Tag Archives: 12th Man Flag

Review: Seahawks 19, Cardinals 3

23 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After what happened on Sunday afternoon it is hard for me to wonder what I was so worried about going into this week’s game. The Seattle Seahawks were able to keep their hopes at the NFC West division title alive as they easily defeated the Arizona Cardinals 19-3. With the win the Seahawks improve their record to 7-4 and with the Cardinals falling to 9-2 Seattle now sits two games behind Arizona for first place in the division. As refreshing as this win was and as great of a game we played on defense, I saw a few things on offense that still have me worried. Let me share my brief thoughts on this game.

Special Teams Sets Offense Up For Success: Bryan Walters and DeShawn Shead played key roles in the success of the Seahawks special teams unit on Sunday. Walters had his longest punt return of the season, a 21-yard return at the end of the first quarter. Shead blocked an Arizona punt which gave the Seahawks the ball on the Cardinals 24-yard line which ultimately led to a Steven Hauschka field goal. The Cardinals gave Seattle the ball 9 times on punts, punt blocks, and missed field goals on Sunday. Four of those first 6 drives started from inside Arizona territory, giving the Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks offense a short field to work with.

Offense Did Just Enough to Win: Going into this game I predicted that the entire Seahawks offense could be in for a rough day at the office from a statistical production standpoint. Thanks in large part to the special teams as previously noted, the offense was given fantastic field position on the majority of their drives. The frustrating part was seeing the Seahawks settle for 4 field goals on drives which started from the Arizona 49, the Seattle 44, the Arizona 48 and the Arizona 24 respectively. People get offended when they hear quarterback Russell Wilson referred to as a “game manager” but honestly that is what he had to be this week. Wilson played a fairly conservative game and the strategy worked well as he completed three-quarters of his passes, finishing the day 17/22 for 211 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Cooper Helfet. On the ground Wilson was Seattle’s leading rusher after the dominant front seven of the Cardinals was able to bottle up Marshawn Lynch for the majority of the game, as I thought was definitely possible. If the Seahawks had started more of their drives from deeper inside their own territory we would be talking about a much sloppier, defense-oriented game.

Wilson Got Dirty: Take away the fact that the Seahawks were at home and take away the fact that we were playing a very sub-par opposing offense. The Seahawks will not survive another game like the one we played on Sunday if our pass protection of Russell Wilson does not improve. Wilson was sacked 7 times on Sunday, 5 of which came in the first half alone. This is the second time in Wilson’s career that he has been sacked 7 or more times in a game. The Seahawks offensive line struggled to pick up on Arizona’s blitz schemes all day long and there were several instances where Russell Wilson had no time to throw because the defender was coming at him unblocked. Having Alvin Bailey and Patrick Lewis starting on the interior offensive line is a big problem and I never thought I would say this, but I am really missing James Carpenter at left guard. If the Seahawks are forced to start the duo of Bailey and Lewis again on Thursday night, the Seahawks offense is going to have to get creative to outwit the outstanding pass rush San Francisco will throw at them.

Good to Have You Back, Bobby: Today the Seahawks defense played one of their best games of the season. The run defense in particular played lights out football. One of the main factors on defense was the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner led all Seattle defenders in tackles with 8 and he was also able to hit Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton once. The Seahawks held Cardinals running back Andre Ellington to 26 rushing yards on Sunday, the lowest number of yards allowed to an opposing running back all season. One other stat to note is Arizona’s third down conversion rate which was a mere 25 percent on Sunday. With the exception of Brandon Mebane the Seahawks defense is now at full strength when we need it the most. Having Wagner back will stabilize the middle of the field and I believe we will see significant improvement in the short passing game in the coming weeks. Drew Stanton did not perform well enough through the air to give us a sample of our short to intermediate pass defense. Next week against Colin Kaepernick that may be a completely different story.

Thoughts on Arizona: I think this is going to be an interesting stretch of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. The goal? Survive long enough to outlast the emerging Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. I believe this team is a playoff-caliber team but I am not convinced that they can even hold on to win the NFC West. I understand not having Larry Fitzgerald really hurt their offense on Sunday but they had the talent in Michael Floyd and John Brown to be successful without him. This team will not get very far in the postseason the way they played today. Our week 16 matchup in Arizona will definitely give all of us a better gage as to where the Cardinals are headed come January.

