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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

Seahawks/Raiders Preview

27 Aug
raiders preview 2014

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders

Site: O.co Coliseum (Oakland, California)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks are one week away from kicking off the regular season. Two things stand in their way; final roster cuts and Thursday’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks have a 2-1 preseason record and are coming off a 34-6 throttling of the Chicago Bears. The Raiders are 1-2 and are back home after losing in Green Bay last week 31-21. This is the 9th straight season the Seahawks conclude the preseason against the Raiders and this is the first time since 2010 that the preseason finale is played in Oakland. The starters will see little to no playing time in this game. I expect Russell Wilson and the starting offense to play only the first series. These are the players and storylines I will be watching before the Seahawks set their regular season roster on Saturday.

The first defensive series of this game will likely be the only time our starting defense will play in full before the start of the regular season. Head Coach Pete Carroll is optimistic that middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin will be available this week. If that is the case, the Seahawks will start their entire projected starting defense against the Raiders. This unit will only see one series as a whole, with selected players possibly seeing expanded playing time. On the offensive side of the ball, I expect Russell Wilson will only lead one drive in the first quarter before turning the job over to Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor. With the way the Seahawks have been playing so far in the preseason, is it too farfetched to expect the Seahawks to hold a 7-0 lead after the first two drives of the game? That is my expectation for the first quarter of play on Thursday night.

The fourth and final preseason game is a job interview for many players on both teams. A strong performance in the preseason finale could be the difference between making the 53-man roster to start the season or getting cut. My main interests going into this game include a single player and an entire position group. On defense my eye will be on defensive end Benson Mayowa. Mayowa impressed coaches and fans in the 2013 preseason with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks but he has been virtually nonexistent thus far this year, recording only 4 tackles and ½ of a sack. Mayowa is fighting to fit into the pass rush rotation but with O’Brien Schofield, Greg Scruggs back from injury, and rookie Cassius Marsh, there may simply be no room for him. I believe Mayowa must have a very strong performance against Oakland to even be a consideration to make our 2014 roster.

After the Seahawks selected wide receiver Paul Richardson in the 2014 NFL Draft, conversations started about the depth and talent the Seahawks have loaded at wide receiver. This catapulted discussions that by the end of the preseason some tough roster decisions will have to be made and the Seahawks will be forced to release some strong talent at the position. The Seahawks will likely only keep 6 wide receivers on the active roster. Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse are all presumed locks to make the team, leaving three spots up for grabs to 8 different receivers. In my opinion, the Seahawks will also hold on to Richardson and Ricardo Lockette which will leave one final spot to be won by Phil Bates, Bryan Walters, or fellow rookie Kevin Norwood. What makes this position group difficult to cut is that each player adds their own unique talents and traits. Lockette has shown flashes of good speed and hands on offense, Walters is a solid special teams contributor with kick return capability, and Bates is one of Russell Wilson’s most reliable targets in practice. I will be watching Lockette, Bates, and Walters closely this week on offense.

The Oakland Raiders enter 2014 with an interesting mix of raw young talent and veteran leadership. The Raiders are led on offense by newly-acquired quarterback Matt Schaub however it will be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who sees the majority of playing time this week. The Raiders have also added offensive skill-position talent in running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones. On defense, the Raiders have added defensive linemen Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck to help a pass rush that was mostly ineffective in 2013. Oakland upgraded their linebacker corps by drafting Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Raiders also upgraded their secondary by adding a pair of veteran cornerbacks; Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. All of these moves express the effort to improve a unit that gave up the 5th most passing yards per game last season. What makes this game hard to analyze is that even though we play the Raiders later this season, we will see a mere shell of the team that we will host on November 2nd, much like the shell of us that the Raiders will see this week. Seahawks/Raiders preseason matchups in past years have been mostly noncompetitive, with the Seahawks jumping out to a big early lead and holding it. If this game remains close later into the second half I believe that will point to the Raiders being an overall better team in 2014.

Random Thoughts: My Seahawks uniform prediction this week: white jerseys with blue pants. Just a guess… For one last time Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week… This trip marks only the 4th time the Seahawks have played in Oakland since moving to the NFC West in 2002… The baseball infield will be present this week since the Athletics have not concluded their season yet. The Raiders are now the only team in the NFL who has to deal with the dirt infield for the first half of their season. It’s just another reason why the Raiders either need to build a new stadium or move to, say, Los Angeles???… My guess is that the Seahawks will treat this week like a normal regular season game week since they start the season next Thursday. The Seahawks will likely play the Raiders on Thursday, watch film on Friday, trim the roster to 53 players on the off day Saturday, and begin practice and preparation for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Prediction: The Seahawks offense will drive down the field with ease and score a touchdown on their first series of the game. To counter, the starting defense will force Oakland to punt on their first drive of the game. The Seahawks backups led by Tarvaris Jackson will maintain the lead and the Seahawks will win, ending their preseason with a 3-1 record. The Seahawks will not light up the scoreboard like they have the past couple of weeks but they will hold a comfortable lead over the Raiders throughout the second half.

