Tag Archives: Carson Palmer

Review: Seahawks 36, Cardinals 6

3 Jan
cardinals review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

To be honest I thought we had a very slim chance to win this game. Instead the Seahawks dominated all three phases of the game and delivered an even worse beat down to the Arizona Cardinals than last year’s matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium. I could not be happier to be wrong. The Seahawks ended the regular season on a high note, defeating the Cardinals 36-6 in a game that was never really that close. The Seahawks finish the 2015 regular season 10-6 and will face either the Minnesota Vikings or the Washington Redskins in next week’s Wild-Card playoff game. The Cardinals finish their regular season 13-3 and are locked into the #2 seed in the NFC. They will host a Divisional round playoff game in two weeks. Here now are some brief thoughts about today’s game, as well as my thoughts as we head into the second season.

Bouncing Back and Breaking Records: Although quarterback Russell Wilson only threw for 197 yards, he had yet another three touchdown/no interception day. Wilson completed 68 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 123.7. Keep in mind he was pulled from the game after only 3 quarters. Wilson also broke two Seahawks records on Sunday. He broke Dave Krieg’s single-season touchdown pass record, ending his regular season with 34 touchdown passes. Wilson also became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season. I am extremely confident in Wilson’s ability to win in the postseason as we enter next week. What will help is the possible return of running back Marshawn Lynch. Wilson has been putting up stats and winning games without a running game. Add Lynch into the fold and even without a weapon like Jimmy Graham our offense now becomes perhaps the strongest it’s been all season.

Defense Forces Turnovers: Jeremy Lane, Earl Thomas, and DeShawn Shead all recorded interceptions on Sunday which gave the Seahawks a +3 turnover differential on the day. Turnovers and the ability to stop Arizona on third down were my two pregame defensive keys and our defense did a tremendous job making both these things happen effectively. The Cardinals finished the day with a third down conversion percentage of 41.6. There was one thing that worried me early on, when the Cardinals had the ball 3rd and 10 in the first quarter. The Seahawks rushed only three guys and Carson Palmer had a clean pocket to work with. He connected with Larry Fitzgerald for 11 yards and a first down. The Seahawks then changed their blitz packages for the rest of the game and rushed no more than 4 guys on any given Arizona third down opportunity. I was glad to see Kris Richard and the defense adjust as the game went on in order to maximize our chances to get the ball back.

Thoughts on Lockett: Today is yet another example of why the Seahawks traded three draft picks to move up in order to draft Tyler Lockett back in May. Lockett became the first player since 2002 to return three punts for at least 30 yards on Sunday. His 139 return yards on the day is the best single-game punt return total for Lockett all season. It really surprised me to see Cardinals punter Drew Butler continually kicking to Lockett. I would have thought after Lockett’s second punt return Arizona may want to start punting the ball out of bounds. Big punt returns will go to great lengths in helping Seattle advance in the playoffs. Let’s hope Lockett keeps this up.

Thoughts on Arizona: Going into this game I thought that if the Seahawks playoff run was going to end short of Super Bowl 50, it would end in Glendale at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, most likely in a potential NFC Championship Game. After today however, those fears have been erased. Although we steamrolled the Cardinals, more importantly we proved that this team is definitely beatable in Arizona. The Cardinals are a much better team than their effort today showed. This team is still a serious Super Bowl contender and if the Seahawks can stay hot I think there is a very good chance we will be heading back to Glendale later this month.

Random Thoughts: There is something magical about our wolf grey uniforms. We are now 7-0 all-time wearing this combination and we have won those 7 games by an average of 16 points… Cardinals fans seemed to do a better job drowning out the blue and green this season. At the beginning of the game the presence of the 12’s in Arizona wasn’t very noticeable and there was more red in the stands then in prior matchups. Of course, that went away by halftime when the Seahawks had a commanding lead. By the time the game ended it was all Seahawks fans on the lower level it looked like… It’s now playoff time! This is going to be a very fun week(s).

What’s Next: Like I previously noted, the Seahawks will play the Minnesota Vikings or the Washington Redskins next weekend in the Wild-Card round. If the Seahawks are scheduled to play on Saturday, look out for my Wild-Card game preview on Friday morning. If we are scheduled to play Sunday, my preview will be published on Saturday morning.

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

Review: Cardinals 39, Seahawks 32

15 Nov
Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

I will keep this brief because I will probably just get angrier and more frustrated the more I type. After getting off to an embarrassingly slow start the Seahawks found a way to come back and take a lead late in the game. The Seahawks unfortunately squandered the opportunity to put the Arizona Cardinals away. Penalties kept Arizona drives alive late and the Cardinals came away with a 39-32 win over the Seahawks. The win is Arizona’s second win in Seattle in a three year span. The victory also gives the Cardinals a 7-2 record and a three game lead in the NFC West, which is essentially a four game lead if you count the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks. Seattle falls to 4-5 and has lost a fourth quarter lead in an NFL record six consecutive losses dating back to Super Bowl XLIX. After building momentum in our last two games, everything seemed to unravel. Here is what I took out of this game.

Penalties the Primary Culprit: The Seahawks committed 14 penalties for a staggering 131 yards and not only were some of them inopportune, but the holding penalties on our offensive line were the foundation of our horrible first half of football. At the start of three of our first 4 drives the Seahawks were called for offensive holding. Two of those drives resulted in punts and one resulted in a Cardinals safety. On the ensuing Arizona possessions the Cardinals scored each time, jumping out to an early 19-0 lead. These penalties took the juice right out of the Seahawks offense for pretty much the entire night. If it wasn’t for our defense the Seahawks would have been dead in the water. Unfortunately the penalty bug came back to bite Seattle in the butt again twice in the fourth quarter.