Random Thoughts: All navy and all white for the Seahawks and Cardinals respectively this week just as I predicted… Gene Steratore is one of my favorite referees in the NFL but today I believe there were a few questionable calls that did not go in our favor and it seemed like those penalties all happened in a short window of time. In particular, I do not believe the pass interference called on cornerback Byron Maxwell was PI… 88 Keys is a great place to hang out before the game. Very spacious but there could have been more important games on the bigger televisions and projection screens… A lot of people were late for kickoff. There has to be a bigger effort for future 1:05pm starts to tell fans to get in their seats in time for the start of the game… Former UW and Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy raised the 12th Man flag this week. I’ve always been a fan of Milloy, the man who helped groom half of the Legion of Boom (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor)… The wiener dog races did not disappoint this year as the final heat ended in a photo finish… I need to get more sleep the night before home games. 5 hours of sleep had me feeling like a zombie on Sunday while at the game… We only have 4 days to get ready for once again the biggest game of our season which comes on Thanksgiving night.

In just 3 days I will have my preview of Thursday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers fresh on the blog. Check back Wednesday. Go Hawks!

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Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

22 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks are facing a situation that I did not expect us to be in with 6 weeks left in the regular season. With 6 games left, 3 of which coming at CenturyLink Field, we are now in a spot where the rest of our home games need to feel like playoff atmospheres. With the best team in the National Football League coming to town this week, what better motivation  to fire up the 12th Man? Five of our final 6 games are against NFC West opponents and this week the Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks are 6-4 and are in danger of falling out of the division title race for good with a loss. The Cardinals on the other hand are sitting in the same position the Seahawks were in last season. Arizona has a 9-1 record, a 3-game lead over Seattle and San Francisco for the NFC West lead, and clinching a playoff berth is within striking distance. Arizona leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 16-14. Their last meeting came in December of 2013 when the Cardinals came into Seattle and stunned the Seahawks 17-10, snapping the Seahawks 16-game home winning streak. I believe this game will be the toughest game we play at home all season. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to come away victorious.

There are two things the Seahawks offense must focus on this week. The first is to continue to effectively run the ball. This will be a challenge as the Cardinals boast the league’s third best run defense, allowing an average of 81 rushing yards per game. This week Seattle needs to get creative in the running game, using some sort of running back rotation as well as allowing Russell Wilson to use his legs to pick up yards. Last season the Cardinals did an incredible job of shutting down our offense and holding us to only 10 points. Arizona has a secondary with incredible talent and I believe that cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie will do a good job of stopping our receivers, especially on the deep ball. I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson have one of his worst days throwing the ball in recent memory. Our offense will only excel as much as our running game allows it to. A successful game in my eyes would be to run for between 100-125 yards. If we can get to three figures, I believe we can put ourselves in position to win the game.

The second thing the Seahawks offense must do is protect the ball. Points may come at a premium this week and the worst thing the Seahawks can have happen is to give the ball away, which would subtract the number of possible scoring opportunities we get. The Seahawks average just over one turnover per game at home this season, and they have played only one home game where they turned the ball over multiple times. If we can run the ball effectively our chances of turning the ball over on the ground are small. I believe any turnovers this week will be interceptions on forced throws made from Russell Wilson. There is a direct link between pass protection and turnovers. If we can keep Wilson clean, we will not turn the ball over.

Just like how I am putting an emphasis on preventing turnovers on offense, the number one priority on defense this week is to force Arizona turnovers. The Seahawks will be facing a quarterback in Drew Stanton who has never played a game in Seattle. The Cardinals have struggled all season long in the running game, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. It is this number which leads me to believe our run defense can hold Arizona running back Andre Ellington to limited yards. The difference in this game will come in the Arizona passing game, which in turn puts the spotlight on the Seahawks pass defense. Stanton has only thrown 2 interceptions in 5 games this season, both coming against Detroit last week. It is crucial for the Seahawks to put pressure on Stanton to force him into bad throws. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Bruce Irvin must work cohesively this week to penetrate the Arizona offensive line. If we can force Stanton into hurried decisions or sacks consistently, it will be extremely difficult for the Cardinals to get anything going on offense.

