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Broncos/Seahawks Preview

13 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

Football is finally back. Seahawks fans never really had the opportunity to wash the bad taste of last season out of their mouth. Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson at the end of Super Bowl XLIX and football faded to the back of our minds, leaving us bitter for 6 long months. On Friday the Seahawks take the field for the first time since that disastrous February evening, opening up preseason play against the defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos. This will be the fifth consecutive year the Seahawks and Broncos face off in the preseason with Seattle winning the last three matchups. Since this is the first preseason game we will not see the starters play very much, perhaps a series or two in the first quarter. This first preseason game will distinguish which position battles we should be keeping an eye on. This is also an opportunity for bubble players to make a good first impression. I will not really be focusing on the opposition during the preseason; I will keep my focus on our team, from roster spot 1 all the way to roster spot 90. Here are a few things I will be keeping my eye on this week.

The top offensive position to watch this season is the wide receivers. It is widely believed that the Seahawks will only keep 6 wide receivers on the final roster. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse may be the only two “locks” at the position. I believe Ricardo Lockette, Paul Richardson, and rookie Tyler Lockett are in good position to earn roster spots. Realistically the final one or two wide receiver roster spots will belong to Chris Matthews, Kevin Norwood, and even possibly local kid Kasen Williams. Of “bubble” players I believe the one with the most catches and/or receiving yards against Denver will earn a leg up on the rest of the competition for a roster spot. Look for Norwood and Williams to get a considerable amount of playing time this week.

Right off the bat I am interested to see who will start along the offensive line. With the departures of Max Unger and James Carpenter, the Seahawks did not make it a priority during free agency or the first part of the NFL Draft to add depth along the line. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left guard while Lemuel Jeanpierre is listed as the starting center on the Seahawks first official depth chart of training camp. Keep an eye on the center battle. Jeanpierre might get the first crack at playing time but it was Patrick Lewis who started in Unger’s place down the stretch last season.

On defense there is a lot of buzz around one of our linebackers. This week I am putting my X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight on outside linebacker Eric Pinkins. Pinkins was drafted as a cornerback who has converted to linebacker and the coaching staff is very excited about him. Coach Carroll has said during camp that Pinkins “Plays very fast, a 4.4 guy playing on the edge who seems to be the most improved guy.” This leads me to believe that Pinkins may join the likes of Bruce Irvin, Cassius Marsh, and rookie Frank Clark in our pass rushing rotation. I expect Pinkins to see a lot of playing time this week.

On the first Broncos offensive possession, likely with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler at the helm, I would fully expect him to go after the “Legion of Whom.” With Kam Chancellor holding out and Earl Thomas likely sitting out while rehabbing, our secondary will look completely different at the start of the game. DeShawn Shead will likely start at strong safety this week and I fully expect Osweiler to attempt to stretch the field to attempt to challenge our raw players and put early points on the board.

Random Thoughts: White on white for the Broncos and blue on blue for the Seahawks uniform wise this week… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Got to love those local broadcasts (good thing I’ll be at the game)… Walt Anderson is the referee for this week’s game… This week I’m taking a friend and co-worker of mine. He’s a San Diego native who says he’s going to be “that guy” by wearing his Philip Rivers Chargers jersey. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Seahawks game with someone who is neutral to the matchup… Will most likely be at Elysian before the game… I’m excited to see what the new Toyota Fan Deck looks like. During the renewal process the Seahawks sent out the seating and pricing map for 2015 and it turns out it would have cost me $20 more total to move to the Toyota Fan Deck. Pay more for a worse view? No thanks, Seahawks… Always nice to be back at CenturyLink after a 7 month break. Here is a pro and con of the preseason: Pro, all the beautiful women wearing skin-tight jerseys. Con, many season ticket holders give their tickets away to friends and family aka “fair weather fans.” During the preseason it would be wise for the Seahawks to pass out “Cheering for Dummies” books because the fans ALWAYS scream when we are on offense. To all those non STH’s going to this week’s game, offense = quiet; defense = loud. Thank you.

Prediction: A lot of rust will be knocked off this week. Neither starting offensive unit will score points in the first quarter. I expect Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson to play in the first half and would not be surprised to see R.J. Archer play the second half. If Osweiler plays the majority of the game for Denver they may have the leg up this week. The Seahawks may lose, but there will be a lot to work on as we head back for another week of training camp.

Broncos 17, Seahawks 9

Check back early Saturday morning for my review of our first preseason game. Go Hawks!