The first call came on 3rd and 4 from the Seattle 39. With the Seahawks clinging onto a 29-25 lead, Carson Palmer threw left intended for Brittan Golden and it fell incomplete which would have brought up 4th down and forced Arizona to punt. Instead free safety Earl Thomas was called for illegal contact which gave the Cardinals a fresh set of downs. Five plays later Palmer threw deep in the direction of Golden again which fell incomplete. Instead of 4th and 10 and a short punt or long field goal attempt coming, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was called for a very ticky-tacky illegal contact penalty, giving the Cardinals yet another first down. Two plays later Arizona took the lead for good on a touchdown pass from Palmer to tight end Jermaine Gresham (which looked to be the same play Seattle was burned on against both Cincinnati and Carolina). Take either of those two penalties away and the Seahawks may have escaped with the win.

From Munster to Swiss: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was kept completely clean in our last game against Dallas. The performance two weeks ago from our offensive line led many including myself to believe that we were making steady progress and that our chemistry was finally coming together. This notion took several giant steps backwards on Sunday Night. Wilson was sacked only twice but was consistently under pressure. It never felt like he had a clean pocket to work from. Wilson’s protection correlates directly to his production; 14/32 (43.7 completion percentage), one touchdown, and one interception. Proper credit goes to Arizona’s pass rush for being able to penetrate the line of scrimmage so effectively but matters along the offensive line must go back all the way to the meeting rooms early this upcoming week. I am running out of things to talk about in regards to this position group. The long and short of it is this, we simply do not have the talent to be able to adequately protect the quarterback on a consistent basis.

The Positives: Our defense deserves a lot of credit for forcing three Cardinals turnovers, two of which lead to touchdowns. The defensive player of the game goes to Cliff Avril who recorded three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and one sack. The resiliency our defense showed in the second half leaves me feeling remotely optimistic going forward. On offense Doug Baldwin did a great job getting separation down the field. Baldwin finished the night with 7 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Those catch and yardage marks are season highs for Baldwin.

Thoughts on Arizona: I knew it. You hopefully knew it. Knowledgeable football fans around the country hopefully knew it too. In a primetime atmosphere, up against the 12th Man, and against Seattle’s defense it was going to be difficult for Arizona to come away victorious. However they were still looked at by some as favorites to win this game. They came into town and took care of business. I hate to say it but Arizona is the superior team in the division and may be the team to beat for supremacy in the NFC. Barring a 2014-style injury barrage and subsequent collapse the Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West in 2015. If they can keep winning and earn at least a first round bye in the playoffs we may be seeing these birds in Santa Clara come February.

Random Thoughts: Even though it was surprisingly sunny it was very cold on Sunday night. Probably the coldest I’ve been during a game for at least a few years… A word to the wise, always drink THEN eat. If you do it in reverse like I did on Sunday you will feel sick… Fun to share my pictures and stories from my trips to San Francisco and Dallas with the people around me. It makes me smile that they remembered I told them I was going and sincerely cared about hearing of my adventures… The Seahawks defense allowed 39 points for the first time since December 12th, 2010. That’s crazy.

What’s Next: The #4 game of my #10for10 series will be published on Thursday. Look out for my preview of next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

14 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

What a way to kick off the second half of the season. There is little doubt that this game is the biggest game of our season thus far, given the opponent and the potential implications of winning or losing. In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. After two straight wins heading into the bye the Seahawks sit at 4-4. The Arizona Cardinals have jumped out of the gate to a 6-2 start and hold a two game lead on Seattle for the division lead. The all-time series with the Cardinals is tied 16-16. The Seahawks have won their last two games against Arizona including a 35-6 walloping of the Cardinals in week 16 last season to take control of the NFC West lead. The Cardinals are a tough opponent and have recent history of beating the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field so this game is certainly no gimme. Here is what I will be watching for on Sunday night.

The common narrative heading into this game has been the Seahawks lack of efficiency in the red zone so far this season. In our first 8 games the Seahawks have taken 18 drives into the red zone. Of those drives, half of them have resulted in field goals and only 5 have resulted in touchdowns. The last Seahawks red zone touchdown came on Marshawn Lynch’s one yard run in the first quarter against San Francisco two weeks ago. Our red zone touchdown percentage of 27.8 is the worst in the league. Seattle also only averages just over two visits to the red zone per game; also dead last in the league. The Seahawks need to capitalize on our trips deep into Arizona territory. Settling for field goals will make it tougher on us especially later on in the game. With the improving play of our offensive line, expect quarterback Russell Wilson to have more confidence throwing towards key red zone targets Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse. If Marshawn Lynch can also get going to extend drives the Seahawks will be in fantastic shape.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very good passing game, oftentimes using three or more receivers. On defense this week for the Seahawks I am looking at what our personnel will look like when we use nickel or dime packages, and just how often will we use at least 5 guys in the secondary. Of course the Seahawks are well known for playing a “cover 3” defense but given the talent Arizona has at the receiver position it may be necessary for DeShawn Shead or Marcus Burley to play more. Playing an extra member of the Legion of Boom may work to our advantage, especially if we can confuse Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in coverage. Forcing interceptions may be difficult this week though. Palmer has thrown over three times as many touchdowns as he has interceptions. Sacks may also come at a premium, as the Cardinals offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback. Arizona has surrendered only 11 sacks so far, an average of 1.4 sacks per game.