The Arizona Cardinals sit at 9-1 without several notable defensive players including defensive end Darnell Dockett and linebacker Daryl Washington. It is the Cardinals defense that has me more worried about this home game than any other home game in recent memory. This week however I am focusing on the Cardinals offense. Arizona has several playmakers at the receiver position which will make for great matchups to watch on the outside. Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell will have their hands full with Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd but I am most interested in seeing what happens out of the slot. My X-Factor player to watch for the Cardinals this week is their #3 receiver, rookie John Brown. If the Seahawks play a good game on defense it could come down on which team can make a big play on offense. The Cardinals definitely have a big-play guy in Brown. So far this season Brown has made 9 catches that have gone for 20 yards or more including three deep touchdown catches. If Brown lines up in the slot he will likely go up against Jeremy Lane. Brown’s speed however could set up an interesting matchup down the field between him and Earl Thomas. I would not be surprised to see Drew Stanton try to bomb it downfield for Brown at least once on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will go with all-navy uniforms this week while the Cardinals will likely dress in all-white… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver reporting from the sidelines. This is the first Seahawks game Burkhardt and Lynch have done all season. Since they are FOX’s #2 broadcasting crew I believe this means there will be a skycam at this week’s game, even though this is not the Sunday afternoon national game of the week… Gene Steratore is the referee this week… A reminder to everyone attending this week’s game. The game starts at 1:05 NOT 1:25. Make sure you are in your seats before kickoff. We need everyone to be ready to be loud… My guess as to who will raise the 12th Man flag is Randy Johnson. I know nothing that leads me to believe I am right. It is a completely random guess… The halftime show this week is the annual wiener dog races. This is the only halftime show that is consistently entertaining. There is always at least one dog that gets away and is hard to chase down… If we lose this game we will be 4 games out of first place in the NFC West with 5 games to play. In other words, we will have no chance to win the division if we lose this week. A win is crucial to our entire playoff push. We have little room for error. If we lose, this entire city will go into panic mode.

Prediction: In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I think this is going to be a low scoring game with neither team able to score 20 points. I think the Seahawks will have yet another goal-to-go opportunity this week and unlike last week, this time we will take advantage, giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch and having him punch it in for a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald and John Carlson will catch touchdowns for the Cardinals but the difference will come in the kicking game. Three Steven Hauschka field goals, two of which coming off of Arizona turnovers will give Seattle a narrow victory, improving our record to 7-4.

Seahawks 16, Cardinals 14

The next week few days on the blog will be very busy. Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Seahawks!

Giants/Seahawks Preview

8 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After finishing the first half of the regular season at 5-3 the Seahawks open up the second half of the season at home this week against the New York Giants. The Seahawks, with their 5-3 record, currently sit in second place in the NFC West while the Giants stumble into CenturyLink Field this week. The Giants are 3-5 and are coming off a brutal 40-24 blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts at home. To make matters worse, they played the Colts last Monday night which means they will play this game on a short week. New York leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-7 but the Seahawks have most of the recent success, beating the Giants 23-0 at the Meadowlands last season. The Seahawks have also won 2 of the last 3 meetings played at CenturyLink Field, including the famous 2005 matchup won by the Seahawks (more on this later). We cannot afford to let this game slip away. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

This week on both sides of the ball my primary focus is how we can improve our play with key players returning from injury. On offense I am looking for Marshawn Lynch to carry over his success from last week on the ground and I am looking for Russell Wilson to make clean throws from inside the pocket, thanks to the return of center Max Unger. Unger has not played since week 5 against Washington when he injured his foot late in that game. In the 4 games Unger missed, the Seahawks have averaged 326 yards of offense per game and Lynch has only run for an average of 61 yards per game. Lynch has not had a 100 yard rushing game since week 1. This week could be the week Lynch tops that plateau once more as the Giants allow an average of 119 rushing yards per game. This week do not be surprised to see Wilson throw Jermaine Kearse’s way a lot. With Doug Baldwin nursing a groin injury that may or may not limit his physical ability, Kearse may be the receiver Wilson is most comfortable with. After rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood combined for only 31 receiving yards last week, I believe that Wilson’s comfort level with these guys is not where they would like it to be just yet. I would not be surprised if Kearse is Seattle’s leading receiver this week.

Although linebacker Bobby Wagner has been ruled out, the Legion of Boom may be back at full strength this week. Safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Byron Maxwell have both been participants in practice this week and will likely play. The LOB is my primary focus on defense this week, considering the success they had forcing 5 Eli Manning interceptions in their matchup last season. After intercepting his first pass of the season last week I believe Richard Sherman is a guy to watch and it will be interesting to see if Manning is willing to test Sherman or if he will try to avoid him for the majority of the game. The front seven must put pressure on Manning to take pressure off of the Seattle secondary. Bruce Irvin has stepped up in recent weeks and I hope to see him step up again in this game. Also keep an eye on Brock Coyle and K.J. Wright. Wright stepped up big to help Coyle out last week, recording 13 tackles however more should be expected of Coyle this week in the middle of the field.

