada): In the first round of the draft it is very important to add depth to both the defensive line and the offensive line. In the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era the Seahawks have drafted 3 offensive linemen within the first three rounds of the draft, 2 of which coming in round one (Russell Okung, James Carpenter). At #32 the Seahawks could be in the market to take an offensive lineman and I think the best fit in this spot is Nevada guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio has been climbing draft boards over the past couple of weeks and the earliest I have seen him go in any mock draft is #26 to the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most uncertain position along the Seahawks offensive line is left guard and Bitonio could add solidarity to a unit that had a difficult time keeping Russell Wilson consistently clean over the course of the 2013 season. Among Bitonio’s strengths, he has very good balance and does not allow himself to get bullied by his man. He is a very good pass protector and after watching film I could see strengths in zone blocking on running plays. Bitonio does not collapse the pocket on his own (something Carpenter has struggled with mightily over the course of his career) and Bitonio also works well with the other four guys on the offensive line.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State): Understand that the Seahawks are high on both Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette but with the departure of Golden Tate during free agency, the Seahawks could be in the market to draft another wide receiver. In a draft flooded with wide receiver talent, another toy for Russell Wilson to play with could be the decision Carroll and Schneider come to at #32. If the Seahawks go with a skill position player at #32 my hope is that player will be Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is one of the tallest receivers available which means he will be a matchup problem with most cornerbacks in the league. Benjamin makes fantastic adjustments on the ball while the pass is still in the air and his upper body strength makes it hard for just one defender to tackle him. Benjamin looks the ball into his hands and dropped passes are rare. In addition to being a “raw” prospect there are two areas where Benjamin struggles. He sometimes mistimes his jumps and his ball security is average and must improve.

Seahawks 2014 Schedule Review

24 Apr
Image

The Seahawks will Host the Green Bay Packers for NFL Kickoff 2014
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

The Seahawks 2014 regular season schedule was announced Wednesday night. Here now are my thoughts on what the Seahawks are looking forward to this fall.

Primetime Thoughts: In my primetime outlook post earlier this week I nearly guaranteed that the Seahawks would be scheduled to play five games in primetime. To my surprise I was wrong. The Seahawks have been preliminary scheduled four primetime games, with the possibility of up to two more games flexed into primetime. The Seahawks will play three of these four games on the road; at the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, at the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night on NBC, and at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football.

To my amazement the Seahawks were only scheduled one home game in primetime and it was the one game we all knew was coming; on Thursday September 4th against the Green Bay Packers to open the 2014 season. As a season-ticket holder I am furious that we only have one home game in primetime. As the defending Super Bowl champions I feel we have earned at least 2, maybe even 3 home games in primetime. However perhaps we were too good to be scheduled in primetime at home. ProFootballTalk reported late Wednesday night that “the NFL was wary of putting Seahawks home games on in prime-time due to their track record of blowouts in nationally televised games played in Seattle the last several seasons.” As disappointing as this may be, it is accurate. In the Pete Carroll era, the Seahawks are 7-0 at home in primetime. Excluding the win over Green Bay in 2012, the Seahawks have won these games by an average of 21 points.

From where I am sitting the best possible Seahawks home game to be flexed into Sunday Night Football that is currently scheduled for Sunday afternoon is November 9th against the New York Giants. Our week 12 home game against Arizona could also be a candidate to be flexed into primetime but only if the Seahawks/Cardinals game in Arizona week 16 is flexed OUT of Sunday Night Football. I would also expect that FOX has protected the Seahawks week 15 home game against San Francisco, eliminating that game from possibly being flexed into primetime.

NFC West Slugfest: The Seahawks will play their first 10 games and let the cards fall where they may. Once week 11 rolls around however, they will be entering a full 12-round fight cage-match style. The Seahawks will duke it out with San Francisco, Arizona, and St. Louis in 5 of their final 6 games. In this same 6-game stretch Arizona will play 4 games against the NFC West, San Francisco will play 3 games against the NFC West, and St. Louis will play 2 of their final 6 against NFC West foes.

Light on 10am Starts: The Seahawks are scheduled to play only three road games in the 10am Pacific Time slot this season. Our game in St. Louis against the Rams will be played in a dome, our game in week 8 against the Carolina Panthers could be played in warm weather, and the other 10am game in week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs could be played in a colder climate.

Easiest Stretch of the Season: The Seahawks have a chance to separate themselves from the rest of the pack between weeks 9 and 12. Three of their four games in this stretch are at home, as they host the Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, and Arizona Cardinals. Their one road game comes week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Toughest Stretch of the Season: Having to play San Francisco 2 out of 3 weeks is no picnic. Road games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals only add to the brutality. This is exactly what happens between weeks 13 and 16. The combined record of the Seahawks opponents in these 4 games last season was 44-20.

Toughest Stretch of the Season #2: The beginning of each season provides the most mystery, as teams could start off their season hot but then flounder as the season progresses. The Seahawks will travel to play the San Diego Chargers, a 2013 playoff team, in their home opener week 2. The Seahawks will then come home for a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos the next week. After their super early bye week (week 4) the Seahawks will travel all the way across the country to play the Washington Redskins in what I see could be an early “trap” game.