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Review: Seahawks 26, Broncos 20 (OT)

21 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

If we have any more games like Sunday’s game I am sure to have a full head of gray hair by the end of the season. In a game I felt the Seahawks needed to win, they displayed shades of many different games over the past couple of years en route to a wild 26-20 overtime win over the Denver Broncos. With the win the Seahawks improve to 2-1 on the season and currently hold sole possession of 2nd place in the NFC West. The Broncos now also sit at 2-1 and are tied with the San Diego Chargers for first place in the AFC West. As even as this game may have been on the stat sheet and even though the Seahawks won, they struggled in some areas which could definitely be improved before we play our next game in two weeks. Here are my takeaways from Sunday.

Thoughts on Russell Wilson: There were parts of Russell Wilson’s game I liked and other parts that I thought were not very normal. I said in my Broncos preview that Wilson was going to face two different Denver cornerbacks from what he saw in the Super Bowl and he took advantage of the new matchups. Specifically, Wilson hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 39-yard touchdown with 3:05 left in the second quarter over cornerback Aqib Talib. Wilson also showed a side of his game that had not been seen before as he caught a 17-yard pass from Jermaine Kearse after Wilson lateraled to Kearse. Opening the playbook up like that shows a versatile side of Wilson’s game that I think the Seahawks could use to their advantage in select situations throughout the rest of the season. There was one facet of Wilson’s game that I did not particularly like. Wilson has been labeled a “game manager” in the past by several members of the media and today was the first time I felt like he played to that title. Until overtime, Wilson seemed to stay inside the pocket to try to wait for his receivers to open up rather than scramble for positive yardage if a play is blown. In addition, on the final two Seahawks drives of regulation with the Seahawks holding a 17-12 lead it felt as though the tempo and the play calling set the Seahawks up to chew as much clock as possible rather than trying to score more points for insurance. It may have been by design but I hope that Wilson gets back to what I consider to be his “normal self” because Wilson’s game did not seem that normal to me on Sunday.

First Half Defense: The Seahawks defense held Peyton Manning and the Denver offense to only 3 points in the first half. A lot of the credit goes to the run defense. The Seahawks run defense which has struggled at times so far this season held Broncos running back Montee Ball to 19 yards on 10 carries in the first half, including a fumble recovered by K.J. Wright on the Broncos first offensive play from scrimmage. In the passing game the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom held Manning to 87 first half yards through the air as he completed 11 of his 17 first half throws. More importantly the defense was able to get off the field and rest as the Broncos were only able to convert 3 of their 7 third down chances. This is the kind of defense that the Seahawks should have been able to play consistently throughout the game and it is a shame that the end of the game overshadowed the dominant performance of the Seattle defense through the first 30 minutes of play.

Manning’s Game Management Questionable: If Peyton Manning had been able to move the Broncos offense in the first three quarters as well as he did on Denver’s two fourth quarter touchdown drives, we would be talking about a totally different outcome. In those two touchdown drives the Broncos sped down the field in a combined 2:23, running 11 plays for 99 total yards. In these situations Manning used no huddle which is something I speculated about before the game. I thought it may have been a good idea for Denver to use a no-huddle offense sporadically throughout the game to try to take the 12th Man out of the game. Instead Manning managed the game similar to how Russell Wilson managed the game and it may have ultimately cost Denver the game.

Shades of Atlanta: After Steven Hauschka kicked a field goal to give the Seahawks a 20-12 lead the Broncos had only 0:59 to go the length of the field to score a touchdown and convert a two-point conversion to tie the game. They did just that and from my seat in section 340 it screamed a reminder of the Seahawks collapse in the 2012 playoffs to the Atlanta Falcons. After being held to only one touchdown the Broncos offense seemed to simply flip a switch and suddenly they could go through even the toughest defense like a hot knife through butter. That Denver drive to tie the game this week combined with the ineffectiveness to stop San Diego on third down last week scares me into believing that perhaps this 2014 Seahawks team may play more like the 11-5 Seahawks of 2012 rather than the Super Bowl champion Seahawks of 2013.