The New York Giants are kind of a mystery to me on offense. Eli Manning has shown that he can be a great quarterback but they have not played at a high level consistently the past couple of seasons. Plain and simple, this is not the same Giants team that won the Super Bowl a mere three seasons ago. In a hostile environment, I believe that New York must establish the running game to have any success on offense. My focus this week however is on the Giants defense. Gone are the days of a strong veteran pass rush anchored by Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Instead the Giants have gotten younger and they have shown to have very good talent. The only problem is that like the Seahawks, the Giants have been depleted by a rash of injuries. Certain players have been thrust into starting roles that they were nowhere near close to holding at the beginning of the season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Giants this week is one of those kinds of players, cornerback Jayron Hosley. Hosley has found himself starting at cornerback this week after Prince Amukamara was placed on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending biceps tear on Monday night. Hosley began the season on New York’s practice squad and he was suspended for the Giants first 4 games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. 3 of Hosley’s 4 tackles this season came after replacing Amukamara against Indianapolis and he also added a pass defensed against the Colts. Given the uncertainty of the Seahawks wide receiver situation this week, Hosley will likely line up on both sides of the field. Hosley vs. Jermaine Kearse will be an interesting matchup to watch given the height advantage Kearse will have. Keep an eye out this week for how the Seahawks attack Jayron Hosley and if he can step up to prevent the Seahawks from moving the ball in large chunks.

There is one last thing to watch this week and hopefully true Seahawks fans already know what I am talking about given that the Giants are in town. In 2005 the 12th Man helped force the Giants into 11 false start penalties. The Seahawks went on to win that game in overtime and I believe that game was the unofficial start of what has become the most intimidating fan base in all of sports. Even in the 2 Giants/Seahawks games played in Seattle since, Eli Manning and the Giants have continued to struggle handling the crowd noise and I am confident this week will be no different. The Seahawks will definitely do their part to remind the fans in attendance on Sunday what has happened in past meetings and it will fuel the 12’s to be as loud as possible. Crowd noise may be a bigger factor this week than in any other Seahawks game so far this season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-navy once again this week. The Giants will wear white jerseys and gray pants. I find it funny yet interesting that the Giants (nicknamed Big Blue by the way) feature so much red on their away uniforms… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… This week is the Seahawks salute to service military appreciation game. Both teams will wear camouflage accessories and the national anthem will likely feature a field-sized American flag. In past years stadiums have also done a red, white, and blue card stunt during the national anthem but that will not happen this year. I bring this up because this is the only game where the 12th Man flag raiser is revealed in the days leading up to the game. This week’s flag raiser is Major Scott Smiley and according to seahawks.com Smiley is “the U.S. Army’s first blind active duty officer”… Having two consecutive home games is the best. It always has, and always will be… Go Saints, Go Rams.

Prediction: I believe the score will be close but it will feel like the Seahawks run away with this game. Marshawn Lynch will run for 80 yards while Russell Wilson puts up 275 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Eli Manning will throw a touchdown and a pair of interceptions with the Giants offense racking up 3 false start penalties as well. The Seahawks will win this game and go to 6-3 on the season.

Seahawks 24, Giants 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 30, Raiders 24

2 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Usually when the Seahawks score 30 points in a game I am thrilled. It usually means we played a very sound game and should mean that we won fairly easily. Why is it then that I feel so shortchanged and worried? The Seahawks have yet to put together a complete victory and today they showed improvement in areas and showed regression in others. The Seahawks defeated the Oakland Raiders 30-24 on Sunday in a game that I believe should not have been as close as the final score indicates. Regardless, the Seahawks improve to 5-3 on the season, taking over sole possession of second place in the NFC West. With today’s loss the Raiders fall to 0-8. Here is the good and the bad that I took out of this week’s game.

Running Game Improves: Today offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gave running back Marshawn Lynch a hefty dose of the ball and it paid dividends in controlling time of possession and making the difference on the scoreboard. Lynch ran the ball 21 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, his most productive game on the ground since week 3. Behind an offensive line missing two starters, Lynch did a great job finding running lanes and gaining yards after contact. What I also liked was the play calling which got Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael involved on early downs. Russell Wilson handed the ball off to his running back on first down 48% of the time, a significant improvement from the past few weeks.