Seahawks 2014 Primetime Outlook

22 Apr
Image

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

*Before I start this post, let me first apologize to everyone for the two and a half month hiatus. Life has been pretty hectic but I’m back!*

The NFL will release the 2014 regular season schedule on Wednesday night, meaning we will know the “when’s” and “what times” attached to the Seahawks 16 regular season games. To many football fans, the release of the regular season schedule is no big deal but to avid fans and season ticket holders such as myself, the release of the NFL regular season schedule is the most highly anticipated date of the offseason as we finally get to make our plans for the fall. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks will certainly see their fair share of the primetime spotlight this season. At the time of the NFL schedule release, teams can be scheduled in primetime no more than five times, and can qualify to play a sixth primetime game via flexible scheduling during the season. It is almost guaranteed that the Seahawks will have five games in primetime when the schedule is released Wednesday night but the speculation as to which games will be in primetime adds to the mystery. Like last season, I have tiered all of our matchups to separate which games I believe are more attractive to a primetime audience. There are four tiers:

Tier One: Games I think will (and should) be scheduled in primetime

Tier Two: Games I think could be scheduled in primetime

Tier Three: Longshot games I could see scheduled in primetime, but are not likely to be

Tier Four: Games I do not think will be scheduled in primetime

TIER ONE

49ers at Seahawks, Seahawks at 49ers, Broncos at Seahawks, Packers at Seahawks, Seahawks at Panthers, Seahawks at Redskins

After playing them three times in 2013 including the NFC Championship (or the unofficial Super Bowl as some called it), there is no doubt that one of our games against the San Francisco 49ers will be scheduled in primetime with the other game going to FOX on a Sunday afternoon, and once again I believe it will be the game at CenturyLink Field that is destined to be played under the lights. I believe that the NFL will want to start the 2014 season off with a bang, which is why I predict 49ers at Seahawks will be the game scheduled for NFL Kickoff 2014 on Thursday night, September 4th. At first I thought it would make more sense to schedule the Seahawks/49ers game at Levi’s Stadium as the primetime game between these two teams as the NFL would want to highlight the 49ers new stadium. However after learning that the 49ers will likely not play any Monday or Thursday night home games in 2014 due to traffic concerns it became more logical in my mind that the Seahawks would host the 49ers in primetime for the 3rd consecutive season.

I would be absolutely stunned if the Broncos/Seahawks game, a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII, is not slated for primetime. It makes too much sense. The fact that these two teams are once again the early favorites to make it back to Super Bowl XLIX makes this game a potential ratings wonderland. I expect this game to be a serious candidate for Sunday Night Football, or possibly Monday Night Football.

Two years ago the Seahawks beat the Packers in Seattle in what has been remembered then and now as the infamous “Fail Mary” game. The Packers return to Seattle this season to try to avenge that sour loss and I believe this matchup will be the Seahawks 3rd game scheduled in primetime. I think it would make all the sense in the world to have this game scheduled on Monday Night Football just like it was two seasons ago.

NOTE: On paper the Seahawks have a more attractive road schedule than home schedule, so I think the Seahawks will have two scheduled primetime games on the road and if Seattle qualifies for a sixth primetime game sometime during the season, that too will be a road game.

This is the third consecutive season that the Seahawks travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. This season however, both teams are defending division champions and took the top two seeds in the NFC Playoffs last season. The Seahawks game against the Panthers is one of the more attractive road games we play this season and I could see this game being played on either Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football.

This year the Seahawks also play the NFC East, the one division that the NFL loves to over-schedule into primetime every year. If the Seahawks are going to play one game in primetime against an NFC East opponent, count my vote towards our game in Washington against the Redskins. Even though the Redskins finished in last place last season, couldn’t you see the “Russell Wilson wins a Super Bowl before #2 overall pick Robert Griffin III does” storyline be dissected for days leading up to the game? I definitely could. Monday Night Football would be the best fit for this game.

TIER TWO

Cowboys at Seahawks, Cardinals at Seahawks, Seahawks at Eagles, Seahawks at Chiefs

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most attractive teams for the NFL to have playing in primetime. Any Cowboys game is a candidate to be in primetime and their game against the Seahawks in Seattle is no different. I believe there are more attractive teams for the Seahawks to play in primetime at home but a Cowboys/Seahawks game is definitely a possibility.

Last season the Arizona Cardinals snapped the Seahawks 14-game home winning streak dating back to December 2011. With the competition within the NFC West getting stronger there will certainly be some NFC West rivalry games slated for primetime in 2014. I could see Cardinals/Seahawks in Seattle on Thursday Night Football.

I could also see the Seahawks play two other 2013 playoff teams in primetime in 2014. The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending NFC East champions and will see an expanded slate of primetime games this season. Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football would be the ideal landing spot for this game. If the Seahawks are going to play a road game in primetime against an old AFC West foe, I think it should be the Kansas City Chiefs. Monday Night Football or an early season Thursday Night game would be the best fit for Seahawks/Chiefs.

TIER THREE

Rams at Seahawks, Giants at Seahawks, Seahawks at Cardinals, Seahawks at Chargers

The Seahawks were challenged by the St. Louis Rams last season and the Rams may be ready to make a splash in the playoff conversation this year. Rams/Seahawks in Seattle is sure to be a longshot given the Seahawks other home opponents but it is the better matchup of the two. The New York Giants are another NFC East team which could draw big ratings in primetime but I do not believe this game is likely to be played in primetime. The one thing potentially working in favor of this matchup however is the legacy of the series; specifically the Seahawks win over the Giants in 2005 when New York surrendered 11 false start penalties.

Seahawks/Cardinals in Arizona was a primetime matchup last season which is why it is unlikely to be repeated in primetime this season. Of the matchups in this tier, the Seahawks game in San Diego against the Chargers may have the best chance to be scheduled in primetime, especially since the Chargers also made the playoffs last season.

