Tag Archives: Bruce Irvin

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

2 Jan
cardinals preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Last week there was a possibility that this game would not matter to either the Seattle Seahawks or the Arizona Cardinals. However after losses by the Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers and wins by the Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, the regular season finale in the desert is now extremely important for both teams. The Seahawks head to Arizona for the first time since the disastrous ending to Super Bowl XLIX as they take on the NFC West champion Cardinals. The Seahawks are 9-6 and with a win they will have won 10 or more games in each of the last 4 seasons. The Cardinals are 13-2, winners of nine straight games, and arguably the best team in football. Arizona leads the all-time series against the Seahawks 17-16. In their previous meeting earlier this season the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football 39-32. Here is what both teams have to do in order to head into the playoffs on the right foot.

Against the Rams a week ago the Seahawks finished the day -3 in turnover differential. The only way the Seahawks can win this game from an offensive perspective is to take care of the ball. It will be a difficult challenge because the Cardinals have forced 33 turnovers this season, good for second-best in the league. What worries me is how panicked Russell Wilson may play if the running game cannot get going and the Seahawks face a deficit late in the game, much like how last week’s game played out. Note though that Wilson has thrown only one interception since these two teams last played on November 15th. If the Seahawks can also control time of possession it will put us in a comfortable position for later on in the game. If the Seahawks can keep their offense on the field and if they win the turnover battle, this game will absolutely be winnable.

Much like how time of possession is an area of importance on offense, the same can be said of defense. The way to win T.O.P. on defense is to force Arizona into punts, and in order to force punts you need to stop them on third down. The Cardinals are the best team in the league on third down this season, converting nearly half of their third down opportunities (47.3 percent). The only way the Seahawks will be successful in getting the Cardinals off the field on third down is to put constant pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer. Over the course of this season the Seahawks have been very hot and cold when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Bruce Irvin will have to have a big impact from the outside linebacker spot and he will be a dark horse player in the game if he can successfully penetrate Arizona’s stout offensive line.

All season long the Arizona Cardinals have done an incredible job creating explosive plays. With the Cardinals still using a running back by committee since the injury to Chris Johnson, the game will be won through the air. I expect to see Carson Palmer target wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald more than any other receiver since he is the best short and intermediate threat Arizona has on the offensive side of the ball. If Kam Chancellor remains sidelined I expect head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator James Bettcher to dial up several long passes down the field. If this is the case the speedy John Brown could be primed for a big game, as he will likely line up across from either DeShawn Shead or Jeremy Lane. Also keep an eye on Michael Floyd who could also have the opportunity to get loose with Richard Sherman likely covering Fitzgerald.

My number one focus on defense for the Cardinals is how the secondary will fare for the second straight week without safety Tyrann Mathieu. With Deone Bucannon likely moving from linebacker back to safety to fill in for Mathieu more will be required of the other three starters in Arizona’s secondary. Specifically I will be watching how the middle of the field will covered without the “honey badger” on the field. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cardinals is their other starting safety, Rashad Johnson. Although he missed last week’s game against Green Bay Johnson has recorded 48 tackles this season, sixth among all Arizona defenders. The scariest number that jumps out on Johnson’s stat sheet is his team-high 5 interceptions. If the Seahawks throw the ball in the middle of the field look for Johnson to be in on each play. If the Cardinals can record multiple turnovers they will have an excellent chance to come away with the victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will break out the wolf grey uniforms for the second time this season. We are 6-0 all-time in this look. The Cardinals are eligible to wear their black alternate jerseys but I would not be surprised to see them wear all red instead… This week’s game has been picked to be “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews have the call… This week’s referee is second-year white hat Brad Allen… I hope the field is in good shape. University of Phoenix Stadium hosted the Fiesta Bowl on Friday afternoon so it is possible the field will be beat up. Luckily the Cardinals are one of the best teams in terms of getting their field prepared for a game. They’ll probably roll the field outside, work on it and let it sit in the sun tomorrow, then wheel it back into the building early Sunday morning… It feels a little strange to have regular season football being played after the new year. This is the first Seahawks regular season game played in January in 4 years (2011 season finale in Arizona)… If the Seahawks win I will be cheering like crazy for Green Bay in the Sunday night game. If Seattle loses I’ll be cheering like crazy for Minnesota instead. This is going to be a fun and wild ending to the regular season.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are 4 different possible scenarios that can play out on Sunday, one of which will determine who the Seahawks will play in next week’s wild-card playoff game. It will depend on who wins this game AND who wins the Sunday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Here are the possibilities for next week’s wild-card game:

At Minnesota: Seahawks loss + Vikings win OR Seahawks win + Vikings win

At Washington: Seahawks win + Packers win

At Green Bay: Seahawks loss + Packers win

Prediction: If the NFL hadn’t flexed the Carolina Panthers game to 1:25pm I think there would be a better chance the Seahawks would come away victorious. However since Carolina and Arizona now play at the same time both teams will play at full strength to try to earn the number one seed in the NFC. Carson Palmer will throw for three touchdowns and the Arizona defense will force three turnovers. The Seahawks running game will be extremely inefficient for the second straight week. The Seahawks will finish the season 9-7, stumbling into the playoffs, and we will get ready for our wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers next week.

Cardinals 31, Seahawks 17

#10for10 Game #3: The Fail Mary (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2012 Season)

25 Nov

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

10for10 fail mary

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Typically the University of Washington schedules the first day of fall quarter on the last Wednesday of September. In 2012 however they changed protocol. The first day of classes was scheduled for Monday, September 24th and because both of my Monday classes took place in the late afternoon, I skipped the first day of class in order to attend the only Seahawks Monday Night Football game of the 2012 season.