Wilson Still Having Trouble Making Throws: For the second straight week, Russell Wilson struggled to connect with receivers on throws he has proved he can make. Today, among the incomplete passes that stick out in my mind, he overthrew wide receiver Jermaine Kearse multiple times and also failed to hit tight end Luke Willson on a play-action shotgun pass which would have picked up a first down and significant yards after the catch. Perhaps today the weather played a factor in Wilson’s performance but against a defense like Oakland’s a 179-yard performance with no touchdowns or interceptions feels very unsatisfactory. This season Wilson has had only four 200-yard passing games and of those, he has only thrown for over 300 yards once. It seems as though we cannot put a complete offensive game together; we can either run the ball effectively and struggle passing or vice versa. Could it be that Wilson is not yet 100 percent comfortable with his targets, particularly the rookie wide receivers? Time will tell as he become more familiar with them on a weekly basis.

Special Teams Regresses Terribly: The Seahawks special teams allowed yet another touchdown on Sunday, when Denico Autry of the Raiders blocked a Jon Ryan punt which was recovered by Oakland’s Brice Butler in the endzone for a touchdown. Given the recent struggles of the Seahawks special teams unit I pose this question: is the absence of special teams captain Heath Farwell making the difference in the poor play of this year’s squad compared to the shutdown play of last year’s unit? There are several new players in different positions on special teams which led head coach Pete Carroll to label special teams “a circus” after today’s win but Farwell was the anchor of last year’s unit. This is scary to me. The inability for the offense and defense to run away with games this season makes me think that it may be only a matter of time before these special teams mistakes cost us yet another game much like what happened in St. Louis.

Plug-and-Play Defense Survives: Today the Seahawks defense was introduced during pregame ceremonies and there were three new names to the lineup. Brock Coyle started at middle linebacker while Tharold Simon and DeShawn Shead took Byron Maxwell and Kam Chancellor’s spots respectively in the Legion of Boom. They played adequately. Among these three players Shead led the pack with 4 tackles and Coyle only recorded 2 tackles of his own. Coyle was helped out in large part by outside linebacker K.J. Wright who played a very Bobby Wagner-esque game. Wright made 13 tackles and also added a pass defensed. Bruce Irvin also started in place of Malcolm Smith and had a big impact, intercepting and returning a self-tipped Derek Carr pass to the house for a touchdown. All in all, the defense forced two Carr turnovers and survived the game despite allowing 17 points. We simply need to get healthy. I do not think it is crazy to think that if we had played any other team today we may not have come out victorious.

Thoughts on Oakland: The Oakland Raiders have potential on offense but they are not there yet. Derek Carr needs talent around him to put more points on the board. A new running attack would not hurt either, as Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are not getting any younger. On defense the Raiders need to get younger. They are too old to stay consistently healthy although the play of second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden had me pretty impressed on Sunday. The Raiders will likely bring in a new head coach in 2015 to replace the current interim coach Tony Sparano. It seems like the Raiders are consistently rebuilding, and from where I am currently sitting, it may be a few more years before they can challenge for even a wild-card berth.

Random Thoughts: Jerseys were just like I thought for both teams. Moving on… Today Walter Jones’ 4 offensive line mates from the 2005 Super Bowl XL season raised the 12th Man Flag. It was great to see Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, and Sean Locklear back in Seattle all together. Personally I believe Hutchinson should get a turn to raise the flag by himself in the future. Also, I am assuming Locklear retired because he was in attendance today. How is that possible? He was a rookie in 2005, and even though he is currently 33 years old I think he could still be of service to a desperate team seeking offensive line depth. I guess that just goes to show you how short NFL careers are… I loved the Marysville-Pilchuck High School logo on the Seahawks touchdown flags and the moment of silence was nice also… The Ring of Honor ceremony for Walter Jones was awesome. Those navy blue blazers worn by all the Ring of Honor members look pretty good. Jones seemed to get more emotional for the ROH ceremony than he did for his jersey retirement 4 years ago… Another home game next week. I’m already looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading everyone. Check back next Saturday as I preview our week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. Go Seahawks!