On offense the Arizona Cardinals have two of the most explosive units in football. The signing of running back Chris Johnson has propelled the Cardinals to the 9th best rushing unit in the league. My focus this week will be on Arizona’s fourth ranked passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona averages 292 passing yards per game, and 66.3 percent of Palmer’s completions have been caught by the three headed monster of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. My X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight will be on Fitzgerald this week as his role is the most interesting in my eye. Fitzgerald leads all Arizona receivers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The majority of Fitzgerald’s time however has been spent in the slot rather than on the outside. This is where a fifth Seahawks defender will come into play; to help cover Fitzgerald in the middle of the field. Fitzgerald catching passes means the Cardinals will be moving the ball in small chunks while tiring out the Seahawks defense at the same time.

Although Arizona leads the NFC West and they have good talent on the defensive side of the ball, after watching film I still consider this unit to be a “poor mans” Seahawks defense. The Cardinals are using the Seahawks blueprint to create their defense and it is working. The pass rush continues to be exceptional with Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Dwight Freeney. Linebacker Kevin Minter has great range as he is the second best tackler on the team and also leads all Arizona defenders in tackles for loss. What scares me the most though is the play of the Cardinals secondary. Patrick Peterson continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in football. Tyrann Mathieu is probably their most versatile defender doing everything from rushing the passer to playing in deep coverage. If there is one defender to watch it is strong safety Deone Bucannon. In his second year out of Washington State, Bucannon has gone from reserve safety to the leading tackler on the team with 56 through their first 8 games. Bucannon is a hard hitter in coverage and also displays impressing ball-hawking skills. If the Seahawks throw deep do not be surprised to hear Bucannon’s name on the broadcast.

Random Thoughts: With the aura of primetime football comes a primetime broadcast crew. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call on NBC. Michele Tafoya will report on both teams from the sideline. The Seahawks will wear all-navy and the Cardinals will likely wear white jerseys and white pants. I highly doubt we will see Arizona break out the red pants… Clete Blakeman is this week’s referee… Ah finally; primetime football after daylight savings time. It will be dark. It will be loud. It will be the most bonkers atmosphere of the 2015 season. I cannot wait… The game theme is military appreciation. 91-year old Corporal Clayton Pitre will raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff… No bars this week since I’m taking my dad. Lunch downtown then probably either Pyramid or Safeco Field for pregame beers most likely so that should be a nice little change of pace… This game is the biggest game because of the possible ramifications. A win and the Seahawks are one game behind Arizona and our hopes of a division title remain intact. A loss means we are three games behind Arizona, they will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and we can virtually kiss our chances at a division title goodbye. We will be solely focused on a Wild-Card berth if we lose this game and I am not ready to turn my attention to the 5 or 6 seed. A loss is not acceptable.

Prediction: In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 9-0 in primetime with a combined score of 245-94. I do not expect this game to be a blowout but I also do not expect a loss at home in primetime. Russell Wilson will be sacked 4 times but will make two deep throws to set up Marshawn Lynch touchdown runs. Carson Palmer will throw for one touchdown, Chandler Catanzaro will kick a field goal and the Arizona defense will also add a safety. In the end however, Steven Hauschka will kick two fourth quarter field goals and the Seahawks will win their third straight game, improving their record to 5-4.

Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12

Seahawks/Bengals Preview

10 Oct
Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The onslaught of tough defensive lines continues for the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks head to the Queen City for the first time in 12 years on Sunday as they take on the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. After winning last Monday the Seahawks are 2-2, tied for second place in the NFC West. The Bengals are 4-0 and they off to their best start since 2005. Cincinnati leads the all-time series with Seattle 10-9. In their last meeting back in 2011, the Seahawks started Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback but his dismal performance early in the game caused head coach Pete Carroll to substitute in an injured Tarvaris Jackson to finish it. The Seahawks never got going and the Bengals won easily by a score of 34-12. This will be the very first time Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom get to go against the Bengals, but Cincinnati poses difficult matchup problems with the talent they possess especially on defense. This will be an extremely tough challenge for the Seahawks. This is what to watch for.

After the struggles on offense a week ago, a lot must change in both the passing game and running game in Cincinnati. It would be in our best interest to exclusively run a package of quick passes and roll-outs. Given the shaky play of our offensive line recently, the Seahawks will run the risk of putting quarterback Russell Wilson in harm’s way if he stays in the pocket and tries to go through his progressions. Do not be surprised if Jimmy Graham has another lackluster outing on Sunday. Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin should be Wilson’s go-to guys if we stick to short passes. I believed that we could beat Detroit without running back Marshawn Lynch. Although we won with Thomas Rawls carrying the load, this week we will be in deeper trouble offensively with Lynch once again inactive and Rawls getting the start. A successful day on the ground should be a minimum of 70 yards rushing yards out of Rawls.

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Gone are the days of Carson Palmer throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Now it is Andy Dalton, Cincinnati’s 5th year quarterback, who has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first 4 seasons. The Bengals have a plethora of talent at the skill positions but the interesting thing will be to see how well the Seahawks defense matches up against these players. Number one wide receiver A.J. Green has averaged 104 receiving yards per game over his first 4 games and he will garner the attention of Richard Sherman. Seattle cornerback Cary Williams will line up across from Marvin Jones. Expect Dalton to throw in the direction of tight end Tyler Eifert a lot, especially in red zone opportunities. Eifert has averaged just over 5 targets per game but co-leads all Bengals receivers in touchdowns with three. The Bengals also sport a two-headed monster in the backfield with running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill and Bernard combined have averaged 115 rushing yards per game but they will be facing the best front seven they have seen all season long.