TIER FOUR

Raiders at Seahawks, Seahawks at Rams

The only way Raiders/Seahawks sneaks its way into the primetime schedule is the argument that the NFL wants to display former bitter AFC rivals on a national stage much like they did the last time Oakland came to town in 2006. I think this matchup is a gigantic mismatch on paper at this point and could be just as ugly as the Super Bowl was. An early double-digit Seahawks lead could turn viewers away later on in the broadcast.

Last season the Seahawks played the Rams in St. Louis on Monday Night Football and that game went head to head with the World Series which was being played just down the street. The environment inside the Edward Jones Dome that night was less than ideal and introduced the prospect of St. Louis missing out on attractive matchups in primetime down the road. Pencil this year’s matchup against the Rams in St. Louis into a Sunday morning/afternoon slot.

Seahawks/Broncos Preview (Super Bowl XLVIII)

29 Jan

Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion) vs. Denver Broncos (AFC Champion)

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 3:25pm

The Seahawks made sure that the terrible feeling that followed their Divisional playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons last season would not happen again. After earning a 13-3 record, an NFC West championship and their second NFC championship, the Seahawks are heading to what FOX Sports has dubbed the “biggest, boldest, and coldest event in history.” The Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon. With a victory the Seahawks will earn their first ever world championship along with the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 34-19. Their last meeting game in 2010 in Denver where the Broncos crushed the Seahawks 31-14 in what has remained the hottest (temperature) regular season home game in Broncos history. That meeting in 2010 was Pete Carroll’s second ever game as Seahawks head coach. In the 68 regular season and postseason games since, the Seahawks hold a .603 winning percentage. This is also Seattle and Denver’s second ever meeting in the playoffs. This is what to look for and what the Seahawks must do in order to become world champions.

Many wondered if Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would choke once again in this year’s playoffs but when you are not sacked through your first two playoff games it obviously makes it easier to complete your throws, move the ball, and score points. This is the primary reason why Denver’s offense has been so successful in this year’s playoffs and it is up to the Seahawks defense to change this narrative on Sunday. Putting consistent pressure on Manning will be a big priority. In Seattle’s two playoff games this season defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has used both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on one side of the ball while using linebacker Bruce Irvin as a spy to read where the quarterback may be looking to throw. This strategy will be used on Sunday but I would like to see an addition to our pass rush. Chris Clemons has gone unnoticed over the past few games and he has not recorded a sack since playing San Francisco in week 14. The Seahawks cannot afford to let Peyton Manning have ample time to make his throws so a heavier dose of pass rush could make it challenging for Manning to get comfortable.

It is time for Percy Harvin to make his $12 million salary this week. Harvin, who was sidelined in the NFC Championship Game while recovering from a concussion, is listed as probable this week and head coach Pete Carroll has said Harvin will be a full go. Harvin will not be limited on offense and he will also return kicks for the first time this season. There is one example of Harvin’s explosiveness that really gets me excited to wonder about his impact in Super Bowl XLVIII. Before he exited the NFC Divisional playoff game against New Orleans, the Seahawks ran a fly sweep with Harvin with the ball deep in New Orleans territory. Harvin took the snap from Russell Wilson and ran around the right side of the line for 9 yards before stepping out of bounds. It was the fastest I have seen a Seahawks receiver run all season long. This play has truly opened my eyes to what our potential on offense is this week. Throwing in Harvin’s direction is a tactic that I do not believe Denver is ready for. Look for Harvin to be a major player in the bubble screen game this week and I also would not be surprised to see him line up at obscure position such as at running back. As far as kickoffs go, I really hope Harvin gets a chance to return one, unlike against the Saints when Shayne Graham’s kickoffs went for touchbacks. If Harvin busts a kickoff return for a large gain, it will send positive shockwaves throughout the entire team and will put the Seahawks in great position for Russell Wilson to lead scoring drives.

I am a firm believer in sticking with a game plan that carried you into a position like playing in the Super Bowl. However after watching film of the Denver Broncos I believe there is a facet of our offense that if we turn loose, could have significant positive consequences. Over the course of the regular season the Denver Broncos played 4 games against teams with running quarterbacks; 2 against Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders, one against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, and one against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. In those 4 games, opposing quarterback kept the ball and ran a combined 26 times for 133 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Broncos played a limited number of games against running quarterbacks and the Denver defense practices on a daily basis against a quarterback who is the furthest thing away from a running quarterback. I think that this could be the right time for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to call a heavy read-option package for Russell Wilson to keep the Broncos defense guessing. If Wilson keeps at least 5 times the Seahawks will add solid numbers in the running game but if the Seahawks have Wilson run and the read-option continues to be highly effective, 5-10 rushes by Wilson would not be surprising to me. The read-option is an intriguing wrinkle in our playbook that could give us serious momentum and go a long way in controlling the tempo of the entire game.

The biggest storyline in regards to the Denver Broncos this week is their record-setting offense against the Seattle defense, in particular the Legion of Boom. The Broncos have four weapons at the skill positions in wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker, along with tight end Julius Thomas; all of which have proven to be reliable targets and they all have the potential to put up big numbers if they can get open. If they can get open. Even if the Seahawks can stop Knowshon Moreno and the Denver running game they still have to deal with Peyton Manning. The key for the Broncos offense is for the offensive line to give Manning time to make his reads and make his throws because if Manning has time he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when it comes to picking apart opposing defenses. This is why one of my three X-Factor players to watch for the Denver Broncos this week is left tackle Chris Clark. Clark started 14 of Denver’s 16 regular season games and both of Denver’s playoff games. Clark replaced an injured Ryan Clady shortly into the 2013 season but has emerged as one of the best pass blocking tackles in football, ranking in the top 10 in pass blocking efficiency according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos can beat the Seahawks solely through the air which makes Knowshon Moreno’s potential impact on the game an added bonus for Denver. If the Broncos can run the ball effectively against the Seattle run defense, this could put Denver in a great position to win the game.