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

1 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks begin the month of November at home this week as they renew their old AFC West rivalry, hosting the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks are 4-3 and are coming off a crucial win in Carolina last week. The Raiders have had a very lackluster season thus far and they are the only winless team left in the National Football League at 0-7. Last week the Raiders fell on the road to the Cleveland Browns 23-13. Oakland leads the all-time series with Seattle 29-24. In their last regular season meeting the Raiders demolished the Seahawks 33-3 in October 2010. That was head coach Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle and since losing to the Raiders in 2010 the Seahawks hold a .606 winning percentage. Meanwhile in the exact same span, the Raiders winning percentage is a mere .317. Here are some things I will be looking for out of the Seahawks this week, as well as a special report on the Oakland Raiders.

I have pleaded for the Seahawks to get quarterback Russell Wilson more involved in the running game the past couple of weeks but this week I do not think it will be necessary for Wilson to run for the Seahawks offense to be effective. Instead, this may finally be the week that we see Wilson spread the ball around and get rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood their most action of the season. Richardson and Norwood combined for 5 targets last week. Both Wilson and Coach Carroll have stated that they hope to get both of these receivers more involved this week, but I am interested to see if they use them to accentuate their specific abilities. Could Richardson be used on fly sweeps and bubble screens much like how Percy Harvin was used? I think it is definitely possible. Could we see Wilson try to stretch the field and let Norwood use his size as an advantage to catch deep balls? I think Wilson may look Norwood’s direction deep at least once this week. If these two receivers combine for 75 or more receiving yards I think the Seahawks are in for a very successful day through the air.

At the end of last week’s game the Seahawks dialed up the pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and it worked like a charm in preserving the victory. This week the Seahawks defense needs to stick to that blueprint. At home in 2014 the Seahawks have averaged just over 1.5 sacks per game. This number must improve. After three home games last season the Seahawks averaged just above 2.5 sacks per game. Expect to see Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright blitz on early downs this week and keep an eye on Wright who will be back starting at outside linebacker. If Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr has time inside the pocket it will be interesting to see how his reads progress in the middle of the field. The Seahawks will start rookie Brock Coyle at middle linebacker this week, who has seen little playing time on defense this season. Coyle is a solid tackler who tries to get in on every play but he has a long way to go to challenge for Bobby Wagner’s permanent starting job. It is not unreasonable to think Carr will try to throw short passes in the middle of the field to test Coyle and if Carr can catch the Seahawks off-guard, those passes could turn into large chunks of yards for the Raiders.

There is one major thing the Seahawks absolutely cannot do this week; overlook the Raiders. The Raiders may be 0-7, they may be the worst team in the NFL on paper, but there may be potential for this being a trap game. Remember what happened when the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into CenturyLink Field last season? The 12th Man thought we would just roll right over them. Instead, the Buccaneers jumped out to a stunning 21-0 lead putting all Seahawks fans on edge. The Seahawks cannot play relaxed this week and the fans must be just as loud and intense this week as our other games this season. The Raiders have only lost two games so far this season by more than two scores, including two close games against AFC powers New England and San Diego. Oakland will absolutely get up for this week’s game, the question is will the Seahawks force them to sit right back down or will Oakland be able to put up a legitimate fight.

This week is a very special game for me. One of my best friends, Josh Gabel, is a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan. For the past several years I have taken him to every Raiders/Seahawks preseason game but we have never had the opportunity to see our teams play each other in the regular season. There may be no better person I know to give an in-depth analysis of the Oakland Raiders than Josh. Instead of me giving you a paragraph on the Raiders and giving you an “X-Factor player to watch” this week I have instead invited Josh to be a guest contributor in this week’s preview. Here is what Josh has to say about his Raiders, along with what he is looking for in this week’s game:

At 0-7, the Oakland Raiders head to Seattle in the midst of a 13 game losing streak and an all but assured 11th consecutive non-winning season. A trip to the Clink sure doesn’t seem to be the solution to the Raiders’ woes. After two years of salary cap hell, Oakland brought in proven winners and recognizable (albeit past-their prime) names – guys like defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew – but have yet to see a return on their investment. With 13 new starters on both sides of the ball, this group has failed to mesh, costing head coach Dennis Allen his job and leaving general manager Reggie McKenzie’s future beyond this season in doubt.