The day started fairly routinely and my afternoon was somewhat uneventful. At about 3:30 my friends Jake, Alan, and I left our house in Wallingford via Yellow Cab and we made our way downtown. When we got to the international district we parted ways. Jake and Alan were heading to the bar for a couple of quick pregame beers while I made my way into the bus tunnel to meet my friend Elliott who I was taking to the game. Elliott had come straight from work and his attire proved it. He donned a dress shirt and slacks with a Marcus Trufant Seahawks jersey over the shirt. Probably the most ridiculously awesome wardrobe I have seen any of my friends wear at a Seahawks game. Since he was running a little late we decided to head straight into the stadium at around 4:15. The pregame giveaway was rally towels which were awesome but interesting given it was only the third week of the season (normally the Seahawks save towels for the postseason or crucial games late in the regular season).

The game started slowly on the scoreboard but the Seahawks gave the 12’s plenty to cheer about in the first half. Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, and Brandon Mebane combined for 8 first half sacks. Seattle’s incredible ability to put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped keep Green Bay off the scoreboard through two quarters. With each sack the crowd became louder and louder. I can remember laughing hysterically with Elliott because of how easily our defense dominated the line of scrimmage. Other than the sack barrage the biggest play of the first half came with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. After four drives resulting in punts, the Seahawks put together a 7 play drive culminating in a long 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

In the second half the Packers adjusted well. Their first two drives went for field goals which cut the Seattle lead to 7-6. What was frustrating late in the game was our pass rush went from dominant to nonexistent. We could not put any pressure on Rodgers which contributed to Green Bay’s ability to put together lengthy drives and score points. After another Seahawks punt the Packers got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. The Packers drove 82 yards in just over 6 minutes and things got interesting. Rodgers hit receiver Greg Jennings for a touchdown but the Seahawks challenged that Jennings stepped out of bounds before the ball crossed the plain. The call was reversed and it brought up 3rd down and 1 at the 2-yard line. On the next play Rodgers scrambled and was marked short of the first down marker but the Packers challenged this play. Once again the call on the field was reversed giving the Packers a first down at the 1-yard line. On the next play running back Cedric Benson punched the ball in. After failing to convert the two-point conversion the Packers had their first lead of the game, 12-7 with 8:44 remaining in the game.

On our next possession we were able to drive down inside the red zone to the Green Bay 7-yard line. Unfortunately we could not settle for a field goal. On 4th down with 2:00 remaining Wilson threw a fade pass to the left corner of the endzone which looked to be intended for Sidney Rice. Instead Golden Tate jumped in front and tried to make the catch but he ball hit off his hand and fell incomplete. The Packers would get the ball back with 1:54 remaining but the Seahawks had two timeouts left. If they could force Green Bay into a three-and-out, the Seahawks would get the ball back and have one more chance to win the game. The Seahawks were able to force the Packers into a three-and-out which backed them up to their own 4-yard line. Green Bay punted back to Seattle, giving the Seahawks the ball on the Packers 46-yard line with 46 seconds left.

After a first down incompletion Wilson fired down the middle and connected with Sidney Rice for a 22-yard gain. With the clock ticking the Seahawks hurried up to the line of scrimmage and instead of spiking the ball they went for the win. Wilson floated a pass into the endzone but the ball deflected off of Golden Tate’s fingertips. The clock was stopped with 18 seconds left. The Seahawks had the ball on the 24-yard line. After two more incompletions the game came down to one final 4th down play with 8 seconds left. Wilson dropped back and scrambled to his left, buying time for his receivers to get into the endzone for the Hail Mary. Wilson lofted a pass into the left corner of the endzone which was caught “simultaneously” by Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate. From my view it looked like Tate had outjumped the mass of bodies and made the catch cleanly. When the side judge ruled it was a touchdown Elliott and I went bonkers. The team stormed the north endzone and in the stands we all jumped up and down with wide eyes, seemingly not being able to believe what had just happened. I can remember tossing Skittles at a few Packers fans sitting around us; Packers fans that had been trash talking the Seahawks throughout the second half. When head referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the replay hood and ruled that the call on the field stood, the fans erupted one more time. The Seahawks improved their record to 2-1 and it made for a jubilant rest of the night.

10for10 eric and elliott

Elliott and I going crazy in the postgame craziness

Upon walking down to the upper concourse we ran into Jake and Alan and we walked down the stadium ramp screaming and cheering. I can even remember Alan exclaiming “this is the best night of my life!” When we exited the stadium Elliott and I parted ways because we were heading home in different directions but the night was just starting for Jake, Alan, and I. We took a bus back to the University District which was filled with happy Seahawks fans. While standing on the bus Jake agreed with Alan’s prior declaration that it was the best night of his life. This caused one bitter Packers fan standing next to us that “that was sad. Graduation or getting married would probably be the best night of my life.” Once we got off the bus we walked back to Wallingford but not before picking up a fallen tree branch off of the sidewalk randomly. We jokingly waved the branch all the way back home and we decided that it would be our house “victory branch” which we placed on the porch. It stayed there for the remainder of our lease.

We cooked up six chicken top ramens in a giant pan and we watched SportsCenter where for the first time we realized what had actually happened on the final play of the game. We had no idea how questionable the final touchdown ruling was and we could not believe he had witnessed one of the most controversial games in NFL history. It is the greatest regular season Seahawks game I have attended in the 10 years I have been a Seahawks season ticket holder and it rightfully has a spot near the top of my #10for10 countdown.

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is amazing to think how far this rivalry has fallen in a mere 24 months. Two years ago these two teams were arguably the two best teams in football, battling for not only the NFC West division title but for supremacy in the National Football Conference. We now sit here in November of 2015 and our matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers is a game that will be largely overlooked by the entire country, possibly for good reason. The Seahawks sit at 4-5, needing a win to avoid being virtually eliminated from playoff contention altogether. The 49ers are 3-6, and have not improved since these two teams met four weeks ago in Santa Clara. In fact San Francisco’s season has gone so far south that head coach Jim Tomsula has benched franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 19-15. Here is what to watch for on Sunday.