Shades of Chicago and Houston: As disappointing as it was to see the Seahawks defense let Denver tie the game at the end of regulation, the resiliency of the Seattle offense in overtime had me breathing a heavy sigh of relief. The ability of Russell Wilson to lead an 80-yard drive in overtime to win the game had me thinking back to past overtime wins over the Chicago Bears in 2012 and the Houston Texans in 2013. In both of those games Wilson was forced to use his arm and his legs to move the ball into scoring position and that is exactly what he did again on Sunday. After playing rather conservative for the first four quarters Wilson was more willing to take the game into his own hands in overtime. He proved this by rushing 4 times for 22 yards. The final drive of the game showed a perfect combination of run and pass as Wilson added 4 completions for 35 passing yards. Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks now have a 4-0 record in overtime games.

Thoughts on Denver: It is tough to come into a hostile environment and play good consistent football. Although the Broncos struggled at times they are still a strong contender to challenge for another AFC Championship. Although the Broncos are not scoring points at the record-setting pace that they did last season, they need to be more effective finishing drives. All three of their games have been decided by one score, something that is uncommon especially when compared to their average win margin of 16 points a season ago. The Broncos defense has shown dramatic improvement and I believe they are very close to being categorized in the same level as some of the dominant defenses in the NFC.

Random Thoughts: It was a hot one today. Off the top of my head I cannot remember a past game where it has been that warm throughout the entire game. Good thing is by the time our next home game rolls around in 3 weeks it should be in the high 50’s or low 60’s or as I like to call it, comfortable… All blue uniforms for the Seahawks and all white uniforms for Broncos this week just as I predicted… Nate Robinson raised the 12th Man flag this week. I always like it when the Seahawks bring in a celebrity with ties to the opposing team to raise the flag. I am sure Denver Nuggets fans were thrilled to see their point guard representing his hometown team… At halftime the Seahawks introduced an updated look of our mascot, Blitz, as well as Blitz’s new sidekick/friend named Boom. Personally I don’t understand the concept of changing the look of a mascot but the new Blitz looks more like our logo which I guess is cool… Here is a funny story that had me thinking “true Broncos fan from Denver.” I was enjoying a Bud Light at the Brougham Beer Hall before heading up to my seat and a Broncos fan wearing an orange Peyton Manning jersey went up to the bartender and asked if they had Coors Light (for the small handful of people who somehow do not know, Coors is a Colorado brew). When the bartender said no and all they had as far as light beer goes was Bud Light, he politely declined and walked away. I thought that was pretty funny…. To my surprise there was not nearly as much “we won the Super Bowl” banter hurled toward the Broncos fans in attendance… That was really cool to see that DeShawn Shead proposed to his girlfriend following the game. Congrats 35!… Happy Birthday to Doug Baldwin as well! As early as our bye week comes this year, I think it comes at a really good time. Let’s rest up, reload, and get ready for a big primetime road game in two weeks.

With the bye week coming up my next game preview will come in about a week and a half before we take on the Washington Redskins in week 5. I am traveling to Washington D.C. for the game and I have not decided whether or not to take my computer with me. If I do, look for my preview the day before the game. If not, my preview will be published a few days early. Be on the lookout.

If any big news breaks from now until then I will hop back on to give my take. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!

Broncos/Seahawks Preview

20 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated matchups at this point in the young 2014 NFL season. For only the 6th time in NFL history the two teams that squared off in the previous year’s Super Bowl meet in the regular season. This time around it is the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks playing host to the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 1-1 and are coming off a 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are 2-0 and are coming off a win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 38-20 but by now you already know what happened the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, a 43-8 Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of those previous 5 Super Bowl rematches, the defending champion is 3-2. Here is what I will be focused on from section 340 this week.

I think a lot of Seahawks fans are thinking “if we play the Broncos exactly like how we did in the Super Bowl we should win easily again.” I am adamant that this approach will not work and it not what I expect the Seahawks offense to do this week. In the Super Bowl Russell Wilson only threw for 206 yards and this week I think it is crucial for him to take advantage of the third worst passing defense in the league so far this season. If he is healthy Marshawn Lynch will see his share of opportunities but I believe that Seattle must rely on the passing game to move the ball down the field and score points. If the defense struggles like they did against San Diego more will be required of Wilson to throw the ball to go blow-for-blow with the Broncos offense. Percy Harvin will have a big impact in this game but look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to have a significant impact on the outside. The Broncos will start Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback this week, two players who did not play in the Super Bowl hence they do not have the experience of going up against Seattle’s receivers. Look for Baldwin and Kearse to make a large impact throughout this week’s game.