The O in Oakland has gone missing so far in 2014. The Raiders offense is putting up a meager 15.0 PPG, which is good for 31st in the league. Many of these struggles can be traced to an unwillingness to run the ball.  Oakland is averaging only 69.6 rushing yards per game, which should be attributed more play-calling than ineffectiveness. Despite Darren McFadden’s respectable 4.0 yards per carry, Oakland passes 67% of the time. On a team with no playmakers at the skill positions (save for the occasional Andre Holmes highlight), passing the ball at such a high rate is a recipe for losing. Rookies Derek Carr (leads all rookie QBs in passing yards, TDs, and QB Rating) & Gabe Jackson (7 starts on a top 5 pass blocking offensive line) along with the aforementioned Holmes are bright spots for the team’s future. The coaching staff may trust Carr with the keys to the offense, but Oakland will continue to stall without a commitment to the run. Things don’t get much better on the other side of the ball.

Oakland is near the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive category. They can’t stop the run (130.1 YPG) or get after the QB (7 sacks, tied for 29th). With all of the money McKenzie gave to Tuck, Woodley, and Antonio Smith, it is very disappointing to see such a lack of production. The lone bright spot on this defense is that number 5 overall pick Khalil Mack has lived up to his high draft so far, but not necessarily as expected. Coming out of the University of Buffalo, Mack was known being a disruptive force behind the line of scrimmage. Though Mack has yet to register a sack, he has been credited with 22 QB pressures and is Pro Football Focus’ highest rated linebacker against the run, with 8.5 tackles for a loss. It will be interesting to see if Mack can down Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. With the offense struggling, the Raiders defense has to get off the field more; Oakland is tied for last in the league on 3rd down, giving up a 48% conversion rate. The Raiders have to find a way to pressure Russell Wilson without losing containment, a task that is much easier said than done.

Whether it’s “Play like Carcass for Marcus [Mariota]” or (my preference) “Down the Pooper for [Amari] Cooper”, Raiders fans are looking forward to May’s draft earlier than ever before. A win in Seattle would do wonders for Reggie McKenzie’s future as head of football decisions. Is it likely? No. But, rest assured, Sunday is going to feel like a good old fashioned AFC West showdown.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants this week. Oakland will sport their classic white jersey/silver pants combo… Kevin Harlan will provide the play-by-play and former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon will provide the color commentary for CBS this week… Ed Hochuli and his gigantic biceps will do the officiating this week… This will be the first “cold” home game of the season. I recommend sweatshirts and jeans… Two reminders for the 12’s this week. First remember this weekend is daylight savings time. Turn your clocks back one hour and get an extra hour of sleep. Second, remember this week is a 1:25pm kickoff. Give yourself a little extra time to get to the stadium but shame on you if you are not in your seats by kickoff… Given the circumstances of this special Raiders/Seahawks regular season matchup, we have a full slate ahead of us on Sunday. Tentative schedule includes McDonald’s breakfast, being at the bar around the time they open between 8 and 8:30, the game, then dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s going to be a great day… Walter Jones will become the 11th Seahawk to be inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. The ceremony will take place at halftime. What is interesting is that Jones will be the first player to have his number retired BEFORE having his name put in the Ring of Honor. This is the first Ring of Honor ceremony I will get to be a part of since I became a season ticket holder in 2006 (Cortez Kennedy Was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2006 but I was unable to attend the game). This season the Seahawks have had a pattern of having a 12th Man Flag raiser that is somehow associated to the opposing team or opposing city. With the Raiders in town I expect a former Seahawk from the 1980’s to raise the flag this week. I have no specific guess though… With a win the Seahawks will close out the first half of the season with a 5-3 record.

Prediction: Honestly, I see the Seahawks rolling in this game. Oakland may be able to keep it close in the first half but Seattle will eventually run away with this game. Marshawn Lynch will run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Russell Wilson will add two passing touchdowns and the Seahawks defense will force 3 Raiders turnovers. The Seahawks will get to 5-3 and we will get ready to face the New York Giants next week.

Seahawks 33, Raiders 14

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

Bears/Seahawks Preview

21 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The third game of the preseason is always the most important. It is the opportunity for the starters to play into the second half and this game gives fans possibly the best preview of how their regular season will play out. In this year’s edition of the “dress rehearsal” game, the Seahawks host the Chicago Bears at CenturyLink Field. The Bears are a perfect 2-0 in the preseason and are coming off a 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Seahawks are 1-1 and are hoping to build upon last week’s dominant performance over the San Diego Chargers. Since the starters will play the majority of this game I expect a lot out of the Seahawks this week. Here is what I will be focusing on.