The Broncos defense has one huge mission this week and that is to stop the Seahawks running game, especially running back Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos have the 8th best running defense in the league, holding opposing teams to just under 102 rushing yards per game. Given Seattle’s recent struggles in the passing game, stopping Lynch will likely determine the outcome of the game. In recent days many people have discussed the importance of the role Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton will have in stopping the run game but there are other players to watch out for that will also play key roles in stopping Marshawn Lynch. My first of two X-Factor players to watch on defense this week is the Broncos leading tackler, linebacker Danny Trevathan. From the linebacker position, Trevathan really can stretch the field and contribute in all facets of the defensive game plan. He leads the team in tackles with 128, he has 2 quarterback sacks, and when Trevathan drops into coverage he has 10 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. Although he is an outside linebacker, Trevathan is the Bobby Wagner of the Denver defense. He commands the huddle and his play on the field makes him one of the best linebackers in the league. My second X-Factor player to watch on the Broncos defense is a man that may not produce the flashiest stat sheet come Sunday night but he has had recent familiarity and success playing against the Seahawks, linebacker Paris Lenon. Lenon played the Seahawks twice last season while with the Arizona Cardinals and he recorded the second most tackles among all Cardinals defenders in the first of those two meetings in 2012. Lenon will rotate at middle linebacker with Wesley Woodyard and I think Lenon can contribute significantly to the Broncos figuring out how to stop Marshawn Lynch.

Along with playing in the Super Bowl come the distractions of playing in the Super Bowl. Many football players would argue about the importance of having a routine and staying in a routine game after game, week after week. This week the routines and tendencies those players have throughout the season change dramatically. They may not be noteworthy to a lot of people but to the players it could mean the difference between winning and losing the game. The most notable routine that will be altered this week is the halftime break. For all other NFL games during the season, halftime is a mere 12 minutes long, giving teams a short time to make small in-game adjustments and giving players a quick rest before heading back to the field for the second half. At the Super Bowl, halftime is 30 minutes long, so while Bruno Mars is on the MetLife Stadium stage entertaining the fans in the stadium and those watching around the world on television, the players are in the locker room trying to stay loose for the second half. Too long of a break can wear players bodies down so it is necessary to be able to stay loose while taking the extra time for second half adjustments. The team that comes out strong at the beginning of the second half may have the upper hand for the rest of the game, regardless of what the halftime score is. This was apparent in last year’s Super Bowl even though the longer intermission in that game was for the Superdome power outage; after the blackout break, San Francisco came screaming back and almost won the game. Be sure to pay close attention to the first few minutes of the second half to get an idea of which team will have the fire power to close out the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: Whether you have been following my blog since the beginning or if you’ve just stumbled on my page looking for any kind of Super Bowl XLVIII literature, of course I start with uniforms. The nice thing about the Super Bowl is that the uniform combinations are announced well before game day. The Seahawks have been designated the road team and will wear their white jerseys with their navy blue pants. This is the same combination they wore when they played at MetLife Stadium in December. The Seahawks are 2-0 in this combination this season and 2-1 all-time. The Broncos will wear their orange jerseys and white pants as the designated home team… Terry McAulay is the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He was also the referee in the Seahawks divisional playoff win over New Orleans… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines. Curt Menefee will anchor 4 hours of pregame coverage on FOX along with the FOX NFL Sunday crew both from inside and outside the stadium… The national anthem will be sung by renowned opera singer Renee Fleming… The halftime show for Super Bowl XLVIII is Grammy award winner Bruno Mars. Personally this is the most anticipated Super Bowl halftime show in my lifetime mainly since I am a big fan of Mars’ music. The fact that I will be in attendance to see this halftime show live is the cherry on top of the cake… Game time temperature is supposed to be clear and in the low to mid 30’s; manageable but cold nonetheless. Time to break out the layers… I am nervous and excited about getting to the game. I will be taking a train from Penn Station in New York City to Secaucus Junction, then transferring to a shuttle train that takes us straight to the Meadowlands. It’s cheaper than alternative modes of transportation and will likely get me to the game faster than if I took said alternative modes of transportation… This week is going to be nuts in New York City. I have 5 and a half days to try to do so much stuff. It will be interesting to see how crowded the city is compared to any other day… I am sure to see celebrities galore and I will post my encounters and updates on Twitter @EricHansman as much as possible so be on the lookout for those… If we win on Sunday, IF we win on Sunday my hope is to celebrate in the heart of New York City with a cigar in my mouth and a glass of champagne in my hand. That would be an amazing feeling… We are almost at 200 days since the start of training camp. It is amazing to think what has taken place since. We are one win away from the Lombardi Trophy and a world championship. Win or lose, we had a fantastic season and we should not discount that at all if we come out on the short end of this. I promise you this, Seahawks fans may be outnumbered around town and at the Stadium on Sunday, but we will certainly be louder. Take it to the bank.