If there is one stat to note about the Bengals offense it is this. Dalton likes to take shots down the field at any given time so be on the lookout for him to test the Legion of Boom, especially in the first quarter. Cincinnati has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the first quarter so far this season. An early lead has been the norm so if the Seahawks can hold the Bengals to less than a touchdown in the first quarter it will bode well for the rest of the game.

Given the horrible play of the Seahawks offensive line recently, this is the kind of matchup that probably makes the mouths of the Bengals defensive linemen drool. Cincinnati is tied for 6th in the NFL in sacks and they sport two of the game’s better defensive players along their line. Geno Atkins is a sack master who does a great job penetrating the interior line of scrimmage. So far this season he already has 3 sacks. My main focus however is the man that will likely go up across from Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Cincinnati this week is defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap leads all Bengals defenders in sacks with 3.5. He has recorded at least one sack in 3 of their first 4 games but has yet to face an offensive front as weak as Seattle’s. His tackle numbers are not high and after watching film, Dunlap plays his best on passing downs. If the defense does a good job forcing the Seahawks into third downs, Dunlap’s presence on the field will definitely be felt. It will be up to the Seahawks to keep the tempo up and move the ball successfully in early down situations in order to make Dunlap’s impact minimal or obsolete.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks announced on Friday they will wear white jerseys and College Navy pants. Cincinnati wore their orange alternate jerseys last week so chances are very good they will wear black jerseys and white pants this week… This week FOX has the Sunday single-header, and Seahawks/Bengals is the most attractive matchup on their lineup, so Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will have the call… This week’s referee is John Parry… This next point I feel obligated to discuss. Andy Dalton is the only redheaded starting quarterback in the league. Watching him speak in his press conferences this week I cannot help but be jealous of how his hair looks. My red hair looks good short but once it starts to curl it gets disproportionate and all over the place. Dalton has wonderful-looking straight red hair. I would trade my red hair for his red hair 11 times out of 10… This is the last Seahawks game I’ll watch at home until we play the Minnesota Vikings in week 13. Crazy.

Prediction: Any road game is tough especially at 10am pacific time, but I think this will be a very long day for the Seahawks on offense. Russell Wilson will be sacked 5 times and will throw two interceptions on tipped balls. Marvin Jones will catch one touchdown from Andy Dalton and Jeremy Hill will run for two more. The Seahawks will head home 2-3 and will be pressured to make offensive personnel changes before we take on Carolina in week 6.

Bengals 24, Seahawks 16

Review: Seahawks 38, Giants 17

9 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

It was not perfect but it was a close to a complete game as the Seahawks have played in a long time. In front of 68,352 raucous fans the Seahawks came back from a 17-14 halftime deficit to beat the New York Giants 38-17. The Seahawks set a franchise record with 350 rushing yards including 5 touchdowns on the ground. With the win the Seahawks are now 6-3 and remain 2 games back of the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The Giants fall to 3-6 and continue to struggle to be relevant. Here is what I took out of today’s victory.

Have a Day, Beast Mode: Today the Seahawks established the running game with Marshawn Lynch and then some. Lynch ran the ball 21 times for 140 yards and 4 touchdowns; by far his best game of the season. As I previously mentioned the Seahawks broke a franchise record running for 350 yards on Sunday. Associated categories favored the Seahawks as well, especially time of possession as the Seahawks controlled the ball 7 minutes longer than the Giants. It is not a secret that if you are successful running the ball the chances of you winning are greater. That is not my main point. What is important is that this performance should silence any speculation of Lynch’s possible lack of motivation. Robert Turbin and Christine Michael saw their touches this week but this performance showed loud and clear that Lynch is still out go-to guy in the backfield. Leave any talk about his future on the sidelines for now. For now, let him go out there and be the player we all know he is, the player that showed up big time on Sunday.

First Half Defense: In the first half the Seahawks defense gave up 17 points, 7 of which coming off of turnovers. After the first 30 minutes it looked like Eli Manning was going to pick the Seahawks defense apart all game long. The worst part was that it looked like Seattle was going to let him, as once again we could not establish a solid pass rush. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was not sacked in the first half and the New York offensive line gave Manning a clean pocket for the majority of the half. In the first half Manning threw for 192 yards and a touchdown; a stat line that should be unacceptable especially at home. Fortunately the defense stepped up in the second half, preventing any chance of a New York sized upset.

Second Half Defense: On paper the Seahawks defense played a near-flawless game in the second half. The Seahawks sacked Eli Manning twice, picked him off once, and best of all allowed 0 points. The momentum tilted Seattle’s way for good after Manning’s interception, a pass which was tipped by Richard Sherman to Earl Thomas in the endzone and brought out to the Seahawks 42-yard line. Seattle then went on to score 21 points in the final 15:39 of the game. If the defense can play a complete game we will be a very dangerous team moving forward. The inconsistency of Seattle’s pass rush is what could prevent us from closing out any potentially close games in the coming weeks. I believe we are about to turn a corner, but Dan Quinn needs to take the risk and dial up more early down pressure. Two sacks of Eli Manning is simply not okay in my eyes.