Patrick Lewis will start his second consecutive game at center on Sunday. I believe that our running game and Russell Wilson’s ability to find open receivers (as evidenced from the first time we played San Francisco) will be fine as long as we can control the tempo; something we were not able to do last week. My primary focus on offense this week will be how well the offensive line blocks. After making small progress in prior week’s our offensive line regressed significantly against Arizona last week. Along with the inability to protect Russell Wilson we were also called for numerous holding penalties which did not allow us to do what we wanted to do in the offensive game plan. What I would like to see this week is for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to put together a game plan that can take the pressure off the offensive line. The Seahawks have played 10 games and it should be obvious that we cannot have Wilson drop back five or more steps, have the time to go through his progressions, and make confident throws down the field. I would like to see more read option as well as quick passes and screens against the mediocre 49ers defense. Putting each play in Marshawn Lynch’s hands or in the hands of the receivers close to the line of scrimmage will help our offense thrive in this matchup.

The Seahawks lost outside linebacker Bruce Irvin to a sprained MCL late in last Sunday’s loss and he will not play in this game. My focus on defense will be how we replace Irvin both in coverage and in pass rushing situations. Mike Morgan will likely start in his place and play the majority of the snaps. Look for Morgan’s main contribution to be in pass coverage. On third down head coach Pete Carroll said this week that Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will see expanded snaps in place of Irvin. With both of these players defensive ends, it would not surprise me to see the Seahawks play more of a “52” defense with five defensive linemen. If the Seahawks can sack Blaine Gabbert at least three times I think our defense will but us in good shape to win the game.

The San Francisco 49ers look like a completely different team on offense from the unit we saw back on October 22nd. As I previously mentioned Colin Kaepernick has been benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Two weeks ago Gabbert was able to do just enough to squeak out an impressive upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Gabbert at quarterback, starting running back Carlos Hyde has been sidelined with a foot injury. Two weeks ago the 49ers used a running back by committee system. Shaun Draughn saw the majority of carries against Atlanta while Kendall Gaskins got the goal line carries. These two backs will likely split time again if Hyde does not play. One thing to always keep an eye on is which skill position players are favorited by which quarterbacks. My X-Factor Player to Watch is a guy who is favorited by Blaine Gabbert, tight end Garrett Celek. According to the official 49ers depth chart following the trade of Vernon Davis to Denver the starting tight end is now Vance McDonald. Celek however was the offensive star of Gabbert’s first and only start of the season. He caught both of his only targets for 12 yards but both were also touchdown catches. Given the Seattle defense’s ineffectiveness in covering tight ends down the seam it would make sense for Celek to see a fair share of targets if the 49ers can drive the ball deep into Seahawks territory. Celek will be Gabbert’s favorite target in red zone situations.

Commentary on Russell Wilson: There has been talk over the past week about the recent performance and perception of Russell Wilson. Some have blasted his bye week vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Ciara. The idea of whether or not Wilson is a “tool” was also debated on local sports radio. Seriously. Here are my thoughts on all this noise. Wilson came to Seattle as a 3rd round pick and had to earn his spot as our starting quarterback with Matt Flynn presumably already our starter. His performance during training camp and the 2012 preseason earned him the job. Three years later he is the winningest quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history and has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances, two conference championships and one world championship. So what’s the problem? I believe, fair or unfair, that his work ethic was so intense and admirable that it became the expectation. What I believe we are seeing now is Wilson taking his foot only the slightest bit off of the gas in regards to his daily routines and because he is not seemingly spending every waking moment in the film room like he may have been doing in seasons past if feels like he is being punished by Seahawks fans who are ready to blame Wilson for our 4-5 record. I just do not believe that this is fair. Would I had loved to see Wilson use the bye week to stay in Seattle, get healthy, and use the extra time to prepare even more intensely for the Arizona game? Absolutely. But the man is human after all and I believe he has been overly criticized for how he spent his week off.

Random Thoughts: All blue everything for the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers will sport white jerseys and gold pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber have the call for FOX this week. This is the first Seahawks game Myers will do play-by-play for since week 17 of the 2013 season. I believe when the schedule came out this game was going to be “America’s Game of the Week” with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but because San Francisco and Seattle is not a nationally appealing matchup anymore, combined with the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings playing host to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers at the same time we play, we are stuck with Myers and Barber. To those watching on television I am sorry. It is going to be a brutal game to watch… This week’s referee is none other than Ed Hochuli… The annual wiener dog races is the halftime show! It is probably the only halftime show I enjoy watching… There’s also a giveaway this week! “We Are 12” gloves. Those will certainly come in handy as the game-time temperature is predicted to be in the low 40’s… Breakfast in Bellevue and pregaming at the Hawks Nest for the first time since week 3. Out of the house by 7:15am.

Prediction: This week will be a domination that could springboard the Seahawks into a run towards a wild-card spot. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns; one to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett. San Francisco will struggle so bad that Blaine Gabbert will be benched in the third quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will lead a garbage time scoring drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. The Seahawks will go to 5-5 and head into the Thanksgiving weekend happy.

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

“Pre-Review”: Seahawks 13, Cowboys 12

3 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

For the first time ever on the blog I made a critically stupid mistake. I forgot to post my game preview before I left for Dallas last Friday. I am sorry to those regular readers who I could not provide pregame analysis to. Rather than posting just a review of our exhilarating 13-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, I am taking what I had written prior to the game and reflecting on my pregame analysis. That’s right. I am combining my preview with my review to make my first ever “Pre-Review.” Here is how this will work. Everything below that is in standard font is my unaltered pregame thoughts. After each paragraph I will have a bolded italicized section of review in which I reflect on what I was successful discussing and where I was off. Let’s take a look at how accurate I was at discussing this week’s game.