Prediction: *To start, keep in mind that the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than 7 points since November 6th, 2011.* In the first half, Percy Harvin will catch a touchdown pass from inside the redzone and Marshawn Lynch will also add a touchdown run. The Broncos will storm back with a quick touchdown drive capped off by a pass from Peyton Manning to Eric Decker. Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka will exchange field goals respectively in the second quarter; Hauschka’s coming in the final seconds of the first half. Halftime score: Seahawks 17, Broncos 10

In the second half the Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal before the Broncos have the 12th Man questioning the durability of our defense. A Manning pass to Julius Thomas will cut the Seahawks lead to 3. The Seahawks will once again exchange a series of field goals with the Broncos, the last of which coming with 4 minutes left to go in the game. In a hurry up offense with the Broncos down 26-20, Peyton Manning will drive to the Seahawks 40-yard line but the Seahawks defense will step up to produce the biggest play in franchise history. Chris Clemons will strip-sack Manning and Brandon Mebane will recover the fumble. The Seahawks will run out the clock and will win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Seahawks 26, Broncos 20

On the first day of training camp I posted the following status to Facebook:

“Never before has the anticipation for Seahawks football been so high. After the conclusion of last season, the moves made in the offseason, and each practice during OTA’s and minicamp, the expectations for this team placed by the media and the fans are at a “super bowl or bust” level. I am extremely confident in this team and I could not be more proud to call myself a member of the 12th Man. It all starts today. I have a feeling that this team is about to take all of us and this great city on a very special journey; a journey that we will not soon forget.”

As it turns out we HAVE made it to the Super Bowl and it HAS been a journey that we will never soon forget, which will be made even more memorable if we win on Sunday. Win or lose I am extremely proud of this team and to be a part of this amazing fan base.

To all of my friends and family know this: Even though you will not be joining me at MetLife Stadium physically, I will carry you with me in my mind and in my heart and I will surely scream my lungs out on behalf of everyone I know.

I will not have my computer with me in New York and I will not be home until late Tuesday night. I hope to have my Super Bowl review published by Wednesday night. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone! Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17

20 Jan

Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

That may have been the most nail-biting, exciting, nauseating, thrilling Seahawks game I have ever been to. The Seattle Seahawks are heading to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. I honestly do not believe I have ever been on an emotional roller coaster quite like the one I rode for just over three hours on Sunday afternoon. Up next, the Denver Broncos and a crazy two weeks preceding it. For now however, this is what I took out of this game and what needs to happen as we move closer to the biggest game in Seahawks history.

They Kept it Clean: One of the worries heading into this game was how the officials would call it. Many including myself thought that the potential chippy-ness would lead the referees to call the game tighter, allowing the Seahawks to possibly be subject to many questionable calls. All in all the game was not officiated as tight as I thought it would, especially in the secondary. No member of the Legion of Boom was called for pass interference. The only Seahawks penalty in the secondary was a holding call on Richard Sherman in the first half which led to an Anthony Dixon touchdown and a 10-0 San Francisco lead. Other than that one holding call no penalties significantly hurt Seattle in this game and there were no plays that could be “questionable” calls for the duration of the game. Gene Steratore and his officiating crew did a great job of letting the players play; the referees did not dictate the shaping of the game.

Taking Shots: And no I’m not talking about Fireball. I wanted to see Russell Wilson take more shots down the field this week and he did a much better job of stretching the field than last week. Although he still seemed confused and indecisive at times, Wilson went deep several times on Sunday. On vertical passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, Wilson went 3/5 connecting with Doug Baldwin on receptions of 22 and 51 yards and Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Seahawks had been playing very conservatively over the past few weeks which is a small part as to why our offense has struggled in my eyes. What seemed to help Wilson in this game on his long throws was to utilize his mobility. On his 51-yard connection with Doug Baldwin, Wilson scrambled for more than 5 seconds before seeing that Baldwin has space down the field to make a play. Although it was not Russell Wilson’s most glamorous performance of the season, some of his throws on Sunday should build confidence heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.

Pass Protection Needs to Improve: There was a glaring negative on offense this week and that was the lackluster protection the offensive line gave Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 4 times for a combined loss of 22 yards. Although pass protection must improve greatly, I will give credit where credit is due. The San Francisco 49ers continue to be one of the best pass rushing defenses in the National Football League and that was evident on Sunday. Aldon Smith recorded 2 sacks while NaVorro Bowman and Dan Skuta added sacks of their own. In addition to the inconsistent pass protection there is one other huge problem I have with our offensive line which is…

Left Guard Shuffle: Last week the Seahawks started rookie Michael Bowie at left guard and James Carpenter was inactive. This week was the exact opposite with Carpenter starting and Bowie standing on the sidelines inactive. I understand that competition is at the heart of the Seahawks philosophy but now, in the most important games of the season, is not the time to play the left guard shuffle. Stick with who has the hot hand. Who’s to say that Paul McQuistan won’t start against Denver in two weeks? The Seahawks must stabilize the left guard position. I do not want to look past the Super Bowl but I think I may know what the Seahawks should target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Kaepernick’s Wheels Keep 49ers in Game: This game would not have been as close if the Seahawks defense had been able to stop Colin Kaepernick from scrambling in the first half. Highlighted by a 58-yard scramble, Kaepernick led all 49ers rushers with 130 rushing yards, 114 more yards than the next leading San Francisco rusher and 116 yards more than primary running back Frank Gore. The quickness of Kaepernick fooled the Seahawks defense for much of the first half and the Seahawks did a fantastic job of making the necessary adjustments at halftime to shut Kaepernick down in the second half. Aside from Kaepernick’s legs he did not do a whole lot. Kaepernick ended the day 14/24 for 153 yards passing with one touchdown and 2 interceptions, each of tremendous importance and which ultimately cost the 49ers the chance to play in the Super Bowl.