Turnovers and Ball Security Issues: Today was a rare example of the Seahawks losing the turnover battle but finding a way to win the game. The Seahawks committed 3 turnovers this week while only forcing 2 of their own. Seattle also fumbled two more times but they were able to get back on top of the ball both times. The Seahawks have not had consistent turnover problems so I do not expect this to be the start of a negative trend. This is an area that we can patch up in practice this week. Having said this we do go on the road next week into a very hostile environment. If we struggle to maintain possession of the ball again next week, this topic may be brought to the forefront as we enter the NFC West gauntlet after our game in Kansas City.

Thoughts on the Giants: Let’s start with the obvious; the Giants run defense played an absolute terrible game. The Seahawks were able to get to the second and third levels of New York’s defense several times on Sunday and the Giants did not help themselves along the defensive line, as they were extremely unsuccessful in patching up holes for Marshawn Lynch to run through. On offense the Giants have good young talent in receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. and perhaps having Victor Cruz could have helped the Giants passing attack. Eli Manning made a couple very pretty completions where he arched the ball right into the chest of his receiver. The Giants simply need to stock up more young talent. Their 2014 season is virtually over, but in the unpredictable NFC East it is not unreasonable to think the Giants could get right back into playoff contention in 2015.

Random Thoughts: There was a lot of camouflage around CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Everywhere you looked you saw it, similar to how in past seasons you couldn’t walk around without seeing a barrage of pink during breast cancer awareness month… As delicious as that egg nog latte I got from Starbucks was, I might have to cool it on the coffee before future prefunctions. Definitely battling a headache and the jitters right now which could only come from a coffee/beer mix… Thank God I have undercover seats. This has been one of the more indefinite weather home slates in recent memory… We had a Giants fan walking up our aisle who acted like he owned the place. Made me believe he was truly from New York. Good thing he sat several rows behind me because he may have gotten into a shouting match with the characters that sit around me… One pet peeve that I have never talked about is that there is never a good time to take a bathroom break. Either we are on defense and I want to stay in my seats to make noise, or we are on offense and I want to see if we can move the ball. Honestly, it is best to take a bathroom break when we are on offense in my opinion… With Carson Palmer out now is the time for the Seahawks to take advantage and regain ground in the division race. A win in Kansas City would be HUGE for our chances to retake the division.

Check back next Saturday morning as I preview our week 11 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

It’s time to hit the road for the first time in 2014. After demolishing the Green Bay Packers in week 1, the Seahawks now hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-0 and are coming off a long break following their 36-16 win over a week ago. The Chargers however are in the opposite boat, losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals 18-17 and this will be a short week for San Diego as they played on Monday night. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 26-23. Their last meeting came in 2010 when Seattle edged the Chargers 27-20 at CenturyLink Field thanks in large part to two Leon Washington kickoff return touchdowns and two Earl Thomas interceptions. Since this is an early season road game it will be very important for the Seahawks to come out strong and show that they are the better team early on in the game. This is what I will be looking for in this week’s game.

Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks have a 1-1 record in opponent home openers. In these two games the Seahawks have averaged only 14 points per game. On offense this week I believe it is imperative for the Seahawks to put early points on the board in order to silence the crowd. As always this begins with being able to run effectively with Marshawn Lynch but also keep an eye out for Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson to have a bigger impact in the running game. I believe that if the Seahawks use Wilson on the ground more this week we will be able to move the ball in huge chunks. San Diego gave up 109 rushing yards last week and 29 of them came from Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the league. Read option and designed quarterback runs this week I think could give the Seahawks a great chance of exchanging potential field goals for touchdowns.

The adjective that best sums up the play of the San Diego Chargers offense last week: terrible. Against a solid Arizona defense the Chargers were only able to score 17 points, only 3 of which coming in the first half. There has been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman not seeing any action last week but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has come out and said he will likely test Sherman this week. After looking at the film of the Chargers game last week however, I think if the Seahawks pass rush can put constant pressure on Rivers this game will be over fast. On the Chargers final drive last week with the Cardinals sending 4, 5, and even 6 guys on blitzes, Rivers tried to make quick short throws that were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or were just flat out terrible throws. My defensive focus this week is on Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and K.J. Wright. These three linebackers will rush the passer from the second level of the defense along with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along the defensive line. Given that the Chargers offense is most effective passing the ball, adding additional pressure on non-passing downs could give the Seahawks many opportunities to force bad decisions by Rivers, hopefully resulting in turnovers.

As dangerous as the San Diego Chargers offense can be, I am interested to see how their young and talented defense plays with the home crowd behind their backs against the best offense they will likely face this season. The Chargers defense recorded 58 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 sacks last week and this week they face a challenge in game planning as they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson, especially right after playing a pocket passer such as Carson Palmer. I believe the best way to attempt to bully the Seahawks offense is to get to take advantage of matchups along the offensive line. Offensive tackle Justin Britt is the man on the Seahawks offensive line I am most concerned about in this respect. The man who will likely line up across from Britt this week is my X-Factor player to watch, defensive end Kendall Reyes. Reyes had a quiet night last week, recording one tackle. Even though Reyes’ stat line was not impressive, it must be noted that his 5 sacks in 2013 was second among all San Diego defenders, making him a concern for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to deal with. In order to overwhelm Britt, I would not be surprised if Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano uses Reyes and right side linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Manti Te’o in blitz packages to dial up extra pressure to try to collapse the right side of the pocket. This would force Russell Wilson to make throws against his body.