Success on offense for the Seahawks means one thing primarily and that is to give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch. To prevent Russell Wilson getting beat up as much as he has been so far this season, giving the ball to Lynch will take immense pressure off of the passing game. This is the week to pound the rock because Lynch is riding a wave of momentum coming off his 122 yard performance in San Francisco last week. Lynch could be poised for another big game given the lackluster performance of Dallas’s run defense. With the exception of allowing only 7 rushing yards to Philadelphia back in week 2, the Cowboys allow an average of 120 rushing yards per game. Running Russell Wilson in read-option looks will also confuse the Cowboys defense and could help us control the momentum and time of possession. If the Seahawks allow Wilson to stay in the pocket and wait to go through his progressions he will surely be putting his body at risk. If the Seahawks cannot get the run game going it could make for a very long afternoon.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 71 yards on Sunday. Although it was not his most effective day running by any means, he was still able to take pressure off of Russell Wilson. Wilson was not sacked on Sunday, marking the first time he stayed perfectly clean since Super Bowl XLVIII. Read option was once again not present this week but the protection Wilson had allowed him to step up and make key throws including his touchdown pass to Luke Willson. These throws along with a couple of huge scrambles also allowed the Seahawks to move down the field rather easily on their final drive, leading to Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal. It was not the prettiest day on offense, but we were able to do just enough to win the game.

The Cowboys still have one of the better offensive lines in the league. Dallas quarterbacks have been sacked an average of only twice per game so far this season. Just like Marshawn Lynch riding momentum running the ball, the biggest key for the Seahawks on defense is for the pass rush to ride the wave of momentum they created last week. Seattle sacked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick 6 times last week, a season high. In Dallas we must use the same package of rushers to confuse the Cowboys offensive line and get to quarterback Matt Cassel. I believe the only way the Cowboys can be effective on offense is to move the ball through the air, especially since starting running back Joseph Randle is out with a strained oblique. If the Seahawks can get to Cassel at least three of four times the defense will have what I consider to be a successful day.

Seattle only sacked Matt Cassel once but it may have been the biggest play of the game. Bruce Irvin’s sack of Cassel on 3rd down on the Cowboys final drive of the game virtually sealed the win for the Seahawks. With Dallas needing to go about 60 yards to get into manageable field goal range to win the game, it is logical to think that Cassel could have taken four shots down the field and hope for a pass interference call or a penalty that would have given Dallas a huge chunk of yards. Fortunately the indecisiveness of Cassel allowed the Seahawks pass rush to wear down the Cowboys offensive line and Irvin was able to chase him down, creating a 4th and 16 with less than 30 seconds left. Give credit to the Cowboys offensive line but with our next three games coming at home, I expect to see huge improvement in our pass rush coming off our bye week.

There are several things to keep your eye on when the Cowboys offense is on the field. Given their quarterback situation they will surely try to establish the run with running back Darren McFadden. If the Seahawks do a good job in shutting down the Cowboys rushing attack, it will be in Matt Cassel’s best interest to throw high percentage passes instead of trying to stretch the field. The purpose for throwing short would be to limit turnovers. Matt Cassel threw 3 interceptions in New York last week, two of which traveled 20 yards or more in the air. One final thing to watch out for is how the Cowboys will use wide receiver Dez Bryant if he is active. Bryant has been recovering from a fractured foot since the first week of the season but he may be rushed back into action this week given the progress in his recovery and the desperation Dallas is feeling to save their season. I believe if he plays Bryant will primarily be used as a decoy to confuse the Legion of Boom. Do not expect Bryant to make a big impact in the passing game.

Darren McFadden had a very nice outing on Sunday. McFadden finished the day with 64 yards rushing on 20 carries and also added 49 yards receiving out of the backfield. It felt as though his performance single-handedly kept the Cowboys in the game. Dez Bryant’s production was just about what I thought it would be. Richard Sherman blanketed Bryant the entire game and he had 4 passes defensed; one of which could have been easily intercepted. Bryant finished the day with two catches for 12 yards but given Sherman’s stat line it was clear Cassel was trying to throw in Bryant’s direction often. Bryant was not a “decoy” per se, but given that the most productive receiver was Terrance Williams with 20 yards receiving just goes to show how inept the Dallas passing game was.

The Dallas Cowboys defense features some well-known names at each level.  They include defensive end Greg Hardy, linebacker and leading tackler Sean Lee, linebacker Rolando McClain, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. My focus will be on the Dallas pass rush and the middle level of their defense. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cowboys is outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is a phenomenal tackler and also makes an impact getting to the quarterback. So far this season Hitchens has recorded 20 tackles, which is good for third on Dallas’s defense. He is also one of only four Cowboys with multiple sacks on the year. Only Hardy and defensive tackle Jack Crawford have more. Along with Hardy on the left side it is Hitchens’s presence that leads me to believe the Seahawks will throw more towards the right side of the field.

Greg Hardy gets the headlines this week because of his tipped interception. Anthony Hitchens was my X-Factor Player to Watch and he did virtually nothing this week. The only thing he was credited for was one quarterback hit on Russell Wilson. Barry Church had probably the best day of any Cowboys defender in my eyes, racking up a season-high 10 tackles.

Random Thoughts: None

Prediction: I think the Cowboys have enough fire power to keep this game close. In the end however the fact that Matt Cassel is their starting quarterback gives the overall edge to the Seahawks. Both Cassel and Russell Wilson will throw a pair of interceptions but the Seahawks running game will blow Dallas’s out of the water. Marshawn Lynch will run for 105 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Lockett will also return a punt for a touchdown. The Cowboys will play a sloppy game on both sides of the ball and will not be able to get going until late into the second half. The Seahawks will head into the bye 4-4 and will have a week off before we play the first of three straight home games to kick off the second half of the season.