After being picked apart by Philip Rivers last week, the challenge does not get any easier with Peyton Manning coming into town this week for the Seahawks defense. There are a couple of specific things on the defensive side of the ball I am looking for. First I want the Seahawks enforcers to come out and make a physical statement early in the game. A lot of players in the locker room believe that when strong safety Kam Chancellor hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route early on in Super Bowl XLVIII the game was already over; that the Broncos were intimidated and that threw them off their game for the rest of the night. Laying the wood early could do the exact same thing this time around, especially at home. I’m calling on Chancellor and our entire linebacker corps to make hard, clean hits on Denver’s skill position players to take away any momentum the Broncos may have. Secondly I want to see how the Seahawks defense handles a potential no-huddle offense led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It would not surprise me the least bit to see Manning try to get to the line of scrimmage fast to try to silence the crowd. If the Broncos offense is successful in the no-huddle, I could see the Seahawks struggling, at least in the early part of the game.

The defense of the Denver Broncos sports many new faces this year. After the butt-kicking they endured in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made large financial commitments to high-profile free agents to help their defense become more competitive, especially in big games. My X-Factor player to watch this week is one of those new players, defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware leads all Broncos defenders in sacks so far this season with 1.5 and after watching film of last week’s game Ware’s presence on the field cannot go unnoticed. Although he is 32 years old, Ware proved in the preseason against the Seahawks that he can still chase down even the most mobile quarterbacks, sacking Russell Wilson once in the first quarter. For the entire Denver pass rushing unit, the key will be to try to contain Wilson inside the pocket. If you let Wilson scramble he will find ways to get away and make throws which will kill the Broncos defense. If the Broncos are going to be successful in putting pressure on the Seahawks offense, much like how San Diego was successful last week, you must stop the run, force third downs, and keep the quarterback in the pocket.

There is one matchup that I rank above all else this week: Peyton Manning versus the 12th Man. As surprising as it may be, this week will be the first time Manning plays a full game at CenturyLink Field. His prior two trips to the Clink include a preseason game last season and a game in December 2005 where Manning played in a preseason capacity. In that game, Manning’s Colts had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Manning only played the first couple of series before turning the game over to backup Jim Sorgi. This will be Manning’s first “true” dose of the 12th Man and I have no idea how he will handle our crowd. Other than Peyton Manning, the last 10 opposing Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are a combined 5-12 playing at CenturyLink Field. The last of these quarterbacks to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was Eli Manning’s New York Giants all the way back in 2010. With the complicated snap counts the Broncos use and the silent counts they will have for this specific game it will be crucial for the 12th Man to be constantly deafening to try to frustrate Manning and confuse the entire Denver offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants while the Broncos will wear white jerseys and white pants this week… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines. This is the Sunday afternoon game of the week and the majority of the country will get to see this game on television. The only major cities that will not see Broncos/Seahawks on CBS are Phoenix, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami… Bill Vinovich is this week’s referee… In addition to this being a Super Bowl rematch, this will also be a Super Bowl reunion. I will be taking my friend James to this week’s game. James and I both went to New York for the Super Bowl back in February so we are both excited to see two meaningful Broncos/Seahawks games in two different seasons, but only 7 months apart of each other… I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. What if instead of booing the Broncos when they run out of the tunnel, the 12th Man gives them a roaring cheer? All the Broncos did was be the final team on our way to our first Super Bowl championship. It probably won’t happen but I think that would be an interesting way to maybe throw Denver off guard. Kind of a “thank you for our first Lombardi Trophy, Denver”… Speaking of tunnels, it is rumored that the Seahawks may run out of the tunnel as a team for every game for the rest of the season. I personally do not like this idea because one of the main parts of pregame is to get the 12th Man fired up. The best way the Seahawks do this is by introducing the individual members either the starting offense or defense. Introducing the entire team kind of takes the fun out of all the pregame festivities in my opinion… Looks like it will be a hot one on Sunday with a game time temperature in the mid-80’s. Dress appropriately… With an early bye week this year this week’s game is of even greater importance. It would be terrible start the season 1-2 with 13 straight games ahead of us following the bye week.

Prediction: Although this game will not be as lopsided as the Super Bowl, I am still confident in the Seahawks bouncing back to beat the Broncos this week. Russell Wilson will outgain Peyton Manning through the air and will throw two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse and one to Zach Miller. The Seahawks will go to 2-1 heading into their early bye.