Random Thoughts: This week is “White Hot Sunday” in San Diego. The Chargers wear white for their first home game of the season while encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white as well. The Chargers will wear white jerseys and white pants, forcing the Seahawks to wear their navy jerseys this week. Expect the Seahawks to wear either white or grey pants this week. If I were a betting man, I would say the Seahawks will wear grey pants. If you are lucky enough to be on the road and attending this week’s game remember to WEAR NAVY… I have the feeling that there will be a strong contingent of Seahawks fans in San Diego this week. It is an easy trip to make and the Chargers have had a history of difficulty selling out their home games. Could we see more Seahawks navy than Chargers white in the stands this week? I think it is more of a possibility than you might think… Thom Brennaman and David Diehl have the call for FOX this week… Pete Morelli is this week’s referee. Coincidentally, Morelli also officiated the Seahawks matchup with the Chargers in the preseason last month… This week is a 1:05pm start not a 1:25pm start. Not that it matters too much since it is a road game but this will be the first of only two 1:05pm kickoffs this season. The rest of our afternoon starts will be 1:25pm… RedZone in the morning and the Seahawks in the afternoon this week. I enjoyed watching 8 hours of only RedZone last week not having to worry about the Seahawks… Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Plain and simple. Other than the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Qualcomm Stadium is the worst active NFL Stadium. Even though I went there to see the Mariners play two baseball games there in 2003, the difference in stadium experience between seeing a baseball game and seeing a football game is probably microscopic. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and theMMQB.com even called Qualcomm “an insult to dumps everywhere” in a well-written 2013 piece outlining the troubles with the stadium and the battle between the Chargers and the city of San Diego to build a new stadium. It is a good read that I definitely recommend… If the Seahawks beat the Chargers it will be the second consecutive season that the Seahawks start 2-0.

Prediction: The Seahawks and Chargers will both get off to a slow start offensively but the Seahawks will settle down in the second quarter. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka will kick his 3rd field goal right before halftime. The Seahawks will take a 16-7 lead into the second half and while Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers back to within one score, Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns to put the game out of reach for good. The Seahawks will go to 2-0 with a big game against the Denver Broncos at home on-deck next week.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

Check back Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game people and go Hawks!

Review: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

22 Dec
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Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Well that did not go the way I thought it would.

The NFC West division championship celebration is on hold for one more week after the Arizona Cardinals came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon and stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-10, giving the Seahawks their first loss at home since Christmas Eve 2011. The Cardinals improve to 10-5 on the season and their playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the season. The Seahawks fall to 12-3 and are now only up by one game on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. What’s even scarier is the reaffirmation that it is in fact possible for a visiting team to come in to the hardest place to play in the NFL and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have created a blueprint for other teams to come to Seattle and give the Seahawks a run for their money. This game was very frustrating to watch in multiple aspects and extremely difficult to think about after the fact but this is what I took out of it.

A Hot Knife Through Butter: This is the only comparison to describe the Cardinals running game through the Seahawks defense. Running backs Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, and Stepfan Taylor ran for a combined 139 yards on Sunday and the Seattle defense could not stop runs through the middle of the field if their life depended on it. After watching a replay of the game the Cardinals offensive line did a great job blocking and creating room to run but the Seahawks defensive line and linebackers were quite undisciplined in regards to their gap assignments. The Seahawks gave up 10 rushes of 5 yards or more, including two first down runs late in the fourth quarter that were of 10 yards or more. Whenever the Seahawks needed a crucial stop, it seemed like the Cardinals countered with a gain that extended their drives. What frustrated me the most was how easy it looked for the Cardinals to run the ball. On many of their long rushes the ball carrier went untouched until he got to the second level of the Seahawks defense. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by the Seattle defense but I give credit to the Cardinals offensive line for being able to create those humongous holes for their running back to run through.

Michael F**king Bowie: From a broad perspective the Seahawks offense played their worst game of the season. Russell Wilson only threw for 108 yards, one touchdown, and one “interception” and Marshawn Lynch added 71 yards of his own. But to truly understand just how poorly the Seahawks offense played on Sunday, you have to zone in on what was occurring in the trenches. Me and the guys around me nicknamed starting right guard Michael Bowie “Michael F**king Bowie” on Sunday because he stepped in for the concussed J.R. Sweezy and struggled mightily keeping the pressure off of Russell Wilson. I kept tabs on Bowie for three consecutive second half drives and this is what I noticed. In 11 total plays, Bowie was only able to successfully contain his man once, on a 27 yard scramble by Wilson. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Darnell Dockett were able to collapse the right side of the offensive line and Wilson was under constant pressure during this span. In this three drive sequence, Wilson went 2/6 passing for 9 yards. The Cardinals have an incredibly talented front 7 and they flat out embarrassed Bowie on Sunday. Bowie is still very raw and I think it was a mistake to start him at a position that he has not played consistently this season. It got to the point that the Seahawks were substituting Bowie for rookie lineman Alvin Bailey to try to get some offensive momentum going. Hopefully Sweezy will be back next week because with another talented defense coming to town next week, Bowie may be in for another tough day at the office, assuming he starts once again over James Carpenter if Sweezy cannot go.

It’s All About the Ball: Well, usually it’s all about the ball. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-2 on Sunday but walked away on the losing end for only the fourth time under Pete Carroll (the Seahawks are now 26-4 when winning the turnover battle). The Seahawks pressure on Carson Palmer was very good early on and it seemed as though if we could keep up the pass rush, Palmer would continue to make mistakes. Richard Sherman took the league lead in interceptions after intercepting two more passes on Sunday. Sherman now has 8 interceptions on the season. Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith also added interceptions off of tipped Palmer passes.