Seahawks 23, Cowboys 14

As it turns out the Cowboys did have enough fire power to keep this game close and as it turns out the presence of Matt Cassel did ultimately give the edge to the Seahawks. In hindsight if Tony Romo had played in the game the Seahawks would probably have gotten blown out. The game did not turn out to be as sloppy as I predicted but once again the Seahawks won even though they lost the turnover battle 1-0. At the end of the day the Seahawks are heading into the bye with a 4-4 record and on the whole I am satisfied.

Seahawks/Packers Preview

19 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

It has been six years since the Seahawks last played a meaningful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Amazing to think about what has happened since.

The Seahawks head back to the frozen tundra for Sunday Night Football this week as they take on the defending NFC North champion Packers. The Seahawks are 0-1 following their 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. Green Bay started their 2015 campaign on the right foot, defeating the Chicago Bears 31-23 last Sunday. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-8. By now you know what happened the last time these two teams played but here’s a quick reminder. The Seahawks trailed 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. After a Russell Wilson touchdown run, a successful onside kick recovery, a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and  a successful Luke Willson two-point conversion, the Seahawks suddenly took a 22-19 lead. The Packers drove down to tie the game at the end of regulation and in overtime Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the game winning 35-yard touchdown. Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX. Green Bay’s season ended. This is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Seahawks to win. Here is what I will be looking for.

After giving up 34 points last week it is crucial that we see improvement out of the Seahawks defense. There has been ongoing talk during the week about cornerback Richard Sherman lining up at nickel this week in order to cover Green Bay’s best wide receiver Randall Cobb. I think we may see Sherman on Cobb a little bit but Sherman will predominantly play on the outside like normal. The number one thing I am focused on this week will be how we go about eliminating explosive plays. Last week the Seahawks gave up 13 plays of 10 yards or more. The correlation? Although we sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles twice, for the most part he had plenty of time in the pocket to go throw his progressions and make his throws. In order to eliminate the big plays this week, something that the Packers are well equipped to do, we must put excessive amounts of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line did not allow a sack last week so it will be difficult to rattle Rodgers. My hope is to see Bruce Irvin used as a pass rushing specialist. Frank Clark could be a pivotal player this week. The more pass rushers we can get on the field at the same time, the better off the Seahawks will be.

For the Seahawks offense my main focus will be on the play of the offensive line, and how their play will have a domino effect on the rest of the offense. The offensive line’s performance last week was second-rate. The Packers sport big time players in Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and B.J. Raji who do an exceptional job getting to the quarterback. This week I believe Russell Wilson must take it upon himself to avoid the kind of pressure that he faced in St. Louis. Screens and slants may be the most effective strategy in the passing game. I would also like to see Wilson be more assertive in the running game. The read-option was nonexistent last week which I believe was necessary for our offense to keep drives moving. There were multiple plays last week where Wilson could have easily run for a first down. Instead he elected to stay behind the line of scrimmage to try to make a throw. If it is necessary this week or if plays are broken, I want to see Wilson run for yards.

It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one the most explosive offenses in football. Aaron Rodgers is a master at playing to the weaknesses of the opposing defense. I believe Rodgers will take a Tom Brady-esque approach in regards to how to face the Seattle defense. This could mean a lot of three step drops and short passes. Instead of going deep he will rely on his receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones to pick up yards after the catch. As tough as the Packers passing game is to defend, running back Eddie Lacy may be poised to make a significant impact on the ground. In 18 career games at Lambeau Field, Lacy has averaged 81 yards per game and a solid 4.6 yards per carry. If these numbers can hold up in this game it will greatly contribute to an outstanding performance by the Green Bay offense.

On defense for the Packers one position in particular has my full attention. Last week starting middle linebacker Sam Barrington injured his foot and was placed on season-ending injured reserve shortly thereafter. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Green Bay this week is Barrington’s counterpart in the middle of the defense, Nate Palmer. Palmer enters his third season with the Packers but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over him. Before last week, Palmer had not played since 2013 after injuring his foot.  He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve. In 2013 Palmer played in 9 games, accruing only 17 tackles. To make things even murkier, Palmer made the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker during this past offseason. His inexperience could give the Seahawks offense an advantage in the middle of the field. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Palmer will wear the “green dot” helmet, meaning the coaches will communicate the defensive play calls through the radio in his helmet. Given that these are new responsibilities for Palmer, there is a possibility that the Green Bay defense will have communication issues.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks tweeted out their uniform combination Friday night. We will be wearing white jerseys and white pants… The Packers will wear their traditional home look of green jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee… The Seahawks have only beaten the Packers once at Lambeau Field. I remember the game well. It was Monday Night Football during the 1999 season. Mike Holmgren made his first trip back to Green Bay after leaving for Seattle following the previous season. It was Brett Favre’s worst career game, as he went 14/35 for 180 yards, one touchdown, and 4 interceptions. Shawn Springs was the player of the game as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and intercepted Favre twice. The Seahawks won the game in dominating fashion, 27-7. Let’s hope for the same kind of result this week… Random travel story of the week: I am not looking forward to flying Southwest Airlines to Milwaukee. My only ever experience flying Southwest was in 1999 coming home from Omaha, Nebraska. On Southwest your boarding priority is determined by the time you check in. The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board. My family was filling up our rental car with gas near the Omaha airport when the street was shut down so Vice President Al Gore and him motorcade could come through. We were late getting to the airport and were placed in the “C” boarding group (the last group to board). I was separated from my family on the plane (something somewhat traumatic for a 9-year old) and I wound up sitting in between an older couple. I had a book of word searches with me and I just did word searches for the entire flight. Surprisingly, the older woman next to me had no idea what a word search was so she looked over my shoulder and watched me do word searches for the majority of the flight. Talk about awkward… I will be tailgating on someone’s property right off of Lombardi Avenue, directly across the street from Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay tailgating scene is somewhat restrictive to non-Packers season ticket holders so it will be fascinating to see how Packers fans do tailgating… I am beyond excited to step inside Lambeau Field. I consider it to be the cathedral of professional football. So much history has occurred inside that bowl that I’m sure to get chills just walking around. Just like going to Notre Dame Stadium in 2009, this is sure to be a trip I will never forget. The only thing that will make it better will be a Seahawks win!