Seahawks 24, Raiders 7

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for my game review. Enjoy the game and Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 23, Texans 20 (OT)

1 Oct

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Last season in Chicago the Seahawks drove 80 yards in overtime to beat the Bears 23-17. That game turned out to be a huge statement game and jump started the Seahawks to 5 straight wins to end the regular season. What happened on Sunday could carry huge momentum as we carry on with the 2013 season. The Seahawks came back from a 17 point halftime deficit to defeat the Houston Texans 23-20 in overtime in one of the biggest and most impressive comebacks in franchise history. With the win the Seahawks have started 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and keep a two game lead on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The Texans fall to 2-2 on the season. Here are my thoughts on the big points of Sunday’s amazing win.

Thoughts on the Offensive Line: I understand that the Seahawks offensive line went up against one of the best defenders in the NFL in Texans defensive end J.J. Watt this week. Watt recorded 4 tackles and only 0.5 sacks but the stat line does not show what I saw from the upper deck of Reliant Stadium. What I saw was Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus (my X-Factor player if you remember), and defensive tackle Antonio Smith completely dominating the Seahawks offensive line physically.  The Texans bull-rush technique was extremely effective throughout the game on Sunday. Russell Wilson was pressured 16 times by the Houston defense. Those 16 plays resulted in 5 sacks, 5 incompletions, 5 quarterback rushes, and one interception. These results contributed to a passer rating of 49.7 for Wilson, the third lowest passer rating of his career. The adjustments offensive line coach Tom Cable made at halftime worked because the Seahawks showed slight improvement by giving Wilson slightly more time to throw. With center Max Unger hopefully coming back this week I do not believe Wilson will have the kind of frustrating day against Indianapolis that he had in Houston.

Thoughts on the Defense: Just like with the offensive line, it was a night-and-day difference between the first half and the second half/overtime. After allowing 20 first half points the defense buckled down and did not allow another Texans score. In the second half and overtime the Seahawks forced 7 Houston punts, recovered a fumble, and cornerback Richard Sherman returned an interception for a touchdown to tie the game 20-20. The pass rush also improved dramatically as Clinton McDonald, Chris Clemons, Tony McDaniel, and Cliff Avril each recorded a sack of Matt Schaub in the second half. The resiliency the Seahawks defense showed against Houston proves that we have the capability to come back from any deficit. Seahawks fans should be very confident in this unit. This year, more than any other year, do not count this team out of any game regardless of the score or circumstances. They made a huge statement in Houston this week and with the schedule easing up a bit in the coming weeks, this is a perfect opportunity to get further ahead of the rest of the division.

The Michael Bennett Factor: With 10 seconds left in the first half Michael Bennett left the game on a stretcher with a lower back injury. Thankfully, the injury was not as serious as it looked and at halftime Bennett was in the Seahawks locker room. He told Richard Sherman “just come on, win this for me. I’m not going to be able to come back in this one.” This moment of inspiration and emotion was a tremendous motivating factor for the entire team and especially for the defense, as they went on to shutout the Texans offense for the remainder of the game. Without the injury I raise the question: would the Seahawks have the fire and inspiration to play the way they did in the second half? Luckily for the Seahawks the game resulted in victory and luckily for Bennett it looks like he may have a decent chance to play next week.

Thoughts on Houston: The Texans have a talented team but the offense is their weakest link. Head coach Gary Kubiak along with Texans fans do not seem to have confidence in Matt Schaub’s decision making and his play in-fact cost them a win. The defense will continue to be one of the best units in the NFL as long as they can stay healthy. If this team can get on a winning streak, they could become a dangerous contender later on in the season.

Random Thoughts: Most of my random thoughts will be detailed in a post about my weekend in Houston later this week. I only have only one random thought for this review. The Seahawks wore grey jerseys and grey pants this week. As I posted on Facebook before the game, I am the kind of fan who likes to wear the same jersey that the team is wearing for each game. I do not believe I have ever worn the wrong colored jersey to a Seahawks game in my life. I felt quite out of sorts this week in the stands, as I was wearing my white road jersey; the one I thought the team would be wearing.

Later this week I will post an in-depth summary of my weekend trip to Houston for the game. Be sure to check back for that. Also, my preview of next week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts will be posted Saturday morning. Go Hawks!