“It Was Only a Matter of Time”: The 49ers led the turnover battle at halftime 1-0 and right before the start of the second half my Dad leaned over to tell me that it was time for Colin Kaepernick to screw up; that we had shut him down through the air in the first half and that it was only a matter of time before he made a mistake. The 49ers made 3 mistakes in the second half and Kaepernick made two of them. The first came with 7:37 remaining in the game when Kaepernick dropped back and tried to get the ball to Michael Crabtree on the far side but instead threw it right into the hands of Kam Chancellor. That turnover resulted in an insurance field goal to make the game 23-17 Seahawks. The second mistake turned out to be the biggest play of the year, and perhaps the most important play in franchise history. With the ball at the Seattle 18-yard line with less than 30 seconds left to play, Kaepernick saw one-on-one coverage in the endzone on a fade route. He threw intended for Crabtree but the ball was tipped by Richard Sherman and hauled in by Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks victory. Like my Dad said, “it was only a matter of time” and that time came with 22 seconds remaining and there was nothing the San Francisco 49ers could do about it.

Random Thoughts: Is it just me or is the general crowd sitting around me becoming dumber and dumber as each game goes on when it comes to “cheering education?” I felt like there was a lot of cheering when the offense had the ball and when the 49ers fans tried to get loud when the Seahawks had the ball, the 12th Man would boo, making the stadium even louder. That is a big no-no and was quite frustrating… Perhaps the Macklemore performance at halftime re-energized the crowd. We were down 10-3 at halftime and the crowd seemed fired up at the start of the third quarter. That was very much needed and maybe it’s not too crazy to think that Macklemore’s impact played a key role in how the second half turned out… It’s too bad not everyone got a rally towel. It was a scattering of white waving around before the game, nothing like what it has looked like in previous games where rally towels were the giveaway… Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag this week which in my eyes was a very safe choice. I still would have loved to see Mike Holmgren raise the flag… We went to the Nest and then over to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before heading into the stadium. Since this was going to be the last home game of the season I guess we wanted to make the rounds… I may have tried the grossest beer ever on Sunday. Pyramid has a seasonal brew called “Weiss Cream” which tastes like if you sprayed whipped cream into a glass of water. Yuck. The tap handle was really cool though; a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream… Time to start packing for New York City. I leave a week from Wednesday!

Moving Forward: Over the next week I hope to hop on at least a couple of times with various posts. I am unsure what my computer status will be for the last half of Super Bowl week, Super Bowl weekend, and the two days following the game. If I decide to take my computer with me to New York, my preview of Super Bowl XLVIII will come on its normal day; the Saturday before the game. If not, I may be forced to publish my Super Bowl preview a few days early. I will update with more information when my plan becomes clearer. We are one win away from a world championship. Enjoy this, 12th Man but understand our job is not done just yet. Go Seahawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

18 Jan

Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (5) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

Not very often do you get an opportunity like this, even less often at home. It has been 8 years since the Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game and personally I have been waiting for the Seahawks to get back on this national stage ever since. I became a season-ticket holder in 2006 and for all the games I have been to over the past 8 seasons, opportunities like the one presenting itself on Sunday makes having tickets and going to games during the bad years absolutely worth it. In front of a nationally televised audience on FOX, the Seahawks will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. If the Seahawks lose the season is over, but if the Seahawks win they punch their ticket to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd. The all-time series between the Seahawks and 49ers is tied 15-15. Their last meeting came on December 8th when San Francisco defeated Seattle 19-17 in the final seconds at Candlestick Park. This is the first meeting between the two teams in the playoffs. There are many storylines that have gained momentum from both a local and a national perspective in the days leading up to this game. Here are my thoughts as we head into the biggest home game in franchise history.

The absolute number one key for the Seahawks this week comes on defense. In the last two 49ers/Seahawks games played in Seattle, the Seahawks have held 49ers running back Frank Gore to a total of 44 rushing yards. What I’ve noticed when you dig into all of Colin Kaepernick’s career starts is that he has been successful because of a dynamic rushing attack helping him. When opposing defenses are able to shut the San Francisco running game (especially Gore) down, Kaepernick becomes extremely vulnerable. Once again the number one key for the Seahawks is to stop Gore. Unlike last week where I wanted to see the Seahawks force the New Orleans Saints to run, forcing Colin Kaepernick to throw will help the Seahawks mightily. In Kaepernick’s 28 career starts he has thrown only 11 interceptions. 4 of those interceptions have come in his two starts in Seattle. The Legion of Boom will be Kaepernick’s worst nightmare if the Seahawks run defense allows it to. My target rushing total for Frank Gore this week is between 50-60 yards. If the Seahawks can hold Gore to under 60 yards on the ground, we will be in fantastic shape.

The Seattle offense is a unit that has not lit up the stat sheet recently but they have been efficient enough to win football games. There are three things I need to see out of the Seahawks offense this week. The first thing is for Marshawn Lynch to have a productive day at the office. Unlike Frank Gore, Lynch has been very efficient running the ball against the 49ers in Seattle. In the same two game span that Gore has rushed for 44 total yards, Lynch has rushed for 209 total yards and has also added 3 touchdowns. I fully expect the majority of fans to panic if the Seahawks cannot get the running game going early but it will be necessary to be patient through the first half to try to get Lynch large chunks of yards. The second necessity for the Seahawks offense this week is to protect Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 3 times last week and he has been sacked 18 times in his last 6 games. The last time the Seahawks and 49ers played in Seattle, the Seahawks were without two starting offensive lineman and lost Russell Okung to a foot injury early in the game. This week the entire starting offensive line is healthy and I expect significant improvement in pass protection. Keep an eye on the left guard position this week as Michael Bowie is expected to start again after playing a great game last week in his first career start at that position. The third thing I need to see out of the offense this week is an extension of my second offensive key, only the weight of this key falls more on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. There have been instances throughout the past few games where when Wilson drops back to pass, at times he seems to bail from the pocket and move around to try to make throws while at other times he seems a bit too overconfident being patient in the pocket. In those instances he will wait for a receiver to get open and by the time he decides on his read he is either on the ground sacked or throwing the ball away. Wilson needs to be more aware of what is going on around him to know how much time he has to throw. Confidence in the pocket and connecting on throws down the field will help the Seahawks greatly this week.