Prediction: After the Fail Mary and the NFC Championship miracle comeback, the Packers finally get back at us. Aaron Rodgers will come out firing and will throw touchdowns to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the first half. The Seahawks will only be able to counter with one Steven Hauschka field goal as the Packers will go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Seahawks will make the proper adjustments and will score two second half touchdowns; one by Marshawn Lynch and another to Jimmy Graham. The Packers will lead 23-20 and will deliver the dagger with just under 5 minutes left to play. Rodgers will find Cobb for his second touchdown of the game and the Seahawks will head home for their home opener with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Packers 30, Seahawks 20

Programming Note: My game review will be published on Monday when I get back from Green Bay, NOT late Sunday immediately following the game.

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

28 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

The third week of the preseason is often tabbed “dress rehearsal week” in the NFL and for the Seahawks there is an awful lot of show that the 12’s need to see. After two disappointing outings, the Seahawks look to show significant improvement this week as they take on the San Diego Chargers. The starting units will likely play the entire first half and a series or more into the third quarter. This will give us the best look of where our team stands before the regular season starts. Here are the areas I will be closely watching this week.

It is my hope that the starting defense, the front seven in particular, can build on their success from last week in Kansas City. The pass rush was very effective in penetrating the line and getting to the backfield. This week I am looking for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to put continuing pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. With Bruce Irvin possibly out this week after suffering a concussion last week, my X-Factor Player to Watch, second year man Kevin Pierre-Louis, may start at outside linebacker this week. Pierre-Louis has backed up both Irvin and K.J. Wright this preseason but it will be interesting to see how he plays. Irvin is best used for rushing the passer while Wright plays in coverage. Pierre-Louis got hurt last year so I have not seen nearly enough tape on him to truly know what his strengths and weaknesses are in the second level. KPL is certainly the one guy on defense this week to have your eye on.

I am looking for two key improvements by the front seven this week. First off, last week we struggled mightily at getting off the field because of penalties. Alex Smith’s one touchdown drive last week benefitted from the Seahawks inability to get off the field. After ranting about the continuing penalty problem I am hopeful that the Seahawks spent a lot of time in practice this past week to correct it. Secondly, third down and short has been a problem so far this preseason. I am looking for big stops, specifically in the running game on third and short. Our defense must be able to stay fresh. Stopping Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Branden Oliver in short yardage situations will go a long way towards the Seahawks defense playing a much more consistent game.

This week the secondary will be the closest thing to the Legion of Boom we will see until the regular season starts. Richard Sherman will likely start at corner opposite of Cary Williams. Earl Thomas may start at free safety but it would not be a surprise if he is held out until he is a little bit healthier. Kam Chancellor is the only starter of the Legion on Boom who will not play for sure, as he continues his holdout. I would like to see Rivers test the secondary this week to see where we stand. I thought our defensive backs had a very below-average outing against the Chiefs last week unlike how the defensive line and linebackers showed significant improvement. If the Chargers complete long passes and the cornerbacks and safeties struggle I will be teetering on terrified for the start of the season.

It is no surprise what I want to see out of the Seattle offense this week. In a little over one full half of playing time so far this preseason, the Seahawks starting offense has this to show for it: 6 drives, 6 points, 0 touchdowns. Russell Wilson will lead the offense for this amount of time in this week’s game alone and it is time to settle our nerves about the functionality of this unit. My expectation is two touchdown drives in the first half and three total scoring drives before R.J. Archer takes over in the third quarter. For this to happen everything has to be in sync; the pass protection must be on point, the running game must be able to take pressure off of Wilson, and I would also like to see the playbook opened up a little bit. 17 points is my hope for the Seahawks by the time the reserves take the field in the second half.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white this week. My prediction for pant color is college navy. San Diego will wear navy blue jerseys and white pants most likely… Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week. When we are good, the Seahawks are good for one nationally televised preseason game. Luckily this year it comes on the road, which means I am not forced to watch a local broadcast production and listen to local commentators. This will probably the best game to watch on television this preseason… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Due to the national TV broadcast this game does not start at a traditional local start time. Usually if we played San Diego in the preseason the game would start at 7pm but because CBS is broadcasting the game it starts at 5pm which I really prefer… It is disappointing that this could be the final season of Chargers football as we know it. If you didn’t already know, the Chargers are one of three NFL franchises who are looking to relocate to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. Many believe that San Diego may in fact be the frontrunner to be heading to Tinseltown. The Seahawks and Chargers were rivals in the AFC West for 23 years. The franchise has been in San Diego for over 55 years. It would be a complete shame for San Diego to lose the Chargers but we of all cities know what it takes to keep a professional sports franchise in town. Qualcomm Stadium is a concrete dungeon and without plans for new digs, the Chargers will absolutely be heading to LA. Here is a very interesting stat to note, which goes to show you how fast the economic climate can change in professional sports. The city of San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXXVII 13 years ago. Among other reasons, Super Bowls are awarded to cities that have economically viable stadiums, which was the case with San Diego 13 years ago. The NFL would never let San Diego host a Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium today. Seattle’s KeyArena reopened after a “state of the art” remodel in 1995. In the exact same amount of time, 13 years, KeyArena became economically obsolete which was one of the factors why the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. I would love to see the Chargers get something done at the 11th hour in San Diego. The “Los Angeles Chargers” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the “San Diego Chargers” does.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will lead scoring drives resulting in 10 points in the first half. With Wilson at the helm to start the second half, the Seahawks will drive into field goal range and Steven Hauschka will kick another field goal. The Seahawks defense will have a very solid game and several defensive players fighting for a roster spot will make big plays, making their final audition next Thursday that much tougher for the coaching staff to determine their fates. I predict 3 takeaways by the defense in this game. The Seahawks will finally get into the preseason win column, eeking out a close victory.