Last week I called upon Robert Turbin to prove he can be Marshawn Lynch’s primary backup. He impressed. Turbin will likely see the bulk of the carries again this week but my primary focus on offense is Russell Wilson and the passing game. Wilson has been on the field for just over one half of play so far this preseason and his play has been very good, going 15/19 for 158 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Although Wilson has a clean stat line, many of his throws have been conservative, moving the ball in smaller chunks. This week I want to see signs of an aerial attack that could make the Seahawks offense a powerful two-headed monster come September. The speed of the Seahawks receivers is crucial to making this happen. Percy Harvin, Ricardo Lockette, and rookie Paul Richardson should all play with Wilson in the game and I want to see Wilson taking shots down the field to these targets for large chunks of yardage. With a banged up Lance Briggs and Kyle Fuller unlikely to play, and rookie Brock Vereen patrolling the middle of the secondary, the Seahawks could be in prime position to take advantage of a Bears defense that will be somewhat depleted come Friday night.

This week the Legion of Boom will play in full. The Seahawks defense has been missing strong safety Kam Chancellor for all of training camp and the preseason as he has been recovering from offseason hip surgery but this week Coach Carroll has said he expects Chancellor to play against Chicago. For how long remains to be seen. I expect Chancellor to be a bit rusty early on in the game but will settle down and it will be business as usual for the LOB. The Seahawks will still be without starting linebackers Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin this week but will hopefully have them back in time to play Oakland next week. Mike Morgan and Brock Coyle will likely start at linebacker once again this week. It will be crucial for the defense to play well early as the Bears are fully capable of putting points on the board. The 12th Man will once again have to be in mid-season form to help shut down Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense.

This week I am interested to see who will see playing time after the starters are pulled in the third quarter. With the first round of roster cuts coming early next week, this game would ideally be the final chance for a select group of players to prove themselves before the first judgment day of the preseason. It is this reason why I expect to see members of the second-string units to see playing time with the starters. Once the starters are pulled in the third quarter, my guess is that we will see third-stringers and undrafted players get a chance to prove they are worthy of sticking around for at least one more week. On offense I expect to see wide receivers Phil Bates and Bryan Walters as well as offensive linemen Stephen Schilling, Caylin Hauptmann, and Garry Gilliam see their fair share of playing time in the second half. On defense, I would like to see D’Anthony Smith, Michael Brooks, Korey Toomer, Phillip Adams, and Steven Terrell get their chance to prove they are worthy of making the first round of roster cuts.

The Chicago Bears come into this game undefeated on the preseason. The strength of the Bears offense gives the Seahawks a quality test for the starters to see in an expanded preseason opportunity. The Bears are led by quarterback Jay Cutler along with two of the best wide receivers in football, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Although the Legion of Boom will surely have their hands full with Marshall and Jeffery, the Seahawks defense will also have to take into account a newly signed Chicago wide receiver. This week my X-Factor Player to Watch for the Bears is wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes is entering his 9th NFL season. Most recently he spent the past 4 seasons with the New York Jets. Holmes was signed over the past week and on Wednesday it was reported by ESPN that Holmes may see playing time this week. If Holmes does see game action I am interested to see how the Bears use him in their pass-heavy offensive scheme, because it will be difficult for the Seahawks to prepare for Holmes’ presence on the field; something that is currently a complete mystery.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants with the Bears likely wearing white jerseys and navy pants. It has been 5 years since the Bears last played in Seattle. On that September Sunday the Seahawks wore these. Thank goodness we have graduated to our amazing Nike uniforms since… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX… Bill Leavy is the referee this week. Even though we finally got our first Lombardi Trophy, I will never forget how Leavy and his officiating crew ruined Super Bowl XL… My back is feeling better so hopefully I’ll be able to handle my medicine accordingly and have a couple of beers before the game, as I am meeting up with a small group of friends… The offense will likely be introduced this week after the defense was introduced last week… I do not expect any championship banners unveiled this week but it looked like a banner was going to be revealed last week, so I could be wrong… I may have to make it a gameday tradition to visit the Lombardi Trophy at Touchdown City before every game. Seeing it before last week’s game got me pretty emotional… I could not even begin to guess who will raise the 12th Man flag this week. My guess is a popular former Seahawks player… In two weeks we open the regular season at home. I can hardly wait!

Prediction: The Seahawks and Bears will trade touchdowns in the first quarter before the Seahawks start to pull away. Russell Wilson will throw for two touchdowns and Christine Michael will also add a touchdown later in the game. The Seahawks will improve to 2-1 with the preseason finale against Oakland looming next week.

Seahawks 30, Bears 17

Check back late Friday night/early Saturday morning for my game review. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!