The San Francisco 49ers come into the NFC Championship Game red-hot and firing on all cylinders. My 49ers preview is rather broad this week as there are only three things that I believe will help the 49ers be more effective this week. The first key is to ride the wave of momentum that comes with an 8-game winning streak. San Francisco comes into the NFC Championship Game as perhaps the more confident team, which comes naturally riding a long winning streak. My other two 49ers keys will be the most important to keep that momentum going.

The 49ers need to handle the crowd noise much better than they have in their last two visits to CenturyLink Field. Shorter verbiage and hand signals will be necessary this week and I would not be surprised to see the 49ers use a no-huddle package, especially early in the game. San Francisco will want to take the 12th Man out of the game as early as possible so it will be very important to score early. On offense for San Francisco this week there is only one player that I believe is deserving of my X-Factor player to watch, and that is the most important player that was not on the field the last time the 49ers played in Seattle. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has elevated the 49ers passing game to extraordinary levels since returning from a torn Achilles on December 1st. Crabtree has averaged 62 receiving yards in 7 games this season and he has also been targeted an average of 8 times per game. It is hard to believe how big of a difference Crabtree has made since returning; the 49ers have not lost since his return. Taking Crabtree away will limit Colin Kaepernick’s weapons to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

In my “Making Memories” post earlier this week, I recall the 2005 NFC Championship Game in great detail. One of the things I mentioned is how I never sat down throughout the duration of the game and the 12th Man did not let up on the Carolina offense all game long. I cannot stress the importance of duplicating that stadium environment again this week. At last week’s Divisional playoff game many fans left following Marshawn Lynch’s final touchdown assuming the game was all but over. For a playoff game I find that behavior utterly pathetic. This week cannot and hopefully will not be the same as last week. I hope to spend the majority of the game on my feet regardless of who has the ball. I expect every single fan to scream when San Francisco has the ball. I expect no fan to leave before the fourth quarter clock hits zero. If everything goes right this should be the biggest party in the city. I hope you will not want to leave as the game gets closer to the finish. In addition, I want this game to be the loudest Seahawks game I have attended up to this point in my life. We the 12th Man WILL have a voice in deciding the outcome of this game. Do not doubt that. We also owe it to the guys on the field to give it our all. If we stay consistently ear-drum-bursting loud this week, the 49ers will have no chance communicating and coming into our house and stealing a victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will likely wear blue jerseys and blue pants for the final time this season. I say “likely” because should the Seahawks win, they will be designated as the road team in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers will wear their classic white jersey/gold pants look… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee. He called the Seahawks week 8 game against the Rams in St. Louis and Steratore’s crew loosely called that game. He let the players play. Hopefully the same goes this way because if the game is called tight the Seahawks may be in trouble… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews covering the sidelines. In addition, the entire “FOX NFL Sunday” pregame crew will be attendance this week and they will do their pregame show from inside the stadium, an annual tradition, starting at 3pm… The giveaway this week is white rally towels. All I can say is hallelujah. I’ve been waiting to get the chance to wave a rally towel all season and it is entirely fitting that chance comes in the biggest home game of the season… Ann Wilson from “Heart” will sing the national anthem before the game which actually surprises me because I thought FOX would bring in the most recent American Idol or X-Factor winner to sing it like they have done in the past… The halftime show is one that I am very much looking forward to. Grammy nominated and Seattle recording artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform at halftime, which turns the NFC Championship Game into a mini Super Bowl in my opinion. Hopefully the Seahawks take control of the game in the first half so I can actually enjoy Mack’s halftime performance… In my opinion there is only one group that I think should have the honor to raise the 12th Man flag this week. Back when we played Tampa Bay in November, the Seahawks honored the 30th anniversary of the first playoff team in franchise history. Members of the 1983 Seahawks stood at the flagpole while Steve Largent did the honors of raising the flag. This week should hold the exact same concept. The only group that I see fit to raise the 12th Man flag this week is members of the 2005 Seahawks led by head coach Mike Holmgren, the first Seahawks team to play in the Super Bowl. I will be extremely disappointed if this does not happen. Even if they do not celebrate the entire team, Coach Holmgren deserves the chance to raise the flag this week… Goal for Sunday: Try to meet up with all of my friends that I know are going to the game… Streamers are a must once again this week. Gotta go all out… If we win, the Halas Trophy presentation will be really awesome to be a part of again… Let this sink in: We are 60 minutes away from playing in the biggest game in Seahawks franchise history.

Prediction: There is no doubt that this will be a physical game and it may be close until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Zach Miller will catch a first quarter touchdown to make it 7-0 Seahawks. A Steven Hauschka field goal will extend the lead to 10-0 before the 49ers score on a Michael Crabtree touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the half. Halftime score: Seahawks 10, 49ers 7.