Seahawks 23, Chargers 21

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

20 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

Last season our game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium was season-defining. Although we lost on that bitterly cold November afternoon, it was a game that ultimately wound up turning our season around. I hate to say it because it is still so early, but the Seahawks are in need of some serious rejuvenation after a disappointing outing last week. What better place to motivate this team than Arrowhead? The Seahawks take on the Chiefs in their second preseason game Friday night. The Chiefs defeated the Arizona Cardinals last week 34-19 in their preseason opener. The starters may see a little bit more playing time this week. Here is what I am hoping to see out of the Seahawks in Kansas City.

It is obvious that this week I want to see better play out of our offensive line. After a hideous performance last week the Seahawks have done some shuffling along the starting line. Justin Britt moves from right tackle to left guard replacing Alvin Bailey. Garry Gilliam has been plugged in at right tackle while Drew Nowak replaces Lemuel Jeanpierre as the starting center. I am equally nervous and optimistic about tinkering with the line but now is the right time to do it. In addition to looking for Russell Wilson to have more time inside the pocket to throw, I will be focused on the running game. It is unclear if Marshawn Lynch will see any playing time this week. If not, Robert Turbin will start. I want to see how effective Lynch and Turbin are on the ground. If the running backs struggle to gain positive yards and if Wilson continues to be rushed, it may be time to start to panic with only two preseason tune-ups left before the season opener in St. Louis.

Expect to see a lot of backup quarterback R.J. Archer this week. He is my X-Factor player to Watch for the Seahawks on offense this week. Newly signed quarterback Jake Waters may also see limited time late in this game, but given his unfamiliarity with the playbook it would not shock me if we do not see him at all. With Tarvaris Jackson battling a high ankle sprain, it will be Archer’s show once Russell Wilson exits the game in the first quarter. Archer has shown noticeable improvement in practice this week and his chemistry with the plethora of Seahawks receivers is also growing. Archer will play the majority of this week’s game and I would love to see him put together a couple of touchdown drives. If the Seahawks can score 14-17 points with Archer on the field, I believe that will be enough to win the game.

On defense this week I would like to see all of our pass rush specialists get work in early on in the game with the starting unit. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will start at defensive end with Bruce Irvin starting at outside linebacker. I want to see Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark get reps with the starters to see how they fit among the starters. Last week against Denver both Marsh and Clark saw all of their playing time come against the Broncos backups in the second half. To me this does not give them the best opportunity to showcase what they can bring to the starting defense. Getting to Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel must happen continually this week. If we can record at least three or four sacks I will be able to breathe easier moving forward.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. No word on pants color yet. The Chiefs will rock their red jerseys and will likely pair them with white pants… Once again Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call on Q13 FOX… I need to make it out to Arrowhead sometime. Wasn’t going to go in November last year because it was too cold. Unfortunately we’re probably not going to play in Kansas City again in the regular season until 2022… No injuries please… I feel like it’s very unusual that we keep playing preseason games on Friday’s. Thursday’s and Saturday’s are good days for football. Friday’s are just weird.

Prediction: The Seahawks starters will be able to deliver one touchdown but we are still going to be unsatisfied heading into week 3. Penalties are going to be a major problem and will be drive killers on offense and drive extenders on defense. Chase Daniel and the Chiefs defense will play a much more complete game than R.J. Archer and the Seahawks defense. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for the San Diego Chargers with and 0-2 preseason record.

Chiefs 24, Seahawks 15

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!

Patriots/Seahawks Preview (Super Bowl XLIX)

29 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: New England Patriots (AFC Champion) vs. Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion)

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

After the miraculous sequence of events in the NFC Championship Game, the question must be asked; are the 2014 Seattle Seahawks a team of destiny? A win this week will absolutely answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ The two-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks face off against the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. With a win, it will mark the 9th time in NFL history a team has repeated as world champions and the first since the 2003-2004 Patriots. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 8-8. Their last meeting has re-emerged in the media in recent days as preparation for Super Bowl XLIX continues. In that October 2012 meeting, Seattle erased a 13 point fourth quarter deficit and came back to beat the Patriots 24-23. That game arguably launched the future success of this entire team, as the Seahawks have posted a 38-11 record since. This game is perhaps more well known for the postgame episode between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in which Brady told Sherman and Earl Thomas to see his after the game (when New England won). The Seahawks instead walked off the field victorious and shortly after the game Sherman posted a picture of him loud-mouthing Brady postgame with the caption “You Mad Bro.” A lot has changed since that rainy fall day two seasons ago. Here is what I will be looking for in Super Bowl XLIX.

Russell Wilson: Last week the Seahawks offense shied away from the read-option until late in the game, which is when our offense had the most success. In regards to the read-option I have the same mindset this week that I did before Super Bowl XLVIII. This is the last game of the season and regardless if we win or lose we are going home no matter what. Why not completely open up the playbook and let Russell Wilson run free? Wilson has rushed for over 50 yards in six games this season. The Seahawks are 4-2 in those games, losing the two games by a combined 6 points. The Seahawks have not played a game this season where Russell Wilson keeping the ball is a top offensive priority so I do not expect the Seahawks to use a lot of read-option in the first part of this game. If the Seahawks get off to a slow start it would not surprise me to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call more read-option plays rather than be patient to see if we can work out our potential offensive problems.

Offensive Matchup to Watch: RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Patriots DT Vince Wilfork. In reality the matchup I really want to see is Beast Mode against the entire New England defensive line but of all Patriots defenders I think Wilfork could give Lynch the hardest time. Wilfork leads all Patriots interior linemen in tackles with 47 on the season and his ability to penetrate the offensive line is uncanny. He may not show up in the stat sheet regularly but his ability to overpower the offensive guard forces the opponents running game to the outside. Lynch thrives off of being able to run through the middle of the field and gain yards after contact. Running to the outside could be the most effective strategy for the Seahawks to pick up yards on the ground. Wilfork could be the reason why we see the Seahawks use both Lynch and Russell Wilson in the running game on the outside.

