Matchup: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
For the second time this season and the first time at home, the Seahawks welcome the primetime lights to CenturyLink Field. This week the Seahawks welcome ESPN Monday Night Football to the Emerald City for our week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions. After our win last week the Seahawks are 1-2. The Detroit Lions won 11 games a year ago but have gotten off to a very rocky start in 2015. They have stumbled out to a 0-3 record and coming out to Seattle will be no easy task. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Detroit 7-5 but in their last meeting in 2012 the Lions got the best of the Seahawks, beating us 28-24 at Ford Field. The Seahawks are also 8-0 in regular season primetime games at CenturyLink Field under Pete Carroll, winning those games by an average of 18.5 points. Here are my points of emphasis going into this week’s game.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is battling a hamstring injury and reports earlier in the week indicate he has a 50/50 chance of playing. As great as it would be to see him active this week, I believe we can win without him. If he is inactive it will be important for quarterback Russell Wilson to get everyone involved. Giving Detroit a taste of their own medicine may be the best way to go about attacking their defense, making them play nickel and even dime coverage. Doug Baldwin could be a major beneficiary in the short passing game this week and I think we are well off using both Jermaine Kearse and Jimmy Graham in the intermediate and deep passing game on the outside. I believe getting off to a fast start and early lead will go a very long way in preserving a Seahawks victory. Detroit’s offense becomes very predictable if their opponent takes an early lead. Detroit hung tight in two of their first three games; week 1 in San Diego, and last week at home against Denver. In those two games combined, the Lions ran a very even balance of plays on first down, throwing on 55 percent of their first down opportunities. In their second game of the season, a 26-16 loss in which they were never really in the game, the Lions threw the ball on first down 90 percent of the time. An early lead for Seattle will likely force the Lions to completely abandon the run.
There are three things the Seahawks defense must do against this potentially powerful Lions offense. First, they must take away the edges, keeping plays in the middle of the field. Detroit has added a lot of speed both at running back and wide receiver and the majority of their large chunks of yards come outside the numbers. The second thing Seattle must do is a no brainer, successfully cover Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson will line up across from Richard Sherman and even though Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has shied away from throwing the one-on-one jump ball up to Johnson, it may be in our best interest to shadow Johnson with double coverage. It would not surprise me to see defensive coordinator Kris Richard use K.J. Wright to drop back in coverage to help Sherman cover Johnson. The third thing we must do could go a long way in forcing turnovers. Have you ever heard of the phrase “you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken s—t?” After watching film of each of the Lions first three games, this phrase basically sums up Matthew Stafford in a nutshell. His 5 interceptions so far this season are tied for 2nd in the league. If Stafford feels pressure and tries to scramble, the chances of him throwing interceptions are great because instead of smartly throwing the ball away he tries to make something happen. It would be wise to dial up all sorts of pressure packages to try to confuse Detroit’s rather inexperienced offensive line. I cannot emphasize this enough. If we can successfully penetrate the Lions offensive line regularly it will go a long way in winning the turnover battle.
Since Matthew Stafford was drafted in 2009 the Lions have been known to be an extremely pass-heavy offense. Detroit will use packages including 3 or even 4 wide receivers and/or multiple tight ends. On the outside they will use Golden Tate in the quick passing game and tight end Eric Ebron gives them another weapon between the hashes. This year however they have made strides in balancing their offense out. After struggling to stop Bears running back Matt Forte early on last week I have doubts on whether or not the Seahawks will be able to contain the run again on Monday night. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Detroit Lions this week is their rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. Regardless of the fact that running back Joique Bell has already been ruled out this week, there is no question in my mind Bell’s presence is a complete waste of a roster spot. Abdullah is Detroit’s best option at running back. His quickness and ability to bounce runs to the outside make him difficult to stop. His burst at the line of scrimmage is also scary as his speed and size allow him to gain extra yards after contact rather easily. Abdullah is also Detroit’s kick returner so it will be important for Steven Hauschka to kick the ball deep or out of the endzone to eliminate the possibility of Abdullah giving the Lions good starting field position. The best way for the Lions offense to be effective will be to keep the tempo up. If they can keep the Seahawks defense on the field and tire them out the Lions will have a chance to stay in this game.
After three weeks there are still questions regarding the Seattle offensive line. If Detroit wants to make an impact on defense they must be able to put pressure on Russell Wilson. They are fully equipped to do so. Even though they lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency they still have two very talented pass rushing ends in Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. They also added defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to take Suh’s spot on the interior line. This week may also mark the return of leading tackler DeAndre Levy at outside linebacker. Levy has been out all season with a hip strain. He is a ball hawk who will make plays in coverage. The secondary is led by safety Glover Quin who led the NFL in interceptions in 2014. His two interceptions so far this season also puts him tied for the lead in picks in 2015. Much like forcing Matthew Stafford into turnovers is a key for the Seattle defense, the exact same can be said for the Detroit defense. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.
Random Thoughts: Nothing special as far as uniforms go this week. Seattle will go all College Navy and the Lions will wear white tops with silver pants… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN with Lisa Salters reporting from the sidelines… The referee this week will be Tony Corrente… Even though ratings for Monday Night Football have dropped since ESPN took over the broadcast in 2006, MNF is still a very special game to attend. It is the only game of the day and they entire nation is tuned in. This will be the 8th and a half Monday Night Football game I attend live. If you’re wondering what “and a half” means, I could attend only the second half of a Monday Night game against St. Louis in 2011 because I had a final exam to take at the University of Washington. My professor would not let me reschedule so I missed Doug Baldwin block a punt for a touchdown, the only exciting highlight of that game… A pregame lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings before the game will certainly be fun… This week I am taking my friend Josh to the game. He has gone to a game with me every year since 2007. I note his presence because of the games we have attended the past two years. Since the beginning of 2013 the Seahawks have a 19-2 record at home. Our two losses in this span were to Arizona in 2013 and Dallas in 2014. I took Josh to both of those games. He has certainly been Mr. Unlucky over the past couple of years. I’m confident we will turn this run of misfortune around this season!
Prediction: I said the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game. The Seahawks will intercept Matthew Stafford three times which will lead to three separate scores. The Seahawks will finally play a satisfying first half and by halftime the game will have already been won. Russell Wilson will throw two touchdowns and Fred Jackson will also run one in from the redzone. The Seahawks will get to 2-2 and get ready for Cincinnati in week 5.
Seahawks 27, Lions 13