Defense Can’t Hold: Last season the Seahawks failed to hold leads late in the fourth quarter of four different games. All of those losses came on the road. This week the Seahawks blew a fourth quarter lead at home for the first time since the last game they lost at home in 2011. After scoring a touchdown to take a 10-9 lead, the Seahawks kicked off and the Cardinals had 7:26 to go roughly 55 yards to get into at least field goal range to have the opportunity to take the lead. The Cardinals went the length of the field, culminating in the deciding 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and Arizona took a 17-10 lead. This was one of the most unusual feelings I have had at a home game in a long time. Usually once the Seahawks take a lead late in a game, the crowd gets louder and the defense is able to feed off of the energy to step up and stop the opposing offense rather quickly. It has happened time and time again when playing at home over the past two seasons. Today the Cardinals were able to successfully finish their final drive and ultimately walked away victorious.

The Bad Calls: Fair warning, I am not trying to make excuses but I feel there were a handful of calls made by Scott Green and his officiating crew that may have shaped the outcome of Sunday’s game. There are 4 rulings that I felt were bad calls which killed our momentum and extended crucial Arizona drives.

The first questionable call came with 12:39 left in the game. Richard Sherman was called for pass interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Seahawks 16-yard line. From my seats it looks like Sherman’s feet got tangled with Fitzgerald’s, resulting in incidental contact. After watching the game film it looked more ticky-tacky on television but I still saw no interference on Sherman. Questionable call number two came on the very next play. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall rushed for no gain but the ball was recovered by Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. It was ruled on the field that Mendenhall was down by contact but the Seahawks challenged the play. The ruling on the field was upheld even though one angle seemed to show that the ball was coming loose before Mendenhall’s arm hit the ground, however the referee saw no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. That drive ended in a Cardinals punt.

The third questionable call made me madder than any of the other bad calls. With 5:04 left in the game Malcolm Smith was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down and 5. Instead of forcing the Cardinals to punt, the penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on in the drive. What made me mad was the extremely long delay between the end of the play and the penalty flag being thrown. The official that threw the flag on Smith had waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass THEN reached for his pocket to throw the flag. How in the world can you call the play incomplete then suddenly change your mind several seconds later to call a penalty? That long delay tells me that the referee actually may have been unsure what to rule and went with the “safer” decision. The play did not look like a defensive hold to me and the Seahawks should have gotten the ball back up by one with a chance to close the game out. Instead, the Seahawks got jobbed.

To add icing on top of the cake one last questionable call was made at the two-minute warning. A Russell Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled a deflection and an interception but the replay showed that the ball hit the ground before popping up into the air, which should have made it an incomplete pass and kept the Seahawks potential game winning drive alive. Baldwin said after the game that he knew the ball hit the ground and the referees made the wrong call. The replay angles show the ball hitting the ground with the field turf rubber popping up into the air but head referee Scott Green explained after the game that he “did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field.” This final bad call gave the Cardinals the ball back and they ran out the clock to win the game.

Thoughts on Arizona: If the Arizona Cardinals can make it into the playoffs, they are certainly a dark horse candidate to make a deep run. They certainly proved that they can win in an extremely hostile environment and their defense may be one of the best overall units in all of football. This team will certainly be a power in the NFC West moving forward in the coming years even if they fail to qualify to make the playoffs this season.

Random Thoughts: I cannot remember the last time I felt so tired throughout a Seahawks gameday. I need to get more sleep the night before home games… Or take a 5-hour energy… I couldn’t believe how foggy it was in downtown Seattle during the game. My seats offer a view to the south of I-5 and the fog was so thick you could not see past the outside of the stadium. It was almost as if we were in the middle of a cloud… Shout out to Ebenezer from Georgia who was a random stranger we drank and chatted with at the bar before the game. He seemed out of it before even getting there (if you know what I mean) and his commentary was very erratic and contradictory. He provided quality entertainment for us though… Just to reiterate how badly our section is patrolled by frickin’ boobs, the seating host for our section once again proved how he takes his job unnecessarily seriously. He talked to the group sitting to my left that they were behaving inappropriately but I did not hear or see any kind of behavior that could confirm that claim. The run-ins with the seating hosts and security our section has endured this season continue to get more and more ridiculous… I haven’t walked down the ramps of the stadium following a loss in a very long time. That was a strange and upsetting feeling. I am very worried about the possibility of the Rams coming to Seattle next week and beating us. Next week’s game must have a playoff feel to it in the stands. Or we could just hope for a 49ers loss either Monday night or next Sunday.

Instead of clinching the division this week and resting our starters against the Rams, next week’s game has suddenly become extremely important. Check back for my Rams/Seahawks preview next Saturday. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas everybody. Go Hawks!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Buccaneers/Seahawks Preview

2 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Seahawks return home to start the second half of the season as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon. After escaping St. Louis with a win the Seahawks currently hold a 7-1 record and have a one game lead on the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stumble into Seattle with more than 99 problems, if you know what I mean. The Buccaneers are 0-7, the seat head coach Greg Schiano is sitting on is white-hot, and on the field the Buccaneers have looked more like the Tampa Bay “Yuckaneers” of the 1970’s, 1980’s, and early 1990’s. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Tampa Bay 7-4. In their last meeting in 2009, a terrible 2-win Buccaneers team came into Seattle and crushed the unraveling Seahawks 24-7. Once again the Seahawks are heavily favored and practically no one is giving Tampa Bay a chance to win this game. Remember though most people also gave the St. Louis Rams no chance of winning last week and they were one yard away from winning. Here is what the Seahawks must do to avoid a colossal upset and what to know about the Buccaneers.