In the second half the Seahawks will take full control in the running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns, the second of which coming in the final 5 minutes of the game. That will be the dagger. Vernon Davis will catch a garbage time touchdown under the two-minute warning but by then it will be far too late. The Seahawks will win, hoist the Halas Trophy, and will head to Super Bowl XLVIII as the 2013 NFC Champions.

Seahawks 24, 49ers 14

Whether we win or lose check back late Sunday night for my review of the NFC Championship Game. Whether you are watching on television or at the game, enjoy this one everybody because hopefully this will be a game we all look back on as one of the best in team history. Go Seahawks!

Making Memories: An NFC Championship Commentary

15 Jan

*On Sunday the Seahawks will host the NFC Championship Game for the second time in franchise history as a part of what I have dubbed “Hate Week Part III” with the San Francisco 49ers. I was in attendance at the first NFC Championship Game in 2006 and I am hoping that this week’s game against the 49ers will be just as, if not more special than the first*

Image

This was the scene on January 22nd, 2006 as the Seahawks ran out of the tunnel before the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

Pictures sure do say a thousand words, don’t they? 67,000 fans screaming at ear-damaging decibel levels while waving their white rally towels; one of the most amazing sights these eyes have ever seen and been a part of.

This Sunday the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game in what I believe is the biggest home game in Seahawks history; even bigger than the 2005 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

Pick any Seahawks home game over the past 8 years and I could tell you some detail or memory about it. Every Seahawks game I attend becomes a collection of memories. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, yet every single game I have ever attended is its own unique story.

I can still distinctly remember that cloudy January day in 2006. Sports Radio 950 KJR had done a live broadcast from a pioneer square bar overnight leading all the way up to game time. I had turned the radio on in my room and at a very soft volume and I subconsciously listened to the entire overnight portion of the pregame show while I attempted to sleep. When I woke up in the morning I immediately got dressed into my gameday attire, my 2005 NFC West Champions hat, and my blue Matt Hasselbeck jersey over my white Seahawks sweatshirt. My friend Alan and I headed into downtown where after waiting for at a table at the waterfront Red Robin, we decided to instead walk down to Ivar’s for a fish n’ chips pregame meal. Following lunch we decided to head straight into the stadium and we hung out at our seats in section 302 for two hours as we watched the entire stadium fill up before the Seahawks even concluded on-field warm-ups about 25 minutes before kickoff. I was amazed how full and crazed the stadium was that early. Everybody was at their seats with plenty of time to spare and the mood was utter excitement and confidence, as if there was no doubt that we were going to walk off the field as the 2005 NFC Champions. Following the most beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” I had ever heard (performed by the beautiful and talented Carrie Underwood) Alan and I briefly sat down just before kickoff. We knew we had to charge up our lower bodies as we did not sit down for the duration of the game; a feat that has not been repeated in the 82 preseason, regular season, and postseason games I have attended since. Just before kickoff Seahawks owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag; the most epic sports moment I have ever been a part of.

The game went just as everyone in attendance hoped it would. Jerramy Stevens caught a touchdown pass to make the score 7-0 Seahawks and following a Lofa Tatupu interception later in the first quarter, the Seahawks had taken control of the game for good. Starting at this point the 12th Man started several “Super Bowl” chants following every score and timeout. 2 Josh Brown field goals, a Darrell Jackson touchdown catch and two touchdown runs by league MVP Shaun Alexander cemented a 34-14 win as the Seahawks punched their ticket to Super Bowl XL.

An extended postgame fireworks celebration and large quantities of blue and green confetti bathed the entire stadium as the Seahawks and the 12th Man entered full party mode. By the time the clock hit :00 no one had left the stadium and quite frankly no one wanted to. The 12th Man wanted to soak in the greatest moment in the history of Seahawks football for as long as they could. A stage was wheeled to mid-field as Terry Bradshaw of FOX presented Paul Allen, coach Mike Holmgren, Matt Hasselbeck, and Shaun Alexander with the George Halas memorial trophy, emblematic of the champions of the National Football Conference. At the end of ceremony Alexander took the trophy on a victory lap around the stadium to “show everybody” as Terry Bradshaw advised him to do. After the Seahawks left the field and headed back into the locker room Alan and I headed for the gates to head home. My friends are amazed at the selective memory I have for every Seahawks game I have ever attended but I can say with full confidence that there is no game I can remember more clearly than the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

I will be taking my Dad to this year’s NFC Championship game; an event that I am sure will be made a memory for him and me to bond over for years to come. Needless to say this will be a very special moment between the two of us, made even more special since he will not be going to New York with me to attend Super Bowl XLVIII should the Seahawks win this week. I am very excited for him to experience everything an event like the NFC Championship Game has to offer.

When we beat Carolina to get to Super Bowl XL no Seahawks fan went out of their way to make fun of or insult any Panthers fan in attendance, or to make them feel any worse that their team did not make it to the Super Bowl. I realize that our ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII will come at the expense of the one team Seahawks fans hate the most but my ultimate hope is that the same celebratory actions from 2005 repeat themselves this week. I know it would be the sweetest feeling in the world to beat the 49ers to get to the Super Bowl but that should not mean that the 12th Man should go out of their way to emotionally pummel any 49ers fans in attendance. Simply put, this is OUR moment to shine. Do not make it about them. This game and this potential victory should be made all about US by US. If we win, celebrate the win as a Seahawks victory, not a Seahawks victory AND a 49ers loss. make sure to also revel in the amazing scene that will take place following the game. This is an experience that every sports fan dreams of. To everyone lucky enough to attend the 2013 NFC Championship Game, savor every moment and even the smallest little details of your gameday experience because I promise you this will be an event that you will never forget

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 566 other followers