Seahawks 33, Broncos 24

Check back late Sunday night for by Broncos review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Broncos Preview

6 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, Colorado)

Kickoff: 6:00pm

Six months ago the Seahawks wrapped up the best season in franchise history, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The 2014 season starts against the same team that we ended our 2013 season against as the Seahawks head to Denver Thursday night to play the Broncos in the 2014 preseason opener. The Seahawks defeated the Broncos in the preseason last year, winning in convincing style 40-10 at CenturyLink Field. This will be the first of two games against the Broncos in 2014; the Seahawks and Broncos will meet in week 3 of the regular season in Seattle. Although this is only a preseason game there are many things to keep an eye on. Here are a few of the things I will be focusing on this week.

Seahawks training camp has been going on for two weeks. With the first live game action since February on deck, it is reasonable to expect that the first team offense and defense may come out a bit rusty. That is what the preseason is for after all; to shake the rust off and get ready for the regular season. I am very interested to see a couple of different things on offense. First I am interested to see what kind of protection Russell Wilson gets in the passing game. If the unofficial Seattle Times depth chart is accurate, the Seahawks will start 3 linemen that did not start in 2013. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left tackle with Caylin Hauptmann at left guard and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle. With this questionable offensive line, I could see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell using wide receiver Percy Harvin on quick throws or sweeps, especially if Wilson is feeling the pressure at the beginning of the serie(s). The second thing I want to see on offense is how running plays will be split between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. I do not expect to see Marshawn Lynch until maybe next week against San Diego, so Turbin and Michael will see expanded playing time on Thursday. Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart but it would not surprise me to see an alternating committee instead of Turbin playing with the second team offense and Michael playing strictly with the third team offense.

The Seahawks defense has made a name for themselves as being one of the deepest units in the NFL as a whole. Over the past couple of seasons backups such as Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them while solidifying themselves as reliable starters. On Thursday defensive backups will get their first opportunity to make a name for themselves and for some, prove that they are simply capable of making the 53-man roster. The Seahawks are projected to start Mike Morgan at outside linebacker and rookie Brock Coyle from Montana at middle linebacker. Coyle will start over incumbent special teamer Heath Farwell, which shows how far Coyle has progressed during training camp.

This will also be the first time the Seahawks show off their (semi) new look defensive line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are now in Jacksonville, which opens up both starting defensive end spots to 2013 rotational players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks pass rush package now consists of Avril, Bennett, Bruce Irvin (who will not play on Thursday) and rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh.

The Denver Broncos are coming off one of the most impressive statistical seasons of any offensive unit in NFL history. After breaking numerous passing records, yet getting embarrassed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, Denver spent a large amount of money in the offseason upgrading their defense with veteran talent. After the Seahawks defense only allowed 8 points to Denver in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made these moves in free agency to counter select NFC powers such as Seattle and San Francisco. The Broncos signed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib among others to improve the Broncos pass rush and secondary respectively. From a Seahawks perspective, I view this game as a hollow preview of what could be coming when we play Denver in the regular season. I am curious to see just how improved the Broncos defense is compared to last season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Broncos this week is rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is the Denver’s 2014 first round draft pick and is currently slotted behind Aqib Talib on the depth chart. Roby has been playing really well during training camp and will likely see significant playing time on Thursday, especially later in the game.

Random Thoughts: This will be a mini uniform rematch from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and the Broncos will wear orange jerseys with white pants. The Seahawks pant color has yet to be announced but it would not surprise me at all if we wear blue pants just like in the Super Bowl… I am glad we get Denver at home in the regular season. We will see three of our preseason opponents in the regular season and in each instance the location of the game is different from the preseason to the regular season… I am curious to how the Seahawks will be received in Denver as the team that just beat the home team in the Super Bowl mere months earlier. I imagine it will be as hostile an environment as possible for a preseason game… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Menefee and Huard will call all 4 Seahawks preseason games on television this year. As always, the score and the outcome in the preseason does not matter. The only thing that truly matters is that we can fly home injury-free. If the Seahawks can avoid sustaining any major injuries we will have already won heading into another week of training camp.

Prediction: I think that the Broncos will be as fired up as possible coming into this game. They want to stick it to us after we embarrassed them back in February. I could see the Seahawks starting the game with the ball and struggling early. If the Seahawks win this game, I expect it to be on the arm and legs of a much improved Terrelle Pryor. The Seahawks have not lost a preseason game since 2011 but I believe our 10-game preseason winning streak will come to an end this week. The final score will be close but the Broncos will be able to do just enough more on offense to walk away with the victory.

Broncos 27, Seahawks 17

Check back on Friday for my review of our preseason opener, as well as an early preview of the week ahead as we get set to host the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!

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!