 It’s obvious that a big key on offense this week is to better pass-protect quarterback Russell Wilson so I will spare my obvious analysis of this point. With the loss of Sidney Rice for the rest of the season to a torn ACL and the absence of Percy Harvin for at least one more week, the Seahawks will have to search for a new way to move the ball through the air this week. This will be that much more important because Tampa Bay allows only 95 rushing yards per game; 7th best in the NFL. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will be our primary receivers and Jermaine Kearse will have a more prominent role in the offense against Tampa Bay. Kearse could have a big impact because of his height. Although Tate can be a play-maker on the outside the Seahawks need a guy with great vertical range who can jump up and get passes. Baldwin will ideally be used out of the slot meaning Kearse will line up opposite Tate for the majority of the snaps he sees. I do not expect recently activated wide receiver Ricardo Lockette to see much playing time at all, if any. If the Buccaneers can do a good job of staying with their receivers down the field, Wilson and the Seahawks offense will be forced to use screen passes to move the ball through the air. Look for Zach Miller and Luke Willson to potentially make a big impact in the short passing game.

On defense, the game we must play this week is “confuse the rookie.” The quarterback of the Buccaneers is rookie 3rd round pick Mike Glennon, the man who replaced Russell Wilson at North Carolina State after Wilson transferred to Wisconsin. Glennon took over for Josh Freeman who was traded to the Minnesota Vikings earlier this season. One of the biggest confidence boosters from my perspective is the thought of a rookie quarterback coming into CenturyLink Field to play his first game here. With our defense and the crowd noise, first timers playing Seattle tend to struggle more than in their previous games. Look for the Seahawks to blitz more than they did last week. Heavy blitzes resulted in 7 sacks of Carson Palmer two weeks ago but Kellen Clemens was only sacked 3 times last week. Dialing up extra blitz packages this week and sending a wide array of pass-rushers on different plays will result in an increase in sack production and may confuse Glennon to make bad decisions. Forcing turnovers could be the determining factor in the outcome of this game. If the Seahawks can strip the ball and force interceptions, we will win this game no doubt about it (as long, of course, as the offense can turn those turnovers into points).

With a rookie quarterback in Mike Glennon, a back-up running back in Mike James, and a coach that is on the verge of completely losing the locker room, I believe that the Buccaneers offense is a complete mess coming into this game. The Buccaneers average only 14 points per game. It will be terribly difficult to score points on Seattle this week, especially since the Seahawks have not allowed a touchdown for two weeks. The only way Tampa Bay has a realistic chance of winning this game will be because of a dominant performance by their defense. On paper the Buccaneers have lots of talent on defense. Linebacker Lavonte David leads Tampa Bay in tackles and sacks while defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has recorded two sacks of his own. Before the season started it was highlighted that this game would feature the two best cornerbacks in the league as Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis would share the same field in this game. Sherman has maintained his title as one of the best cornerbacks in the league but Revis has slipped slightly. Revis leads all Tampa Bay defenders in passes defensed with 6 but he has only recorded one interception. My X-Factor player to watch for Tampa Bay this week is linebacker Mason Foster. Foster, from the University of Washington, Has done a little of everything on defense this year, making him a player that definitely warrants an offenses undivided attention on every play. Foster is 4th in tackles on Tampa Bay’s defense with 42, he has recorded 2 sacks and he can also drop back into coverage, which was highlighted in week 2 when he intercepted a pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

Random Thoughts: Blue jerseys and blue pants for the Seahawks this week. The Buccaneers will most likely wear their unique (or weird looking depending on who you talk to) bronze colored pants with their white jerseys… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week with Tony Siragusa reporting from the sidelines. Is it possible that because the Seahawks have such an impressive record we have been rewarded by no longer being subjected to play-by-play and commentary from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan?! Hopefully so since they have only broadcasted two of our games this year, the last one coming in week 4… Mike Carey is the referee this week. Carey is my favorite referee in the league although his crew has made some questionable calls against the Seahawks the past couple of years. The reason why I like Carey so much is his intense pointing when announcing penalties and the way he rolls his hands when he states what down it will be following said penalties… To everyone attending this week’s game remember it is a 1:05 start NOT a 1:25 start. Like I always say that 20 minute span makes all the difference. I recommend you make sure you are at your seats by 12:50 at the latest; at least 15 minutes early… For the first time this season I will not have an issue with the warmth and the weather. No doubt a sweatshirt, jeans, and perhaps a knit hat will be necessary this week to keep warm… Hawks Nest Bar and Grill pregame. Be there… The Seahawks will be honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Seahawks; the first Seahawks team to make the playoffs. That season the Seahawks went 12-4 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game. If it turns out to be a halftime ceremony it will surely be one to remember. Let’s get out of this game healthy and with a win to get to 8-1. Come on boys!

Prediction: The Seahawks offense will improve from last week but will not handle the Buccaneers like most people think they should (think the Cardinals game last December). There will be a lot of field goals in this game, which is good for me since Steven Hauschka is my fantasy football kicker. The Seahawks defense will play a very good game sacking Mike Glennon 5 times and recording 2 interceptions; one from Richard Sherman and one by K.J. Wright. The Seahawks will get to 8-1 with a big road test against the Atlanta Falcons looming next week.

Seahawks 26, Buccaneers 3

Look for my review of the Buccaneers/Seahawks game late Sunday night or in the wee hours of Monday morning. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!