Defensive Matchup to Watch: SS Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. The only Seattle defender that could possibly cover New England tight end Rob Gronkowski one-on-one is Chancellor. I believe the possibility of Chancellor delivering one of his signature “Bam Bam” hits to Gronkowski would be worth the price of admission. I want to see two things out of the Seahawks defense this week. The first is an expanded “big nickel” package. With Gronkowski mostly playing in the slot, I want to see Chancellor line up at nickel corner instead of Jeremy Lane or Tharold Simon and for the Seahawks to bring reserve safety DeShawn Shead on as an extra safety playing in Chancellor’s normal spot. This would give the Seahawks a 4-2-5 defensive look which will allow the Seahawks to rush four defensive linemen while also adding an extra blanket of coverage on Gronkowski. The second thing I want to see is something that we have struggled to do in the playoffs; put pressure on the quarterback. Tom Brady is a pure pocket passer who does not tend to scramble. The Seahawks need to use the likes of O’Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith in interior blitz packages to overwhelm Brady. If the Seahawks can sack Brady three times and hold Gronkowski to limited catches the Seahawks will have put themselves in a great position to win this game.

Patriots X-Factor Player(s) to Watch: All the talk this week in regards to the New England running game is how the Seahawks are going to be able to corral running back LeGarrette Blount. What’s to say Blount is even the feature back on Sunday? The Patriots have several weapons on the ground at their disposal and that is where I put my X-Factor spotlight for Super Bowl XLIX; on running backs Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been known to be very hot-and-cold when it comes to which personnel to use. Gray, Vereen, and Bolden have combined for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. I believe Vereen would give the Seahawks the most trouble out of these three as he plays the most versatile game. Blount, Gray, and Bolden are all physical runners that I believe the Seahawks defense would have an easier time containing. For as good of a game Blount had in the AFC Championship Game I believe there is a good possibility we will not see Blount as the primary running back and instead we could see one of New England’s three other backs.

Comparisons to the 2013 Broncos: Many of my friends have asked me how the 2014 Patriots compare to the 2013 Broncos whom we beat in last year’s Super Bowl. Here is my quick take on this subject. On offense no team is going to be much better than last year’s Broncos, who set records left and right. Historically, the 2013 Denver Broncos are the best offensive unit in NFL history so this year’s Patriots are obviously not as good as the offense we faced last year. I do believe however that this year’s Patriots defense is better than last year’s Broncos defense, which is why this Super Bowl will be a tougher game for the Seahawks to win. Last year the Broncos allowed an average of 24.9 points per game while the 2014 Patriots are only allowing an average of 19.5 points per game. Since New England has the better defense, I have to say that I believe that overall the 2014 Patriots are a better team as a whole than the 2013 Broncos.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are the designated home team in this year’s Super Bowl so we will be wearing our navy blue home jerseys this week. We will likely wear our navy pants and I would be stunned if we wear white or wolf grey pants. The Patriots will wear their white jerseys and navy blue pants; the first time they have worn that combination in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXIX… Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya have the call for NBC this week. NBC will broadcast 5 hours of pregame coverage starting at 10am Sunday morning… Bill Vinovich is the referee for Super Bowl XLIX, his first. Vinovich officiated one Seahawks game in 2014; our 24-14 win over Philadelphia in December… For the first time ever the Seahawks are playing in a Super Bowl in a warm climate. I cannot wait to get my sunburn on down in Phoenix this weekend. It will be nice to escape the 50 degree weather and the rain for a few days and be able to walk down the street in a t-shirt and shorts in the evening… Two words to describe the price of ticket prices for this year’s Super Bowl: holy cow. If you don’t have an idea, go check StubHub right now… I am staying two miles away from University of Phoenix Stadium so I will likely just walk to the game on Sunday. That will be a nice change from taking two trains to and from New Jersey last year and getting back to Manhattan after 2am… I hope the weather does not cooperate on Sunday. Bad weather would force stadium officials to close the stadium’s roof. The current plan is for the roof to stay open for the game but inclement weather would force them to keep the roof closed. That would be a significant advantage for the Seahawks. I would like the building to be as loud as possible… Last season in New York the 12th Man made a lot of noise at MetLife Stadium. It makes me wonder how the 12’s will travel this year since the Super Bowl is being played closer to home. Phoenix is significantly closer to Seattle than the New England area so I would not be surprised to see the overwhelming majority to be Seahawks fans. I think more Seahawks fans will be at this game than last year’s game… With a win the Seahawks would become the 13th NFL franchise to win multiple Super Bowls. The teams we would tie with 2 championships would be the Broncos, Dolphins, Colts, and Ravens… Last year in New York I met/got pictures with no celebrities which was a disappointment. This year I have to see and meet celebrities. I would honestly settle for just one picture with someone famous… I do not think we can start “dynasty” talk if we win this game just yet, but knocking off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls would be unbelievable.

Prediction: The game balls will be properly inflated.

Oh you wanted a game prediction! Okay here it goes…

This will absolutely NOT be a 43-8 shellacking like last season however that doesn’t mean the Seahawks will lose this time around. The Seahawks defense will hold the Patriots offense to under 300 total yards and Tom Brady will fail to throw for a touchdown for the first time in his Super Bowl career. Marshawn Lynch will run for 85 yards and a touchdown while Russell Wilson throws a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Lynch will win Super Bowl MVP and the Seahawks will head back to Seattle with their second Lombardi Trophy in as many seasons.

Seahawks 23, Patriots 13

I will be back from Arizona Tuesday night. Check back late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning for my Super Bowl XLIX review. Enjoy the game everyone and to those lucky enough to attend, enjoy this moment because you do not know when this opportunity will present itself again. Go Seahawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Seahawks!